Human Rights Watch interviewed eight of the 21 young men who were arrested, but not charged, at a birthday party in Ibadan.They told Human Rights Watch that members of the public informed the police that gay men were gathered together and when police arrived and found a bag of condoms that belonged to an HIV peer educator, they were all arrested.While existing legislation already criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct in Nigeria, the report found that the SSMPA, in many ways, officially authorizes abuses against LGBT people, effectively making a bad situation worse.
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“These men were trying to save their lives and make their country better by preventing the spread of HIV,” Alimi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Britain, having moved from Nigeria after facing death threats for coming out as gay. Yet the anti-gay law has hindered civil society groups which work with LGBT people in Nigeria, and deterred the community from seeking and sticking with HIV prevention, treatment and support services, rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says. so soon after the arrests at the wedding in Zaria,” added Alimi, director of the Bisi Alimi Foundation, which promotes social acceptance of LGBT Nigerians.
Nigeria has the highest HIV rate in West and Central Africa - with around one in 30 or 3.5 million people infected with the virus - according to data from the U. Fifty-four people went on trial in Zaria in northern Nigeria in May on charges connected to allegations that they were celebrating a gay wedding, which are illegal under the 2014 law.
Human rights groups and United Nations officials expressed grave concern about the scope the law, its vague provisions, and the severity of punishments.
On February 5, 2014, following the passage of the SSMPA, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa noted with concern in a press release, “the increase in cases of physical violence, aggression, arbitrary detention and harassment of human rights defenders working on sexual minority issues.” While Human Rights Watch found no evidence that any individual has been prosecuted or sentenced under the SSMPA, the report concludes that its impact appears to be far-reaching and severe.
The trial was adjourned, and it is unclear when it will resume.
Reporting By Kieran Guilbert and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill in 2014 criminalizing same-sex relationships in Nigeria.
It banned gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership of gay rights groups with penalties of up to 14 years in prison.
Three victims told Human Rights Watch that their attackers chanted: “We are doing [President Goodluck] Jonathan’s work: cleansing the community of gays.” Another victim said that the attackers also shouted: “Jungle justice! ” Arbitrary arrest and extortion by police is commonplace under the SSMPA.