There are reports that 10 men, perceived to be gay, have been beaten by a mob of around 40 people in Nigeria.
According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the attack happened in the community of Geshiri near Abuja on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
Disturbingly, local police reportedly arrested five of the victims of the attack. They were later released. Most of the men suffered injuries from the assault and are now in hiding.
The incident is part of what seems to be a recent surge of arrests and vigilante violence against individuals and groups perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).
These incidents surfaced after Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed a law into effect that not only criminalises same-sex unions but also applies harsh jail sentences to anyone found guilty of directly or indirectly depicting homosexual relations in public or who is in any way linked to the operations of organisations advocating for the human rights of those in same-sex relationships.
“What we see in Nigeria is the sadly predictable breakdown of the rule of law that comes after such an anti-democratic law went into effect,” said Jessica Stern, Executive Director of IGLHRC. “Regardless of what anyone thinks of homosexuality or transgenderism, the state has an obligation to ensure the safety of all Nigerians.”
Civil society organisations in Nigeria warn that the past couple of years have seen an increase in community violence directed at specific individuals thought to have committed crimes or transgressed cultural norms, with little apparent action from the Nigerian government to curb the violence.
In 2012, for example, four students were lynched near Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria because they were mistaken for thieves. Throughout 2013, the media has reported mob violence against women wearing miniskirts or other clothing considered inappropriate by attackers.
“It is important that people understand that this kind of violence can happen to anyone and that the government seems to have abdicated its responsibility to protect people from violence and impunity,” said Stern.
While media reports have highlighted increasing attacks against individuals assumed to be gay or lesbian in the North of the country, the Geshiri incident is one of the first reports of this type of vigilante vengeance in the Abuja area.
The IGLHRC called on the Nigerian government to conduct a full, fair, and independent investigation into all reports of attacks, and to move to proactively protect everyone—including LGBT populations—from violence. The organisation also urged foreign governments and United Nations agencies to assist the victims of the mob violence in Geshiri in finding emergency shelter.
Civil society organisations around the world are coming together for a Global Day of Action against homophobia in Nigeria on 7 March 2014. For more information, visit: Nigeria Same- Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act: Global Day of Action.