A Sharia court ruling in Nigeria that saw three gay men sentenced to death by stoning could be a “slippery slope” to more violence against the queer community, LGBTQ+ groups say.
On 1 July, the court in Bauchi, Nigeria, sentenced three gay men, aged 20, 30 and 70, to death by stoning. They did not have a legal representation and they all reportedly “admitted” to their crimes.
They were sentenced under section 134 of the 2001 Bauchi State Penal Law, which states: “Whoever commits the offence of sodomy shall be punished with death by stoning [rajim] or any other means decided by the state.”
LGBTQ+ groups in the country have expressed fear and concern over the sentence. Nigeria is already hostile towards the LGBTQ+ community, and same-sex relations are punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.
William Rashidi, director of LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Triangle, told Reuters: “This sentencing opens the door for more draconian judgments against LGBTQ persons. It’s a call for violence.
“With this judgment, the times have been rolled back. [It] affects the very essence of freedom of expression and association. People have been given some sort of rights to attack, maim and violate LGBTQ+ persons.”
The men have 30 days to appeal the decision and any death sentences passed by a Sharia court need to be approved by the state governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed. The governor frequently posts on social media about issues such as floods and school attendance, but has not said a word about the men’s sentences.
PinkNews contacted Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed’s office for comment, but he had not responded at the time of publication.
Sharia law has become a tool against homosexuality in Nigeria. (Aminu Abubakar/AFP via Getty Images)
Whether the court follows through with the sentencing or not, the case will likely rile up homophobes in the country and incite abuse toward queer people.
Marline Oluchi, a board member the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s African arm, said this sentencing is a “slippery slope” to escalated violence against the LGBTQ+ in Nigeria.
“These are dangerous terrains and safety for others is a huge consideration.”
In 2014, a gay man who was charged for homosexual acts was sentenced to 20 lashes in court. The judge at the time, Nuhu Idris Mohammed, reportedly said he was proud of the sentence and that he believed the man should have been sentenced to death, The New York Times reported.
In the same year, 11 men accused of homosexuality were put on trial. According to the BBC, Jibrin Danlami Hassan, the commissioner of Bauchi state’s Sharia Commission, said the detainees confessed they were “doing that dirty game”.
Reports stated the men were beaten and tortured but Hassan denied this.
These seeds of injustice and discrimination were planted long before the sentencing of the three gay men this year.
Civilians routinely help police ‘suss out’ gay people in order to “sanitise” the nation.
Mohammed Tata, a senior official with the Shariah Commission, told The New York Times: “We get information from sources interested in seeing the society cleansed.”
Oluchi added: “There is always one form of violence after another … reminding us that our rights are being violated daily.”