53 gay men in Nigeria have been arrested for attending an unofficial same-sex wedding, though the accused’s lawyers say they were actually at a birthday party.
The arrests happened last Saturday and occurred in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna according to the BBC News..
Gay rights campaigners who have been in touch with people involved in the case told the BBC’s Stephanie Hegarty in Lagos the accused were arrested at a birthday party, not a wedding.. The men were also illegally detained for 24 hours, according to the attorney.
Maria Sjodin, deputy executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group OutRight Action International, said she believes the gay wedding story is just an “excuse” and part of the police’s attempt to “crackdown on an emerging LGBTQ movement” in Nigeria.
“Only the police claim that it was a wedding party,” she told NBC Out, adding that sources in Nigeria told her organization the event was “actually a birthday party.”
“The police are using the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act as an excuse for mass arrests, maybe even as a way to get bribes,” Sjodin said. “The Nigerian law is much more far reaching than just same-sex marriage, it really is a way to crack down on anyone advocating for human rights of LGBT people.”
The men are charged with conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and belonging to an unlawful society. Their court date is scheduled for May 8.
Homosexual acts are banned in socially conservative Nigeria and are punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
The U.S. Government has given a total of $327,992 to Nigeria in 2017.