Victor (not real name)
, 23, and his friends were among 42 gay men and boys, who were arrested in a Lagos hotel in July 2017. They were celebrating a birthday with friends which ended when they were arrested.They were charged with engaging in “gay activities”, and Victor spent a month and two days in jail.
According to ABC Australia, since his arrest, Victor has been kicked out of home and now shuttles between ”friends’ lounges and lovers’ beds”.
He has lost his job as a cleaner, left his studies at university and had sex for money to help pay for a ticket to Ghana where he hopes he can slip into obscurity.
Victor says he “became gay” at 14 when he fell in love with the man who raped him, an older man who was close friends with his father. He kept the relationship a secret until his father accused him of being “gay and acting girly”.
“When he was angry he would start flogging me,” Victor says.
“Any mistake and he would hit me. Every minute, every hour.” After a month and two days in jail following his arrest, an NGO bailed him out.
“I tried to bribe my way out of it and members of the [LGBTI] community went to speak with my father…[he] asked them to let me die in [jail],” Victor says.
In 2014 former president Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill which proscribed penalties of 14 years’ jail for same-sex marriage and 10 years’ for same-sex “amorous relationships”.
Days after the hotel arrests, the Lagos State Attorney-General Adeniji Kazeem said the tough stance taken with the men was to help put “a stop to the exploitation of under-aged children” by gay men.
However, 15-year-old Doyin*, who was also arrested says no sex with minors took place. Doyin was in jail for seven days before he was released, but unlike many, he wasn’t fazed by the consequences.
“My parents know I’m gay. This is my lifestyle. This is what I choose and they say I should live my life,” he says.
“A gay is a human being and it’s God that created me like this . I don’t have feelings for women. I have feelings for men. A gay is a human being [and that’s why I’m bold. I didn’t want my mum to know’
For Tunde*, the consequences were foremost in his mind.
“The police came through and started beating us so I covered my face because I didn’t want my mum to know,” he says. Bundled into a cell with hardened criminals, Tunde says he was beaten up by another prisoner, called the President, who was instructed by police to extract confessions.
“This is when I had no choice … I said I was gay,” he says. Along with the other men, Tunde pleaded not guilty to the charge in court, but his picture, name and HIV status were taken by local media and splashed across newspapers around the nation.
“When I came out my mum found out and the people I work with were abusing me saying I’m a girl,” he says.
“My grandma bought the newspaper and said I was not part of their family anymore and that I should leave the house.”
The men return to court on November 22. Lagos activist Peter Kass, whose NGO — Access to Health and Rights Development Initiative — was at the hotel conducting HIV tests for some of the patrons on the night of the arrests, claims gangs used social media to catch unsuspecting gay men out to either beat them up or exhort money from them.
“What people do is ping you or you get chatting and then you talk about hooking up,” he says.
“When you get there you discover the person isn’t even gay and there are six or seven men there … who are just out there to beat up gay men.”