Nigeria charges 43 people for homosexuality

People walk through Balogun market in streets around Lagos Island on May 5, 2017.
People walk through Balogun market in streets around Lagos Island on May 5, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LAGOS (REUTERS) - Nigeria has charged 43 people with homosexual acts, legal authorities said on Friday (Aug 4), in a move likely to concern Western trade partners and donors.

A hotel owner and two of his employees are accused of encouraging the other 40 males to have sex at the hotel, the Lagos state government said.

The charges are "engaging in" and"aiding and promoting same sex sexual activities".

The 40 pleaded not guilty and were granted bail, but were ordered to undergo monitoring and "sexual rehabilitation", the Lagos government said, adding that 12 of them were minors. The age of consent in Lagos is 18, although gay sex is illegal.

The other three were denied bail pending legal advice from a higher court, and were not allowed to plead.

State Attorney-General Adeniji Kazeem said the prosecutions were aimed at putting "a stop to the exploitation of under-aged children who are often lured by unscrupulous and criminally-minded adults to engage in acts or behaviours that are not in consonance with the laws of the state."

The statement contained no details of charges of sex with a minor.

Homosexuality is taboo in many socially conservative African societies where some religious groups have branded it a corrupting Western import.

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a Bill in 2014 that criminalised same-sex relationships, despite pressure from Western governments.

The Bill contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison and bans gay marriage, same-sex "amorous relationships" and membership of gay rights groups.

Nigeria is evenly split between Islam and Christianity and much of the population views homosexuality as sinful.