Nigeria, like many African nations, grapples with an issue that continues to threaten the rights and safety of its LGBTQ community. Recent mass arrests of LGBTQ individuals in the country have shed light on the misuse of Nigeria’s Same-Sex Prohibition Act of 2013 to target and persecute them. These arrests, carried out without thorough investigations, have raised concerns among rights groups and lawyers, who argue that they not only violate human rights but also expose LGBTQ individuals to further danger in a climate of growing anti-LGBTQ sentiments.
Uptick in Discriminatory Arrests
The recent wave of arrests, which includes the detention of more than 70 young people in Gombe state for allegedly “holding homosexual birthdays” and intending to have a “same-sex marriage,” is part of an alarming trend. Rights organizations, such as Amnesty International Nigeria, and legal experts argue that these actions are driven by a desire for accolades under the anti-gay law. Such mass detentions have been carried out without due process, and some of the suspects were falsely accused, subjected to inhumane conditions, and paraded in front of cameras in violation of the nation’s constitution.
Exploiting the Law Without Due Process
The misuse of the anti-gay law reflects a broader issue in Nigeria’s approach to LGBTQ individuals. Okechukwu Nwanguma, leader of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, emphasizes that law enforcement authorities are exploiting the law to target people based on assumptions or allegations rather than conducting proper investigations. This approach has led to blanket arrests and media parades, further endangering individuals based on their sexual or gender orientation.
Urgent Need for Change
The LGBTQ community in Nigeria faces increasing discrimination, attacks, harassment, and extortion since the enactment of the Same Sex Prohibition Act in 2013. Rights advocates and LGBTQ individuals are calling on the Nigerian authorities to prioritize safety for all citizens rather than perpetuating discrimination. The issue extends beyond arrests, as many LGBTQ individuals face threats and violence, often with inadequate police response. Ensuring justice for the LGBTQ community is crucial to safeguard their rights and safety in Nigeria.
In a country where the criminal justice system has been criticized as corrupt, vulnerable groups like the LGBTQ community are disproportionately affected by delayed justice. Activists and lawyers argue that the LGBTQ community simply seeks the freedom to live their lives without fear of persecution. Addressing these concerns requires a commitment to upholding human rights and ending discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in Nigeria.