Police in Kano, Nigerian have arrested 19 young people in association with attending an alleged gay wedding in the city centre.
15 women and four men in their early 20s were arrested on Sunday, December 18 after someone notified the police that a gay wedding may be taking place. The police arrived at the scene before the ceremony was able to begin.
The couple narrowly escaped and were able to flee the area before the arrests began.
Those taken into custody denied the charge and said that no wedding was being organised. Instead, they said they were part of a dance club and they had organised a party to celebrate one of the members.
The arrests took place in Kano which is a predominantly Muslim city in northern Nigeria where homosexuality is criminalised. Kano’s Islamic police force is called the Hisbah and is known for enforcing a strict moral code in the conservative state.
BBC reports that the police force does not intend to persecute the Nigerian wedding guests who were arrested during the raid on Sunday, but the group includes young gay people who are reportedly undergoing “counselling” and their parents are being urged to come forward.
A witness said that 18 people who were arrested for participating in a similar wedding ceremony last year were released after signing a document indicating that they would “change their lifestyle”.
In 2014, Nigeria passed the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act (SSMPA) which outlaws same-sex marriages and civil unions. Anyone found to be in a same-sex romantic relationship can be sentenced to 14 years in jail.
In recent years, LGBTQ+ rights groups in Nigeria have been openly campaigning despite the strong opposition from the country which continues to uphold anti-queer laws.
Earlier this year, the Nigerian LGBTQ+ community held a Pride festival which was “the first of its kind in terms of reach, registrations, impact, and size.” It included a Pride ball, drag competition, and panels advocating for trans rights.
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