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Nigerian Police Say 100+ Arrested at 'Same-Sex Wedding Ceremony'

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

New reports on the mass arrest that Nigerian police carried out on the evening of Aug. 27 – rounding up men ostensibly attending a same-sex wedding – claim that more than 100 people were detained, with another 67 under investigation.

Some of those arrested say that they were attending a fashion show, not a wedding, Insider reported. But police say that they "have obtained footage of the gathering that showed a marriage ceremony and wedding festivities taking place," Insider reported.

"We are not going to take this lightly, we are going to ensure they are prosecuted accordingly," a police spokesman told the press on Aug. 29.

Nigeria's anti-LGBTQ+ laws do not simply refuse to acknowledge same-sex commitments; they actively punish them. Under the 2013 Same Sex Prohibition Act, anyone entering into a marriage with a person of the same gender is subject to 14 years in prison.

Moreover, anyone celebrating a wedding ceremony with a same-sex couple – "witnessing, aiding, and abetting," as Insider put it – faces a decade of imprisonment.

As the Associated Press previously reported, such mass arrests targeting people thought to be gay have sparked criticism from those who say that the police also detain straight people. The AP cited a 2017 mass arrest "when more than 40 people were arrested for allegedly being gay."

The mass arrest also drew criticism from Amnesty International Nigeria, which decried how detainees were "paraded to the media" and called the mass arrest a "witch hunt."

"In a society where corruption is rampant, the law banning same sex relationships is increasingly being used for harassment, extortion and blackmail of people by law enforcement officers and other members of the public," the group declared, according to CNN. "This is unacceptable."

The Nigerian police framed the arrests as a way of protecting Nigeria's cultural identity. "In a live broadcast on Tuesday, a police official described the event as evil and 'we cannot copy the western world... we are Nigeria and we must follow the culture of this country,'" CNN reported.

Such claims of asserting cultural identity against the West are frequently cited by African nations with such anti-gay laws on their books. But there's evidence that it's anti-LGBTQ+ animus that is a Western import; reporting on Uganda's first prosecution under a new "Kill the Gays" bill that punished "aggravated homosexuality" with the death penalty, LGBTQ Nation noted that the law "was written and shepherded through Parliament with the help of Arizona-based Family Watch International, an organization committed to spreading anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion ideology around the world, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"The group has been at work proselytizing among Ugandan lawmakers since 2009," when a version of the "Kill the Gays" bill was first introduced in that country, LGBTQ Nation noted.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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