Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hunting For Gays

"We are on the hunt for others. They have never been tortured, they have never been beaten, they have never been intimidated."
Chairman Mustapha Baba Ilela, Bauchi state Shariah Commission

"Some pay 5,00, some 10,000 naira ($30 to $60). Even though they have done nothing wrong, people are scared, people are afraid that even worse things will happen."
Olumide Makanjuola, Initiative For Equality in Nigeria

"This is a law that is in line with the people's cultural and religious inclination. So it is a law that is a reflection of Nigerian people ... Nigerians are pleased with it."
Reuben Abati, spokesman for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

The law is named the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, its purpose to criminalize homosexuality. That is, to make the criminalization of homosexuality formal. It has always been viewed as a criminal act, and police have always operated on that assumption. On Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act also dubbed the "Jail the Gays" bill.

It will have the effect of criminalizing gay marriage, gay organizations as well as anyone working with or promoting them.

And that would include those who are attempting to fight HIV-AIDS within the gay community, explained Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights. The torture of suspects by law enforcers in Nigeria has always been a given.

The Shariah Commission of Bauchi state responsible for overseeing the regulation of Islamic law is actively pursuing homosexuals, busy outing them, arresting them, torturing them.

The Chairman of the Commission lauded community members for their invaluable assistance when they helped "fish out" suspects. According to Mustapha Baba Ilela, eleven men were arrested; ten Muslims and one non-Muslim. Bauchi state has Sharia law and a Western-style penal code. Sharia law is implemented to varying degrees in nine of Nigeria's 36 states. All eleven who were arrested signed confessions of belonging to a gay organization.

The police target gay men, torture them to force them to name dozens of others. Once police are in possession of the names of those they believe to be gay they hunt them down. The punishment of belonging to a gay organization is up to ten years in prison, under the new Act. The law exacts penalties of up to 14 years in prison for a gay marriage.

Groups whose purpose is to combat AIDS among gays are also susceptible to ten years' imprisonment for 'membership or encouragement of gay clubs'.

A law enforcement officer passed himself off as gay and joined a group that was being counselled on AIDS prevention. Among that group whose names were then disclosed police detained four gay men, and tortured them. They divulged the names of others under torture, leaving the police with a list of 168 wanted gay men.

The newly-signed same sex marriage prohibition bill has served as a huge encouragement in this process of discriminatory oppression.

Police often peruse the cellphone contacts of a gay suspect, then send text messages to lure in those they contact. Those men or women are then informed they are to be charged and their irregular sexuality exposed with consequences that could be suspended if they pay bribes.

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