If you are gay in Nigeria – it is not an easy life. The law, society, and often friends and family will discriminate against you. So BattaBox asked several gay men about the challenges they face being homosexual in Africa.
And they answers reveal a lot, not just about the men, but about society in Nigeria.
“My parents don’t know I am gay in Nigeria,” says one young man, who’s identity must remain anonymous. “They said to me, we don’t see you with any girls, always guys, guys, guys. And I asked myself – how can I do this?”
It is illegal to commit any “same-sex” act in Nigeria since 1901. If you are prosecuted of homosexuality and found guilty, then you can face up to 14 years in prison. It was a bill signed into law by the previous president Goodluck Jonathan despite serious external pressure from the West for the Same Sex Marriage, or the anti-gay, bill to be stopped. In the north of Nigeria, under Sharia law, anyone found guilty of committing homosexual sexual acts, can be stoned to death.
“I started to realise I was gay when I was nine years old,” says another man, who’s identity has also been kept anonymous. “I began to wear my mum’s shoes and head-wrap.”
Nigerian, and African, society is widely regarded as very religious and conservative. Homosexuality is widely regarded as a “Western import” that is “not” African. And so anyone who admits, even to their family, that they are gay in Nigeria, can face serious discrimination.
However, in recent years, especially as more people move to large cities such as Lagos and the rise of the internet and awareness to human rights, more Nigerians around the world campaign for equal gay rights in Nigeria. A gay church founded by pastor Jide Macaulay was even set up in Lagos, before police pressured the church to close.
“Even people who discriminate against gays in Nigeria – are one of us!” explains the young man. “I even have police that come to our gay parties, but they won’t say they’re police, but I know because they are my friends.”
In July, 2017, over men were arrested in Lagos state for performing homosexual acts, say police. But, according to the BBC, the event that the police raided was to raise awareness about HIV testing in Nigeria’s gay community.
The discrimination means homosexuals cannot easily access healthcare and education, and has helped the spread of HIV/AIDS in the gay community in Nigeria.
What do you think about being gay in Nigeria? Gist us in the comments below.