If the Nigerian government can divest one group of their fundamental rights, then they can certainly strip away the rights of others- Chinue Igwe

If the Nigerian government can divest one group of their fundamental rights, then they can certainly strip away the rights of others- Chinue Igwe

Since its enactment in 2014, the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act continues to wreak havoc on the lives of LGBTI Nigerians throughout the country. This discriminatory law has opened a floodgate resulting in LGBTI Nigerians experiencing human rights violations in record numbers. The 2015 Report on Human Rights Violations based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Nigeria details the enormity of these violations.

Infograph (1) 2015

According to the 2015 Report on Human Rights Violations based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, an alarming 282 persons have experienced hate-based violence since the SSMPA was adopted as a national law. According to 76Crimes.com, a human rights blog dedicated to documenting the effects of anti-gay laws globally, this represents a 64% increase in reported human rights violations within Nigeria. With a number that has more than doubled from the 105 violations recorded in 2014, the harrowing effects of this bill have given way to a disturbing crusade of state violence and vigilantism.

38 violations were on behalf of state actors, 124 violations were on behalf of non-state actors, and 10 violations were on behalf of both state and non-state actors with the highest number of reports coming out of Enugu state. Among the countless offenses experienced by Nigerians based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, the top three violations were blackmail and extortion, battery and assault, and arbitrary arrests.

The newest trend among state authorities is to target young men based on the way they walk, take them to internet cafes and force them to print out private messages to “prove” that they are gay, and then arrest them. Non-state actors who are aware of the sexual orientations of LGBTI peoples utilize blackmail tactics to extort money from LGBTI individuals in exchange for not reporting them to the police.

These exploitative tactics are clear violations of the fundamental freedoms and constitutional rights of the Nigerian people. Article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states that: “Every individual shall have the duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding, and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance. Nonetheless, the Nigerian government continues to endanger the LGBTI community by permitting and promoting the use of a person’s sexuality as leverage for intimidation, exploitation and unfettered abuse.

Based on the 2015 Perception of Nigerian LGB Rights Poll Report, only 17% of Nigerians know someone who is homosexual and yet a reported 81% of Nigerians believe that homosexuals should not have the same basic human rights as heterosexuals. It is this lack of awareness and education about LGBTI people that fuels the homophobia and bigotry that is already so deeply rooted in sexism and imbalanced power dynamics throughout Nigeria. People must recognize that criminalizing LGBTI identities, relationships and communities will not make LGBTI people disappear from the social and cultural fabric of the nation, this will never happen.

If the Nigerian government can divest one group of their fundamental rights, then they can certainly strip away the rights of others. Which is why it’s more important than ever that we fight back as a unified front for the equality of all Nigerian people.

In the words of Professor Chidi Odinkalu, “Every Nigerian citizen deserves equal protection and dignity under the law whether they’re Shiiates, or they’re LGBT, the country shouldn’t discriminate against people because of who they are […] Difference is central to the progress of Democracy.”

The fight for human rights is not a singular struggle. Celebrating our differences only makes us stronger as we move forward into a more equitable future. Radical acceptance and love will be the only way for all of Nigeria’s people to flourish.

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