Nigeria: 'I didn't want my mum to know': The men and boys arrested for being gay in Nigeria

For 23-year-old Femi*, a night out celebrating a birthday with friends ended with a month and two days in jail because of his sexuality.

In late July, Femi and his friends were among 40 gay men and boys, some as young as 13, who were arrested at a gay nightspot in a hotel in the back blocks of Nigeria's economic capital, Lagos. They were charged with engaging in "gay activities" by allowing other men "to have carnal knowledge of themselves against the order of nature".

Since his arrest, Femi 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.

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]," Femi says.

Gay sex has been outlawed in Nigeria since the time of British rule but recently the situation has become more dire for Nigeria's LGBTI community. 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". In the country's Muslim north, 12 states have adopted Sharia, with punishment for gay sex including lashings, jail and death by stoning. So far no-one has been sentenced to death and convictions are rare.

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. But Doyin*, 15, 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.

The struggle faced by gay Nigerian women is often overlooked. Rita*, 39, says it was no "excuse" that because gay men make up the majority of those arrested and abused that "lesbian and bisexual rights violations" should be neglected.

She says she knew she was attracted to women when she was 15 but "came to terms that loving in Nigeria was going to be tough because of religious and cultural influences". To please her parents she married a man four years ago but after her father died she divorced.

Rita says her ex-husband vowed to teach her "a lesson [she] would never forget" and last month came to her house with two policemen, where she was caught in bed with her partner. She says the police slapped and kicked her and forced her to sleep on the floor of the police station for four days before a friend negotiated her release for $225.

But her ex-husband didn't stop there. On September 17 Rita said she was walking home at night when she was attacked by four men. "They kept hitting me with sticks and stones," she says. Read more via ABC