A mob armed with clubs invaded the homes of fourteen “suspected homosexuals” in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and dragged them into the streets where they were beaten. The walls of the victims’ homes were painted with the phrase, “Homosexuals, pack and leave.”
Four of the victims were marched to a police station, where they allegedly were kicked and punched by police officers who yelled slurs at them, said Ifeanyi Orazulike of the International Center on Advocacy for the Right to Health. Police threatened that the men would be incarcerated for 14 years, he said, the maximum prison sentence under Nigeria’s new Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, dubbed the “Jail the Gays” law. Activists have warned the law could trigger attacks such as the one perpetrated in the early hours of Thursday morning in Abuja, the capital of Africa’s most populous nation. Mob justice is common in Nigeria and civil rights organisations have been warning for years of an increase in community violence and the government’s failure to curb acts in which people have been beaten to death for perceived crimes such as theft.
The US embassy in Abuja issued a statement on Friday: “Since the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act was signed, we have expressed concern as a friend of Nigeria that it might be used by some to justify violence against Nigerians based on their sexual orientation. Recent attacks in Abuja deepen our concern on this front.”
RELATED: Last month Nigeria super-criminalized homosexuality, making it a crime to advocate for LGBT rights, hold meetings, or be in a same-sex relationship. Homosexual acts have long been a crime in Nigeria, but now even straight people who fail to turn in their gay friends and family members face up to 14 years in prison. In the Muslim-dominated north of Nigeria, sharia courts can issue death sentences for homosexuality, but thus far there is no evidence of any executions. Shortly after the latest bill was approved, a mob forced the suspension of a sharia trial for eleven gay men after they pelted the court house with stones and demanded immediate executions.