Africa, Nigeria, Human Rights

Being gay in Nigeria: North or South? Stoning or Jail?

Nowadays, LGBTQ rights in Nigeria are being strongly restricted. Most of the population of Nigeria (97%) think that a relationship between two women or two men is amoral and against the rules of society.

Such kind of negative opinion towards homosexuals is criticized by different organisations that defend human rights, for example, the United Nations. In the West, LGBTQ people are more equal and less isolated from society.

Being gay in Nigeria is not only neglected by society, even worse, in the northern 12 states of Nigeria, punishment for same-sex sexual activity is death by stoning. Somehow, in southern Nigeria homosexuals are not sentenced to death, southern law, Criminal Code of 1990, says that maximum penalty for this kind of action is 14 years of imprisonment.

Because of harassment, public shaming or homophobic laws, the LGBTQ community in Nigeria are so scared of revealing their faces that almost everyone of them in front of cameras speak with only covered faces and changed voices. Nigerians want their voice to reach us, they describe the discrimination they have to bear in their everyday life. They call us to help and defend their human rights while their government stubbornly denies them.

In Nigeria, people consider homosexuality as a curse or the worst crime possible. One of the anonymous respondents said that he had to lock away his difference but it was against his strength. They can’t open up their feelings or their difference with their family or friends because none of them would have forgiven them. As the survey has shown most of the attacks against homosexuals came from their own family and relatives (precisely 73%).

Attitude towards gays in Nigeria is extremely offensive and discriminative. For example, one gay man shared a story that happened to him. Policemen stopped him and forced him to show his text messages on his phone. They read his conversation with his ex-boyfriend. After that they took him to the station and demanded money from him, otherwise they would let his family know about his different orientation. As he said himself, he is not the only one who has become a victim of police, many others are also being discriminated by policemen. They usually have to pay a kind of bribes such as 5000-10000 naira, which is approximately between $30-60 dollars.

Will LGBTQ people in Nigeria ever find relief or acceptance from law and society? A LGBTQ rights and HIV activist, Bisi Alimi, said that in his opinion, it will take 20 years to demand for non-discriminative law for homosexuals in Nigeria. He also says that total social acceptance won’t happen in just 50 or 60 years. This kind of change needs a great evolution of moral values. Members of society must realise that punishing a person because of his different orientation is the greatest discrimination of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that we all are equal, regardless what race we belong to, or what is our orientation, law must protect everyone.

What surprised me the most from Bisi Alimi’s speech was when he said that “homosexuality is not external to African culture”. He says that the first law prohibiting same-sex relationships appeared during colonisation, Alimi points to the Bible, as a western text that justified Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which was passed in 2013 and enacted in 2014. From this point of view, roots of anti-homosexual laws doesn’t come from Africa, but from the West. Bisi Alimi is the first among the few men who showed up in public and openly declared their “gay status”.

Nigerian law against homosexuals provides harsh penalties not only for homosexuals but also for people who “encourage” gay clubs or organizations. Even those groups created in order to combat AIDS among gays.

Nigeria’s discriminative, anti-homosexual law has been criticized by countries such as Canada, Britain and the United States. They blame the Nigerian government for the law restricting people’s freedom.

Unfortunately, HIV is widely spread across Nigeria, in fact, the country has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world. There are approximately 3.4 million people infected with HIV. Because of the Nigerian discriminative law against homosexuals, they don’t have access to a decent medical treatment for HIV. This way, the government restricts not only homosexuals’ freedom but their right to live as well.

It must be emphasized that according to the survey in 2015, the number of people against homosexuality in Nigeria have decreased from 97% to 87%. But still, the law is harsh and acts against human rights, there’s no relief or pardon for people of different orientation.

About Mariam Nebieridze

Mariam is from Georgia (the country), she is 18 years old and studies law at Tbilisi State University. She spends most of her time studying, reading and writing. Mariam loves reading and researching so if anything interests me, she does her best to get more and more information about that subject. Most of all, she loves art and history, and she's also interested in modern political issues and international relations. Reading, writing and listening to music — these are what shape her personality.

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