As if the 40 men arrested in Nigeria for homosexuality don’t already face enough fear, stigma and humiliation, a newspaper has claimed that they’re planning to spread HIV in the community.
The men were arrested last month in a raid on a hotel in the state of Lagos. They were reportedly “caught in the act” and the hotel was accused of “harbouring homosexuals”.
Pictures of the men were published in the local media. They were also forced to undergo HIV tests; a practice that has been condemned by international medical and human rights groups.
Nigeria’s Sun newspaper has now published a grossly unethical article that only adds to the multiple human rights violations faced by these victims. Written by Chioma Igbokwe, it claims that the HIV tests revealed that the men were positive.
Igbokwe warned that because they had been granted bail and “now roam freely in the society” an “HIV epidemic” and a “catastrophe” are imminent. He wrote that the men are not “average citizens” but “are gay” and that “there is a propensity among some of them to suddenly go on an infection-spree mission…”
Igbokwe said: “Now free, as you read this page, that they could be infecting new persons by the day is not far-fetched.” He also called the men “sex poachers” who “are on an active recruitment drive”, perpetuating the dangerous myth that gay people actively seek out others and are able to somehow “convert” them into homosexuality.
According to a police source quoted in the article, the younger minor suspects were initially divided and kept in different police cells because they are “already wild” and could “corrupt” others.
“We had to place a special marshal in the cells to monitor them when we learnt that they had already started convincing fellow inmate to have anal sex with them at night while others are sleeping,” said the unidentified source,
An unnamed prison warder, however, apparently told Igbokwe that he was relieved that the men had been granted bail because of the “danger” they posed to other inmates.
“We are doing our best to protect inmates from abuse but at times out of desperation, they normally yield on their own,” he said. “You can imagine the disaster if those suspected homosexuals were transferred to this prison. We were terrified when the news of their arraignment hit the social media.”
The deeply irresponsible article could endanger the livelihood, family life and the very lives of the arrested men in a country where anti-gay sentiment is rife. To seemingly further ensure that the men can be easily identified, Igbokwe went on to include the names of the adults in the group in the article.
Nigeria has some of the most repressive anti-LGBT legislation in the world. A 2014 federal law prohibits same-sex marriages and relationships with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and stipulates 10 years in jail for public displays of same-sex affection as well as 10 years for membership or support of LGBT groups.
Under older colonial-era legislation, anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts can also be jailed for 14 years.