Nigeria’s “Jail the Gays” law has turned violent after a mob in Abuja dragged 14 men from their beds in the dead of night, beating them out of suspicion of being gay. The mob armed with iron bars and clubs, eventually took the men and brought them to a local police station, where cops only continued the assault, kicking and punching the already battered victims. The police threatened to jail the men for 14 years for their “decision” to engage in homosexual activities.
The new Same Sex Marriage Act, which prohibits homosexual activities ranging from organizations to the act itself, has been labeled the “Jail the Gays” law, and activists are saying that the law encourages the widespread discrimination of homosexuals in Nigeria. Others say an event such as this might be copied by other communities emboldened by the assault without impunity against homosexuals.
Mob justice as it is called is common in Nigeria where other laws are enforced by such primitive methods. Opting out of relying on often corrupt or inefficient police forces, mob justice has been used against all sorts of criminals in Nigeria, from thieves to murderers. With the criminalization of homosexuality under the “Jail the Gays” law, homosexuals now have to fear for their lives as community members take the new law into their own hands.
The mob that attacked the individuals in Abuja said they were looking to “cleanse” the community of gays. Moving from one house to another, the mob knocked down people’s doors around 1am looking for members of the community they perceived to be gay or supportive of gay rights.
Following the incident, the mob went back to the houses of the men they had previously beaten, marking the walls of their homes with the words “Homosexuals, pack and leave.”
Human and civil rights groups have publicly condemned the attack, saying this type of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation is inexcusable and the “Jail the Gays” law is to blame for the encouragement of such behavior.
Homosexuals in Africa are often the scapegoat for the spread of HIV, the sexually transmitted disease which has claimed the lives of millions of people all across Africa and elsewhere.
The rising tide of homophobia across Africa has been a result of a confluence of events, some placing blame on the rise of radical Christian missionaries from America, who preach intolerance against homosexuals.
A recent Ugandan film called “God Loves Uganda” puts a spotlight on “evangelization” of African countries by America’s Christian Right. Award winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams blames extremists in the church for the push towards an anti-gay agenda in countries like Uganda where the film is focused on.
But whether it in Uganda or Nigeria, rising anti-homosexual sentiment has activists concerned that Nigeria and other African countries which have followed suit may no longer be safe for homosexuals.
Critics of the Nigerian government say that while the law itself is based wholly on discrimination and should be repealed, the government should also do more about preventing mob justice from trumping police work.
One activist, Dorothy Aken’Ova, says that the government does not care about protecting the homosexual community from mob violence, and that the government is “tacit complicitly.”
Aken’Ova claims that the mobs are doing the government’s dirty work for them, and that the “Jail the Gays” law doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.