On Tuesday, police in Nigeria’s southern Delta State arrested several dozen people accused of violating the country’s anti-gay law by allegedly participating in a gay wedding. The police publicly paraded the suspects before the media, interrogating them about the accusations, assaulting their dignity and rights to privacy, association, and a fair trial, among others.
In a media statement on August 29, the Delta State commissioner of police, Wale Abbas, said 67 men and women were arrested at a hotel in Warri for conducting and attending the purported gay wedding, which is prohibited under Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.
The police shamelessly livestreamed the media spectacle on their official Delta State Police Facebook page.
In 2022, Nigeria’s Federal High Court found that pretrial media parades violate the country’s constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which guarantee respect for the dignity of the person and the right to a fair trial, including the presumption of innocence.
Despite this ruling, police have continued the abusive practice with total impunity.
Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, enacted in 2014, criminalizes same-sex marriage and public displays of same-sex relationships with prison sentences of up to 14 and 10 years respectively. It also punishes establishing, supporting, and participating in gay organizations with up to 10 years in prison.
Human Rights Watch found in a 2016 report that the law had served to legitimize abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, including extortion, arbitrary arrest, torture and other ill-treatment, and sexual violence.
The police used the law for the first time in 2019 to prosecute 47 men accused of same-sex public displays of affection in Lagos State. A court dismissed the case because the police failed to appear and present witnesses.
Nigerian authorities should ensure accountability for the police’s unlawful media parade and urgently end the practice. They should release without charge everyone arrested under the anti-gay law, and seek its repeal. No one’s lives should be criminalized simply because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.