LGBTQ Rights Setbacks in Nigeria, Gabon

A shopping plaza in the Egbeda section of Lagos, Nigeria, near a hotel where dozens of gay people were swept up in a 2018 police raid on a hotel.
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ GODMYHELPER

In a wave of setbacks for LGBTQ rights across Africa, Nigerian authorities announced plans to try nearly 50 men arrested on homosexuality charges there last year and leaders in the nation of Gabon, further south along the Atlantic coast from Nigeria, approved a new ban on gay sex.

The 47 individuals facing trial in Nigeria were busted during a 2018 raid on a hotel in the Egbeda section of the capital city of Lagos. Fifty-seven men in total were swept up in the raid, including delivery drivers and a man seeking to book a room at the hotel, according to CNN. Nigeria’s police force maintain that the men were hosting a “gay initiation party” and have charged the 47 defendants with a “public show of same-sex amorous relationship with each other in hidden places.” Following the arrests, many of the men faced public humiliation in TV news reports and have been disowned by their families.

Those individuals are set to stand trial next month.

Meanwhile, Gabon’s penal code has been updated to ban “sexual relations between people of the same sex,” according to multiple reports. Reuters reported that the law was quietly changed in July and imposes a penalty of up to six months in prison and a fine of $8,521. The nation became the 70th in the world to criminalize sodomy.

As in other nations with anti-LGBTQ laws, many caught up in enforcement have accused police officers of arresting them on homosexuality charges and only releasing them if they receive a bribe.

The latest developments in Nigeria and Gabon appear to follow a broader crackdown on LGBTQ rights in Africa during the second half of this year. Reports emerged in October that lawmakers in Uganda were planning to re-introduce the “Kill the Gays” bill scuttled five years ago that would make same-sex behavior punishable by death, and 16 LGBTQ Ugandans were arrested that same month on “suspicion of homosexuality” charges. Several others were beaten and murdered, according to a non-governmental LGBTQ organization called LET’S WALK UGANDA.

In southern Africa, Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and his administration recently defended the sentencing of two men to 15 years behind bars on homosexuality charges. Lungu’s administration accused the US ambassador there, Daniel Foote, of inappropriately meddling in the nation’s affairs when he dared to criticize the sentencing.

Those regressions deflated hopes that emerged from positive developments earlier in the year. A court ruling in Botswana decriminalized sodomy and the nation’s government recognized the right of transgender folks to transition. Meanwhile, Kenya’s Court of Appeals surprisingly upheld a High Court ruling recognizing an LGBTQ organization, and Angola rolled out a new penal code this year that did not include a ban on same-sex activity.

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