At least 40, including 12 minors, charged in Nigeria over 'gay activities'

Lagos - Authorities in Nigeria on Thursday accused 40 males, including 12 minors, of engaging in "gay activities" in a hotel in Lagos, the latest example of the country's tough stance on homosexuality.

A statement from the Lagos state government said the defendants were charged with "permitting male persons to have carnal knowledge of themselves against the order of nature".

On Saturday, dozens were arrested when police raided a hotel in the Owode-Onirin district of northern Lagos.

They were detained at a gathering where counsellors were providing HIV screening tests, said gay rights activist Bisi Alimi, who launched a petition on Twitter demanding they be released.

"The party was held in the hall of the hotel where HIV testing and counselling was available," Alimi said.

"It wasn't an orgy in a hotel room like we've read (in the media)," he said, adding that "the men arrested never said they were gay."

A source close to the case told AFP that around 70 people were arrested on Saturday night but that some used bribes to escape detention.

In April, 53 men were arrested in the northern state of Zaria and were accused of participating in a gay wedding. They pleaded not guilty and were released on bail but the case has yet to resume in court.

LGBT activists say the legislation is often used to extort money.

Those accused were granted bail on Thursday, according to the state government. The presiding magistrate granted a request by the prosecution that they be monitored and undergo "sexual rehabilitation".

In 2014, former president Goodluck Jonathan signed the same-sex marriage prohibition bill, forbidding marriage, same-sex cohabitation and any "public show of same-sex amorous relationship".

Penalties range from 10 to 14 years in jail and the law has stoked fear in Nigeria's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

In a recent report for Human Rights Watch, researchers said the 2014 law is used to "legitimise abuses against LGBT people, including widespread extortion, mob violence, arbitrary arrest, torture in detention, and physical and sexual violence."

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