LGBT activists in Nigeria are calling on people around the world to join their fight against their country’s recently enacted anti-gay law, signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan in January 2014.
Pro-LGBT Nigerian group the Solitary Alliance is planning a Global Day of Action on March 7 for communities around the globe to take a stand against the country’s human rights violations in the form of socially and legally sanctioned homophobia. It is hoped that such international pressure will convince President Jonathan to repeal the law.
Same-sex sexual activity was already illegal in Nigeria, but the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act—more commonly called the “Jail All the Gays Act”—went much further. Same-sex marriage is no longer simply banned, but criminalized; entering into a same-sex marriage can result in jail time, as can merely attending the ceremony or even simply belonging to an LGBT group of any kind.
Pro-LGBT and human rights advocate Michael Ighodaro told Gay Star News, “Aside from the fact that sections of this law are in direct violation of our fundamental human rights—freedom of expression and assembly, freedom to have a private and family life—and set back the provision of healthcare services, they effectively signify that it is open season to attack the LGBT community.”
Only a week after the anti-gay bill was signed into law, Nigeria had already arrested 38 gay men, with the police already allegedly drawing up a list of 168 wanted gay men. According to local police, 11 of the 38 arrested signed “confessions” that they belong to a gay organization. Activist Dorothy Aken’Ova said that some of the men were also tortured into naming others.
Because the bill effectively criminalizes not only gay sex but being gay, people who are known or suspected to be LGBT risk imprisonment regardless of whether or not they have sex, leaving not only them but their friends and family living in fear of government-sanctioned attacks.
Ighodaro said, “The world has been silent on the passage of the bill, the silence is like saying Nigeria gays are not as important as gays in Uganda or Russia.
“That’s why we are calling on everyone to come out on [March 7] to show solidarity to Nigeria’s LGBT community, to show that the world has not neglected us.”