76 people arrested in Nigeria for organising gay wedding

GOMBE, Nigeria (AFP) - Nigerian security forces arrested 76 youths on Saturday on charges of organising a gay wedding in Gombe State, north-east Nigeria, where same-sex unions are illegal and violence against the LGBT+ community is widespread.

Image: AP

The arrested youths, aged between 18 and 25, include 59 men and 17 women. 

They were attending a birthday party organised by one of them who was due to marry his fiancé at the event, according to Buhari Saad, the spokesman for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), a paramilitary organisation under the government.

Same-sex marriage is banned in Nigeria under a 2014 law that prescribes up to 14 years in prison for anyone who enters or facilitates such a union.

Saad said the suspects would be charged under the law, but did not specify when or where they would appear in court. 

Lawyers for those arrested could not immediately be contacted for comment or confirmation.

Intimidation of the LGBT+ community is rife in Nigeria, and in recent years the security forces have carried out numerous raids on parties where they believe weddings are taking place. However, none of those arrested have been convicted.

In August, police arrested more than a hundred men in similar circumstances in south-east Nigeria.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International has called for an end to this "witch-hunt" and condemned the law prohibiting same-sex relationships as a tool for harassment, extortion and blackmail by law enforcement officials and other members of the public.

"In a society where corruption is endemic, the law prohibiting same-sex relationships is increasingly being used for harassment, extortion and blackmail by law enforcement officials and other members of the public", the organisation said.

Gombe State is also one of the northern states with a Muslim majority where Islamic Sharia law is applied alongside the federal and state judicial systems.

Under Sharia law, homosexual relations are punishable by death. However, this sentence has never been applied in northern Nigeria.

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