Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gays and Muslim Africans: Four young men were convicted of gay sex and whipped publicly as punishment in an Islamic court in northern Nigeria, a human rights activist has said

The four were among dozens caught in a wave of arrests after Nigeria strengthened its criminal penalties for homosexuality with the new Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in January 2014. The men could face further violence in prison if human rights organizations do not come up with an additional fine of 20,000 naira ($120) each meted out by a judge in Bauchi city, Dorothy Aken'Ova, convener of the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights Network, said. The four were sentenced to 15 strokes plus a year's imprisonment if they cannot pay their fines. Aken'Ova said that the men, aged between 20 and 22, should not have been convicted because their confessions were forced by law agents who beat them. She said that they had to lie on the floor of the court to be whipped on their backsides. The men's families, mainly subsistence farmers in rural areas where everyone knows everyone else, refused an offer of legal representation because they preferred to negotiate with the judge and get the case behind them, said Aken'Ova. She said that the families were embarrassed by the stigma attached to homosexuality, which many highly religious Nigerians consider an evil imported from the West. The hearings in Bauchi city, capital of the state of the same name, had been delayed from January 2014, when a crowd tried to stone the accused men outside the court and demanded that the judge pass the death sentence. Security officials had to fire into the air to save the men and disperse the crowd. Under Islamic Shariah law in some north Nigerian states, homosexuals can be sentenced to death by stoning or lethal injection. Aken'Ova, who got her information from the men's families, said that the judge was lenient because the men had promised that the homosexual acts occurred in the past and that they had since changed their ways. For fear of further disruption, Judge El-Yakub Aliyu held hearings unannounced and in secret. He said that the hearing for another four men accused of sodomy would be heard at a later date.

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