11 women arrested in Nigeria for planning lesbian wedding

Policemen patrol a the internally displaced people camp on the outskirts of Makurdi, capital of Benue State in north-central Nigeria

A lesbian couple and nine other women have been arrested in Nigeria for planning the pair’s wedding.

The 11 women were detained on Monday (December 17) in the northern state of Kano, where anyone convicted of having lesbian sex can be sentenced to death by stoning.

Abba Sufi, the director general of the state’s Hisbah—an agency which enforces Islamic law—told AFP that the arrests followed a tip-off and would lead to charges being brought against the women.

“We can’t allow such despicable acts to find roots in our society”

— Abba Sufi, Hisbah director general

“Our men got wind of the wedding and stormed the venue where they arrested 11 young women, including the bride and the groom,” Sufi said.

“As soon as [the] investigation is concluded they will be charged.”

He added: “We can’t allow such despicable acts to find roots in our society. Both Islam and Nigerian laws prohibit same-sex relationships.”

The arrested women have denied that they are lesbians.

Gay and lesbian organisations demonstrate outside the Nigerian High Commission in Nairobi on February 7, 2014

Nigerians convicted of having gay or lesbian sex can be sentenced to 14 years in prison or death, depending on where they live (SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty)

They said that they were part of a dance club, and were arranging a party in honour of the group’s new deputy head.

Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, with those who are found guilty of having gay sex facing up to 14 years in prison—apart from in 12 northern states with Sharia law, including Kano, where they can be stoned to death.

Gay sex is also punishable by death in Kano, and any man who acts, behaves or dresses like a woman can face up to a year in prison.

Nigerian authorities often arrest lesbian and gay citizens

The arrests in the state capital of Kano were the latest in a long line of anti-LGBT actions by the authorities in Nigeria.

In August, police raided a hotel in Lagos and arrested 57 men on suspicion of having gay sex, just weeks after six men in the south-eastern state of Abia were arrested for the same reason.

The 57 men, who said they were simply attending a birthday party, were charged by a court with three counts of conspiracy, belonging to a secret cult and unlawful gathering, and were each held on bail of ₦200,000 (£430).

Last year, 42 men were arrested at Lagos hotel for having gay sex, just months after 45 out of a group of 53 people arrested on suspicion of attending a same-sex wedding jumped bail.

It is relatively common for people to be targeted by the police for this reason in Nigeria. A total of 12 men were arrested by the Hisbah in Kano in 2015 for also planning a gay wedding.

The men pleaded that they had been celebrating a birthday, not a wedding.