47 Nigerian men hauled into court on the same day on charges of displaying same-sex affection in public

Nigeria LGBT+

In Nigeria, 47 men pleaded guilty on the same day after they were hauled into court on charges of displaying same-sex affection in public.

The men appeared in court in Lagos, and were among 57 men who arrested during a police raid on a hotel in 2018. The men said they were attending a birthday party, but police insisted they were being “initiated” into a gay club.

According to Reuters, police are currently trying to track down the further 10 men who did not appear in court.

In 2014 former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the “same-sex marriage prohibition act (SSMPA)” which ruled that being in a same-sex couple in any form, including marriage, civil unions and even relationships, would mean a 14-year prison sentence.

It also makes a person who “registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisation, or directly or indirectly make public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria” liable for 10 years in prison.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), no individual has yet been prosecuted under the SSMPA, but it has been used by police to extort and abuse LGBT+ people with threats of pursuing charges.

The executive director of an Abuja charity told HRW: “Basically, because of this law [SSMPA] the police treat people in any way that they please. They torture, force people to confess, and when they hear about a gathering of men, they just head over to make arrests.”

One of the defendants told Reuters: “Police officers will stop you and then get you arrested, extort money from you and begin to call you names. I just wish the case will be quickly dismissed as soon as possible.”

The executive director of the Lagos-based Initiative for Equal Rights added: “The vagueness of the law makes it impossible to get a conviction. What does ‘amorous showing of same-sex affection’ mean?”

The case was adjourned until December 11, and the men were granted bail as long as they could come up with 500,000 naira (around £1,000).

This month, a study found that Nigeria is the most dangerous country in the world for LGBT+ tourists due to widespread discrimination, abuse and anti-gay laws.