International News: Nigeria, Hong Kong, Venezuela

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On Sept. 4, according to police and the attorney for the defendants, a Nigerian court jailed more than 60 people after a raid on an alleged gay wedding. Same-sex marriages are illegal in Nigeria. Stringent anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Africa’s most populous nation include prison terms up to 14 years with Sharia law in parts of the country imposing the death penalty for homosexuality.

Police demanded all the defendants at the hearing Sept. 4 be remanded and the court agreed with the request. The hearing took place in the southern city of Warri in Delta, where the alleged suspects were arrested on Aug. 28. The arrest followed a tip to police that triggered the raid.  

“The suspects have been arraigned in court today and the judge has ruled that they be remanded in prison for two weeks,” Delta state police said in a statement. Police said 67 people had been arrested. 

Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act in 2013 made it illegal for same-sex couples to marry. The law is also broad-based in that it disallows any public display of same-sex relationships. It also penalizes any individual who has a same-sex marriage or civil union. The punishment for any of these stipulated offenses is 14 years in prison and a 10-year sentence for anyone who facilitates or takes part in any such union, such as a minister. 

Amnesty International’s Nigeria office called for “an immediate end to this witch-hunt” against gay people. 

Isa Sanusi, Amnesty International’s Nigerian director, told The Associated Press, “In a society where corruption is rampant, this [same-sex] law banning same-sex relationships is increasingly being used for harassment, extortion and blackmail of people.”

Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch, said, “There have been arrests in the past but his does seem to be one of the most significant arrests under the law.” 

Reid said that the law is so broad, it “has a stifling effect on LGBTQ organizations and individual activities.”

Ochuko Ohimor, who is representing 60 defendants, said he is trying to get bail for the defendants prior to the Sept. 18 hearing. Ohimor said there were a total of 69 people held by the court.

Nigeria is among 32 countries in Africa that criminalize homosexuality. PGN reported last week on Uganda’s imposition of the death penalty for two gay men accused of “aggravated homosexuality.”

In Nigeria, people have been sentenced to death in Sharia courts in predominantly Muslim states. Reuters reports that three men who were arrested in Bauchi in June 2022 were ordered to be stoned to death for engaging in homosexuality.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong must create a legal framework for same-sex partnerships, the top court ruled on Sept. 5. The ruling could mean same-sex couples would finally be eligible for marital entitlements granted to their heterosexual peers.

The decision was in response to a landmark appeal by an LGBTQ+ activist for recognition of same-sex marriages. The case called for new regulations for gay couples to protect their basic social rights in the nation.

The ruling by Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal followed a five-year legal battle fought by jailed democracy and LGBTQ+ rights activist Jimmy Sham. It is the first time that the court directly addressed the issue of same-sex marriage in Hong Kong. 

While the Court of Final Appeal ruled against recognizing same-sex marriage, it also declared that the government had violated the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. Chief Justice Andrew Cheung, Permanent Judges Roberto Ribeiro, Joseph Fok, Johnson Lam and Non-Permanent Judge Patrick Keane ruled that marriage freedoms outlined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, were solely for heterosexual couples. But those same judges stated that the government had failed to establish a means through which same-sex partnerships could be acknowledged legally for social and other benefits, such as registered civil partnerships or unions.

The judges wrote that same-sex couples “need access to an alternative legal framework in order to meet basic social requirements” and to “have a sense of legitimacy which dispels any sense of them belonging to an inferior class of person whose committed and stable relationships are undeserving of recognition.” 

The ruling was applauded by activists, but implementation will be a slow process. The court said its declaration would be suspended for two years to give the government time to come up with an approach to grant the remedy for same-sex couples.


LGBTQ+ groups in Venezuela are demanding justice for 33 gay men arrested in a raid at the Avalon Man Spa and Bar. The gay club in Valencia, the third-largest Venezuelan city, was raided on a Sunday — the club’s busiest day. The Avalon has a party atmosphere, with music, a bar, a restaurant, smoking room and massage parlor.

The men were held in the sauna’s locker rooms where police initially told them it was a “routine inspection” of the premises. But then the men were taken to police headquarters in Los Guayos, a municipality adjacent to Valencia. They weren’t told what crime they were being charged with.

While homosexuality is not a crime in Venezuela at present, the men were still charged with “lewd conduct” among other counts. As evidence, police showed condoms and lubricant on scene. Stirring further outrage, photos of the men were leaked to local media. Reports were that the men were “participating in an orgy with HIV” and “recording pornography.” 

And now human rights advocates say the arrest and public humiliation was arbitrary and suggests a ratcheting up of persecution of gay people under President Nicolás Maduro. There were protests of the arrests in Caracas and Valencia.

The July 23 raid, reported in the gay press last month, is now getting scrutiny in the mainstream press as Venezuela’s LGBTQ+ community has voiced new concerns that Maduro is trying to criminalize homosexuality. The Washington Post reported on the raid and subsequent fears from LGBTQ+ people on Sept. 4. The Post quoted the club’s owner, Guillermo Luis, who said the raid came out of nowhere and was totally uncalled for.

Luis and the other men arrested were charged with indecent outrage, noise pollution and criminal association. 

“I still don’t understand,” Luis told the Post. “We had all the paperwork, and they still arrested us. Not even brothels in Venezuela face actions like this.”

The men were paraded into the streets like in the raid that led to the Stonewall riots and were publicly outed and humiliated. 

Tamara Adrián, who in 2015 became the first trans woman elected to the National Assembly, told the Post in an interview that Maduro has shown a “clear pattern” of bias against LGBTQ+ rights. 

“I cannot recall a case as big as this one,” she said. 

Adrián added, “These men were at a private space. I can’t prove it, but acts like these are carried out with authorization from the top. It creates a clear pattern of fear among many.”

Adrián said, “Well, the truth is that this type of action, in the Venezuelan context, sends a very powerful message to the police and sends a very powerful message to judges that LGBT people can be persecuted for being LGBT.”

Venezuela remains one of South America’s most conservative countries for LGBTQ+ rights. There is no legal recognition for same-sex couples and transgender individuals still cannot legally change their gender on official documents.

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