19 people arrested ‘for attending same-sex wedding’ in Nigeria

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

Police in Nigeria have arrested 19 young people for allegedly attending a same-sex wedding.  

The arrests, which took place in Kano following a tip-off, saw 15 women and four men in their early 20s arrested on Sunday (18 December). 

Police said they arrived before the couple were able to take their vows and spokesperson for the force, Lawal Ibrahim Fagge, said the couple managed to flee the scene before arrests were made. 

According to Gay Community News, those taken into custody denied any wrongdoing and said no wedding was taking place. 

In Kano, which has a Muslim majority population, homosexuality remains illegal. Kano’s Islamic police force is called Hisbah and it enforces strict moral code.

Fagge told the BBC that the police didn’t intend to punish those who attended the wedding and were arrested.

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Instead, he said the group will be forced to undergo “counselling”, suggesting that they will be given “conversion therapy”, and their parents or guardians have been asked to come forward. 

“We’ll explore the avenue of change before we charge them in court. First we counsel them, and involve the parents and we hope they change their lifestyle,” the Hisbah spokesperson said.

It follows Nigeria passing the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act (SSMPA) in 2014. The law outlaws same-sex marriage and civil unions and anyone found guilty of the relationships can face up to 14 years in jail. 

It isn’t the first time people in Nigeria have been arrested for allegedly attending a gay wedding. In 2017, 53 people faced criminal charges for attempting to celebrate a same-sex wedding. 

LGBT Ghana groups sued the government. (Credit: Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Similar arrests in Ghana in 2021 made global headlines.

Twenty-one queer activists were arrested and inhumanely tortured while in custody after police raided a human rights training workshop on intersex rights in the Ho, Volta region of the country.

The 21 people in attendance, who became known as the HO21, were all arrested by police and charged with “unlawful assembly”.

They were detained for almost a month before being released. In that time, the HO21 were denied bail multiple times and endured humiliation and abuse at the hands of the authorities and other prisoners because of their sexuality.