Nigeria Arrests Dozens Over Same-Sex Wedding

The police in Nigeria have arrested over 60 people who were in attendance at what the authorities claimed was a same-sex wedding, reinforcing a crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. people in Africa’s most populous nation.

The police also broadcast the identities of some of those arrested on social media and encouraged members of the public to help “uphold the moral standards of the society” by providing relevant information — moves that raised concern that those who attended the event would be subjected to stigma or violence.

Under a 2014 law, anyone entering a same-sex marriage or civil union in Nigeria can be imprisoned for up to 14 years. Those who administer or witness such a ceremony can face up to 10 years in prison. At the time it was enacted, the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, said the law violated basic human rights protections.

Bright Edafe, a police spokesman in Delta State in southern Nigeria, said the arrests were a sign that the country was going to use an iron fist against gay unions.

“We are in Africa, and we are in Nigeria. We cannot copy the Western world, because we don’t have the same culture,” he said at a news conference on Tuesday in front of the dozens who were arrested.

Same-sex weddings are rare in Nigeria, with many such couples opting to hold their ceremonies in countries where it is legal to do so, Mr. Edafe said in a telephone interview. “It is not common, and we don’t even want to get to that level,” he said. “That is why we are taking the action we are taking now.”

In a video that the Nigerian police published on Facebook on Tuesday, one of those charged told reporters that he was wearing a skirt and crop top for a fashion show. Asked whether he was gay, he said that he was not and that the event had been a party rather than a wedding ceremony.

In 2020, a case in Lagos in which 47 men had been charged with public displays of affection with members of same sex was dismissed, with the judge citing prosecutors’ failure to appear in court and call witnesses.

The latest arrests occurred after police officers raided the Teebilos Hotel in Warri, a city in southern Nigeria.

The police said on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter, that on Sunday night they had stopped a person whom they identified as “a male cross-dresser” who said that he was an actor and that he belonged to “a certain gay club.” He said that he was going to a same-sex wedding, the police wrote.

In a video that the police published on the social media platform, a couple — one wearing a white dress with a veil and one in a white suit — stood beside a swimming pool surrounded by guests and balloons as a master of ceremonies introduced a performer on a stage.

Mr. Edafe said in a telephone interview that the those arrested were being held and that they may be charged at the end of an investigation. It was not immediately clear who was legally representing those in custody.

Isa Sanusi, Amnesty International’s country director for Nigeria, said that homophobia had been an issue in the country even before the 2014 law was passed, but that the legislation had become a way to put added pressure on L.G.B.T.Q. people.

“That law emboldened homophobia,” he said. “It’s given people the ground to carry out human rights violations in Nigeria.”

Mr. Sanusa also denounced the police’s decision to publish photos and videos of those arrested at the gathering, a move that he said put those accused at risk of violence.

“This parading like yesterday,” he said, “is a complete violation of human rights.”

Many of the approximately 60 countries around the world that criminalize homosexuality are in Africa, and in recent years some have passed or vowed to introduce harsher penalties for same-sex relations.

In Uganda, a draconian law passed in May includes the death penalty for some kinds of homosexual acts, and life imprisonment for anyone who engages in gay sex. Two men in the country have been charged with “aggravated homosexuality” this summer, a crime punishable by death.

Ismail Alfa Abdulrahim contributed reporting from Maiduguri, Nigeria.

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