A NIGERIAN court has granted bail to 69 individuals who were arrested last month in connection with an alleged same-sex wedding, a practice prohibited by law in Nigeria. Homosexuality continues to be a highly contentious issue in the country, often regarded as culturally and religiously unacceptable. Nigeria implemented strict anti-gay legislation in 2014, despite facing international criticism.
The ruling, issued by a court in the southern oil-producing Delta state, allows the detained suspects to secure their release from prison detention by posting bail of 500,000 naira ($645) each. According to Ochuko Ohimor, the lawyer representing the suspects, they will also be required to sign a monthly register at the court in Warri town until their next hearing.
Ohimor elaborated, ‘They are to provide sureties, who will submit their particulars to the court. So, the 69 suspects have been granted bail, and I am processing their paperwork.’
While state prosecutors had initially opposed the granting of bail, the court ruled in favour of the suspects, considering that they were not facing capital charges, as explained by Ohimor. At the time of reporting, state prosecutors had not issued a statement regarding the court’s decision.
Notably, Nigeria’s anti-gay legislation, enforced in the country with the largest population in Africa, imposes severe penalties, including imprisonment for up to 14 years for individuals found guilty of engaging in same-sex relationships or marriages, as well as participation in gay rights organisations. This legislation reflects the prevailing cultural and religious sentiments in Nigeria, which overwhelmingly oppose homosexuality.
The bail granted by the Delta state court represents a significant development in the ongoing legal battle concerning LGBTQ+ rights in Nigeria. It underscores the complexities surrounding this issue, where deeply rooted cultural beliefs and legal measures clash with international human rights principles advocating for equal rights and non-discrimination.