This week police in Aba state, Nigeria, had 40-year-old Benjamin Ndubuisi go on trail for having gay sex with a 23-year-old man, based on rumors.
Police allege that Ndubuisi, who they say is a pastor, had sex with a younger man who worked at his Ogbor Hill church, basing their case entirely on what appears to be verbal reports of locals.
The parents of the younger man, known only by his first name, Ndukwe, described in Nigeria's anti-gay media as a "victim," allegedly reported to the police the alleged incident after he complained of "health problems" that led him to confess "to his family about the secret love affairs between him and the gay prophet [Ndubuisi]."
Obgbor Hill residents alleged that Ndubuisi engaged his victim as a worker in the church "as a ploy to always have him around to satisfy his sexual urge," reported the daily Vanguard.
According to Nigerian press, they further claimed that Ndubuisi "administered oath to Ndukwe to stop him from divulging the details of the love affair between them to his relatives and members of the church."
During a court appearance, the prosecutor, Galadima Rubies, stated that the accused committed the offense at Ogbor Hill in Aba on July 28.
According to him, Ndubuisi "had a carnal knowledge of a man's son through the anus."
He added that the suspect "contravened Section 214 (1) of the Criminal Code, Laws of Abia 2005."
The law stipulates 14 years imprisonment on conviction for the offense, and the prosecution is asking for this punishment.
Ndubuisi pleaded not guilty.
Magistrate K. I. Udo granted Ndubuisi bail in the sum of N200,000 (US$1,250) with a surety in like sum.
The case was adjourned to Sept. 9 for further hearing.
Ndubuisi's case has been widely publicized in Nigeria in a highly homophobic manner, claim Nigerian LGBT advocates.
Nigerian LGBT advocates criticized the case, pointing to the fact that it is based on rumors and may have involved beating Ndubuisi during his capture.
Steve Aborisade, coordinator for the Nigeria HIV info charity, told me:
The Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives have passed a bill yet to be assented to by the president, called the "same-sex marriage prohibition bill." The bill enjoyed widespread support because of the homophobic climate in Nigeria.
Now what we are witnessing with the story of Ndubuisi is the increasing boldness of the people to take justice into their own hands.
The picture of Ndubuisi reveals wounds that may suggest he has been brutalized prior to appearing in court.
The whole episode was based on hearsay, but it is important that we leave that to the court to decide.
The homophobic climate encouraged by anti-gay laws and anti-gay media frenzy pushes the LGBT Nigerian community further into the closet and exacerbates HIV/AIDS infection rates.
Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigeria LGBT rights advocate, added:
In Nigeria gays are not even safe even in the closet. A mere rumor is enough to trigger violence against anyone who is said to be gay.
One of the games of the Nigeria government is to create an atmosphere of fear and persecutions that has forced many out LGBT activists to flee the country. Those who stayed behind don't think its safe/right to come out.
Many such rumors, and it may well be in the case of Ndubuisi, are based on attempted extortion in Nigeria.
The proposed anti-same-sex-marriage bill and existing laws makes it really easy for people to get away with such abuse and crimes.
LGBT rights advocate Bisi Alimi stressed:
Every day a Nigerian is killed, tortured by the police and/or rejected by the family. You stand higher chances of being killed, jailed or tortured as a gay man in Nigeria than in Uganda or Russia.
We need both the media and activists to focus their attention on countries like Nigeria, where urgent action is needed by the international community.
Homosexuality is illegal in the federal system of Nigeria and is punished in different states in varying degrees of severity.
Southern states punish same-sex acts with up to 14 years imprisonment, while northern states punish same-sex acts with a minimum of 14 years imprisonment as well as a fine, and in 12 of the northern states punishments include flogging and death by stoning.
The anti gay-discourse has been whipped for several months, after the president of the Nigerian senate, David Mark, has insisted that a planned bill prohibiting same sex marriage and jailing all gay people and anyone who fails to report LGBT people to the authorities will become law despite international pressure.
The bill also stipulates 10 years imprisonment for participating or organizing any form of gay-related activities, including advocacy or clubs.
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