Morality police in Nigeria have arrested 11 women, reportedly for planning to hold an illegal ‘lesbian wedding’.
According to AFP, officers of the Islamic police force, called the Hisbah, arrested the group in the northern city of Kano on Monday following a tip-off from the public.
Hisbah’s Director-General Abba Sufi said that the individuals were making last minute plans for the wedding when police pounced.
“As soon as [the] investigation is concluded they will be charged,” Sufi said. “We can’t allow such despicable acts to find roots in our society. Both Islam and Nigerian laws prohibit same sex relationships.”
The ‘suspects’ have denied the claims and said that they were members of a dance club and were merely planning a party.
The BBC confirmed the arrests and said that the women were in custody and would be charged under the state of Kano’s Sharia religious law, which only applies to Muslim citizens.
The maximum punishment for homosexuality in the twelve northern states in Nigeria that have adopted Sharia law is death by stoning, although this almost never enforced.
The country as a whole is also covered under repressive anti-LGBTQ federal legislation. A 2014 law prohibits same-sex marriages and relationships with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. It further stipulates 10 years in jail for public displays of same-sex affection as well as membership or support of LGBTQ groups.
In addition, under colonial-era legislation, anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts can also be jailed for 14 years.
Last month, an international mobile phone company was slammed for reportedly sponsoring billboards in Nigeria that warned students to “Say NO to Lesbianism, Homosexuality and Drug Abuse.”