At least 41 men were lifted from an event in Lagos meant to educate the local community about protecting themselves from HIV
Around 41 have been arrested in Lagos, Nigeria, accused of ‘performing homosexual acts’, according to authorities.
As Punch, a local publication, reports, police raided an event held in a Lagos hotel that was meant to raise awareness for HIV testing in the LGBT community. According to the BBC, the hotel is still cordoned off as investigations continue.
In Nigeria, homosexuality is criminalised – including marriage and displays of affection – and holds a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. The North of the country follows Islamic law, and the South has a strong evangelical movement. In the North, men can be stoned.
According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), 72 countries have banned homosexuality. Nigeria passed a law back in 2013 that criminalised gay marriage and LGBT groups, but same-sex relationships have been outlawed since 1901. Human Rights Watch asserts that banning LGBT organisations stops the community from understanding HIV prevention or accessing appropriate support.
A police spokesperson told Reuters the group of arrested men would face charges and court trials.
Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian LGBT activist, also told Reuters: “These men were trying to save their lives and make their country better by preventing the spread of HIV.”
Around one in 30 people are infected with HIV in Nigeria, according to UNAIDS, making the country the region with the highest HIV rate in West and Central Africa.
Alimi lives in the UK – he fled Nigeria because he feared for his life after coming out. Alimi is also the director of the Bisi Alimi Foundation, which campaigns for LGBT Nigerians.
“This case is heartbreaking,” he added. “So soon after the arrests at the wedding in Zaria.”
Alimi refers to a case back in May which saw 54 people go to trial after they celebrated a gay wedding. The trial has since been adjourned, though there’s been no word on when it will resume.
As Pink News reports, an LGBT writer was kidnapped by “homophobic thieves” who were thought to be targeting queer writers to “hunt down and kill”. Chibuihe Obi had published an essay exploring his personal experience with homophobia. He was later returned.