Behind the Mask LGBT African website
April 22, 2002
Gays of Nation Unite!
Early this year, Eric Beauchemin of Radio Netherland interviewed the president of Alliance Rights, a new gay group in Nigeria. The story is republished here.
"Homosexuality is often regarded in Africa as a Western import. Several southern African leaders have made statements in recent years designed to reinforce this image. Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, for instance, has described homosexuals as worse than dogs or pigs. But according to the president of Alliance Rights Nigeria, a gay organisation, homosexuality has always existed in Africa. "In some cultures in the northern part of Nigeria", says Erilou – who like most other Alliance Rights’ members uses a pseudonym – "there are people called dan daudu which is a typical Hausa term.
It means ‘men who are wives of men’. In olden days, to show your immense wealth, it was easy to have a harem of wives. But to show that you were truly rich, you had to keep a stable of men. You had to take care of your dan daudu and their families – if they had them – and be like a mentor to them. These wealthy men would have sexual relationships with these dan daudu. What else is homosexuality?" Nigeria, like many former British colonies, has laws dating back to the Victorian era that make sodomy punishable by up to 14 years in prison. While these laws are rarely applied, they contribute to the climate of intolerance towards homosexuals. The situation in the north of the country has deteriorated in recent years because of the introduction of Islamic or sharia law. In the state of Zamfara, a man was flogged 36 times for having had sex with another man. There are no laws regarding same sex relations between women, but lesbians have also suffered persecution.
In 1994, four lesbians who had sought refuge at a feminist centre were attacked and raped at gunpoint by an unknown number of men. A few days earlier, one of the victims had published an article on lesbians in Nigeria. Erilou, who comes from a village about 40 kilometres from Lagos, recalls speaking to his grandmother about the subject. She told him that when she was young, there were men who used to behave effeminately like he does. "She told me those men were called gbowo. Those people, she said, were very good orators. They were musicians and poets and did the finer things in society. They were not the hunters or warriors, the macho-type of people. But they did the finer things, the things that made people enjoy themselves."
Alliance Rights is trying to fight the general public’s hostility towards homosexuality. Gay bashing and verbal abuse are not common. Recently, a mob burned down a bar frequented by gays on the Lagos beachfront. Other bars have since emerged, but generally gays and lesbians in Nigeria meet at parties and friends’ houses. Young people who discover that they are attracted to the same sex tendto hide the fact from their friends and family because they are often ostracised or even thrown out of the family home. Alliance Rights Since its inception, Alliance Rights has focused its efforts on making gays and lesbians aware of the organisation’s existence. It has organised various seminars and its members have taken part in international conferences to network with gays and lesbians elsewhere in the continent and the rest of the world.
Alliance Rights has also carried out seminars in a few secondary schools in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, on AIDS/HIV. It hopes to set up a sports club and attend the next Gay Games. The organisation is discretely lobbying members of Nigeria’s National Assembly to decriminalise sodomy. According to Erilou, the President of Alliance Rights, "people in government know that there is homosexuality in Nigerian society and even in high levels of the government. But because of political considerations, they have to tread softly. We respect that and are willing to be patient. It will take us a long time to reach the same level as South Africa (where homosexuality has been legalised), but we will get there. Nigerians are bold. In the end, we are certain we will win."
A Gay Murder in Jigawa–A student dies over homosexuality.
Students are not left out of homosexualism. Innua Yakubu, a homosexual final year student of Government College, Birnin-kudu in Jigawa State was, on 3 April, clubbed to death by his colleagues.
At 21, he had joined the infamous club of gays whose rendezvous are scattered across Jigawa and Kano States. When he walked from his Mang hostel to the classroom, he picked his steps gingerly and wriggled his waist as a teenage girl. At night, after prep Yakubu would make up like a lady ready to meet his ‘lover’ at a secret rendezvous in Tsoho Gari not far from their hostel. After his daily routine, Yakubu left the hostel in the night to keep a date with his ‘lover’, identified as Malam Abbas, said to be a former employee of the fire service. Unknown to Yakubu, many of his friends, enraged by his effeminate attitude in school, planned to turn his fun into a tragedy.
A group of 16 boys followed him as he ran to meet his lover. The students "immediately descended on Yakubu once they saw him in the company of a man." They beat him with sticks and koboko until he could not move again," narrated Iliasu, a student. The students later dispersed at 3 a.m. that day, thinking that Yakubu was dead. No one could explain how Yakubu found his way back into his hostel that night, unconscious. At dawn when his roommates woke up for the early Morning Prayer, only Yakubu was still lying on his bed. They woke him up, but found out that he was already dead with congealed blood in his nose and mouth.
"It was the school authorities that brought the report to our station the following morning, that a boy was found dead on his bed," said divisional officer, ASP Sani Yanyamel who led the police team that took the corpse from the hostel to the hospital." We found him dead on his bed, with blood on his face." The DCO said the police arrested five out of the 16 students that allegedly killed Yakubu. They were immediately transferred to the state police command in Dutse where they are still being interrogated.
The state PPRO, Cyril Owoghiren who confirmed the story to journalists in Dutse, said the student may be charged to court for culpable homicide. For Alhaji Musa Yau, the principal of the 42-year old college, the incident was a tragedy, which no one should talk about. He declined to make any comment. "I cannot say anything, I’ve been instructed not to say anything on the issue. Please go and see the commissioner at Kazaure," he said.
The news of the killing of a homosexual student in Birnin-Kudu swept across Jigawa and Kano states like a violent wind. The Jigawa state government was embarrassed by the scandal. Although homosexual stories are as old as folktales in the north, it was the first time that teenage homosexuality was hitting the news. The state government last week in a press statement regretted the incident. The government said it received "with deep sense of sorrow and concern, the report of a suspected case of homosexuality involving a student at Government College, Birnin-Kudu where the suspected student was said to have been manhandled by his fellow students, which led to his death." The statement, signed by Lawan Gumel, press secretary to the deputy governor, said the government had directed the state commissioner of education to constitute a committee to thoroughly investigate the matter and recommend ways of preventing a recurrence.
Homophobic report about Nigerian homosexuality
April 22, 2002
OPINION: Nation’s Homosexuals
by Tajudeen Sulaiman & Bamidele Adebayo
Homosexuals who used to hide their faces, have of late, become more brazen in their acts. Their influence pervades the public and private sectors in Nigeria. Alhaji Femi Ade Rasheed used to carry himself with the dignified gait of a prince. But an allegation of homosexuality has sent the board member of the Ogun State Agro Allied Industries and a member of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, in the state, tumbling down.
He has sung to the Police in Abeokuta, the state capital. And he has been arraigned before an Isabo Magistrate court in the city charged with what the police called "indecent practice between males" (a phrase for sodomy) contrary to section 217 of the criminal code. If the court found him guilty, he may spend 14 years in jail.
Rasheed’s story is distinctive in the increasing and brazen homosexual practices in Nigeria. Unlike Rasheed, many homosexuals are hardly arrested, as they are themselves wielders of power and influence, obscenely rich and respected. In the last decade or so, they have formed themselves into a network of clubs and mafia, membership of which offers a sure passport to stupendous riches, even more power and influence. The recent trend is that homosexuality, which used to be a carefully guarded secret by the practitioner, is graduating into an open level.
Gays abound in the armed forces, in the bureaucracy, among politicians and the private sector. Apart from some prominent Nigerians who have been accused publicly of this "sexual preference and board room players who perform the act to seal juicy contracts, school pupils have been bitten by the bug.
The clobbering to death of a homosexual student of Government College, Birnin Kudu, Jigawa State on 3 April, illustrates the pervasiveness of sodomy in the land. What is more, gays now have a non-governmental organisation called Alliance Rights, set up to fight their cause in a multi-religious and heterosexual country. Alhaji Rasheed’s present trouble started early February this year, when his green Mercedes-Benz car with number-plate AR 505 ABC Abuja, pulled up at the gate of Government Technical College Idi-Aba, Abeokuta. He was said to have asked after a fictitious Gbenga, a bait to catch a prey. The school’s security personnel were said to have demanded for Gbenga’s surname, but Alhaji could not provide one.
But the officer, recognising the famous Alhaji as an illustrious son of the state, decided to assist him. Subsequently, a student, Yemi, was sent to go and search for the Gbenga. But his mission was not successful. Eventually, that did not dissuade the Alhaji from carrying out his mission. Like the proverbial patient dog that eats the fattest bone, Alhaji Rasheed maintained his cool in an obscure place around the school. Within a short period, his efforts yielded fruit. Yemi, the student who was earlier sent to assist him to look for Gbenga, was going for lunch break. Alhaji emerged from hiding and accosted Yemi who recognised him as the person that came to his school a few minutes ago.
Alhaji Rasheed showered Yemi with gifts. The man persuaded the student to take him to the house of two others: Oyetunji Gbemi and Micheal Oyeku, all students of the 23 -year old technical college. They were all excited the way the Alhaji who is old enough to be their father, spoiled them with gifts and invited them home. They agreed to follow their newly found ‘mentor’ to Imeko, which is about sixty-minute drive from Abeokuta. Gbemi borrowed cassettes to be played in Alhaji’s video machine, at Imeko. On getting there, according to sources close to the sexually abused students, Alhaji used all forms of gimmicks to delay the boys who insisted on going back to Abeokuta. At the end of the day, they agreed to sleep in Alhaji Rasheed’s flat in the town.
After watching all the movies, the trio slept in one of the rooms in the three-bedroom apartment. In the night, Alhaji furtively went into the room where the boys slept. He slept among the boys, who kept wondering what was going on. Initially, they thought, their host just wanted to be in their company. But they were wrong.
The Alhaji soon started fumbling with the boys’ private parts till they ejaculated. It was equally alleged that he penetrated the anus of one of the boys. The boys felt dumbfounded and violated. They consequently reported the matter to the school authorities. But the 50-year old Alhaji Rasheed, who started work as a reporter with Radio Kaduna, was not satisfied yet. He wanted more quirky sexual pleasure and sought fresh boys in the same school the following day.
Unknown to him that the cat had been let out of the bag; the students of the school mobbed him. But for the timely intervention of one of their teachers, the Alhaji would have been lynched. He was, however, arrested, detained and taken to court. The trial magistrate granted him bail and adjourned the case. When the case came up again on 5 April, the Alhaji was absent in court.
The matter has again been adjourned. At the technical school, the Vice Principal, Mr. E.A. Ojuyomi, said: "It is true that we paraded four boys in the school assembly and cautioned other students not to follow strangers anywhere. But I will not tell you their names and I will not comment on the matter." Police sources in Abeokuta said Alhaji Rasheed has a notorious reputation when it comes to his sexual preference. Early last year, Alhaji Morufu Alabi a.k.a "Omo Odo Agba", the presenter of a radio programme called "Teleda Lase," bit more than what he could chew, when he aired a complaint against Rasheed on Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation, OGBC, FM stereo. One Bayo, who was probably Alhaji Rasheed’s first sexually abused victim in the state, had come to lodge a complaint to Alhaji Morufu Alabi, whose programme is designed to expose the ills of the society.
According to Bayo, also a student of the technical college, Alhaji Rasheed, had carnal knowledge of him when he was doing his industrial training, IT, at Imeko and he feared that because of what he considered to be an abominable sexual assault, he had lost his manhood. Alhaji Rasheed was invited to the programme to defend himself. He admitted "accommodating" Bayo and other boys doing their IT at Imeko. He claimed that it was just a kind gesture to help the people of the state, but he denied having carnal knowledge of the boy.
Despite the denial, the students of the school who had gathered at the radio station’s premises and felt that Rasheed was lying, pounced on him as he was stepping out of the station’s studio. They beat him, vandalized his car and broke his eyeglasses, before he was rescued. Alhaji Rasheed, who is well connected in the state, reported the matter to the police, but the matter was later settled, with OGBC coughing out the sum of N20, 000. The money was paid through the chambers of his lawyer, Mr. Idale Habib Ajayi, a member of Ogun State House of Assembly.
While living in Ilorin, Kwara State, some years ago, Rasheed was alleged to have been caught several times committing sodomy with students of Ara-Orun Grammar School and Victory College, Edidi. In the early eighties, he was a household name in the old Kwara State. He was the presenter of a Saturday morning Pidgin English programme, Una Good Morin O. He aired the programme on Radio Kwara and the producer was the late Kola Shomoye. Rasheed presented the programme so well, that he immediately became the toast of everybody in the state. He capitalised on the stardom to make connections. It was then he met General Abdulkareem Adisa, a prominent indigene of the state; Olola Kasumu, the leader of Afonja Descendant Union, ADU, and other important dignitaries. Some of his colleagues at the Radio Station, who spoke with TheNEWS last week on the condition of anonymity, said that he was not actually a staff of the station.
They said that despite the fact that he mixed freely and he likes attending parties, he was never seen in the company of the opposite sex. None of them could say whether or not he has a wife. The slim built Alhaji Rasheed however left Radio Kwara suddenly. He later became the farm manager of General Adisa’s Discabog Farms Ilorin. He was also a member of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN. Rasheed was also the manager in the farm of Mr. Sunday Adewusi, a former Inspector-General of Police. He facilitated the installation of General Adisa, as the Akinrogun of Imeko, two years ago. Rasheed is a prominent member of AD in Ogun State.
Repeated calls at the office of Agro Services at Asero, Abeokuta yielded no fruits, as the workers there said Rasheed does not work full-time. At home in Imeko, his flat located in a bungalow, known as "Fine Tree House" near Saint Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, was firmly locked. Neighbours said Rasheed lives alone in the flat and that he is not used to telling them his itinerary. They further informed that they had not seen him for the past three weeks. There are other people who share Rasheed’s sexual preference. At Sango-Otta, on 17 January, the town’s vigilance group apprehended one Oladunjoye Akeem, the managing director of Uncle Fast Photo in the town. Oladimeji was allegedly having carnal knowledge of a boy when he was arrested. In Lagos, the sodomites on the Island have meeting points at some exclusive restaurants in Victoria Island, while those on the mainland have a meeting place at Kampala Hotel, Oke Koto, Agege.
The decrepit one storey building looks ordinary in daytime, but at dawn, it is a special place for the homosexuals and transvestites. The building facing the road adjacent to the popular Danjuma Cinema has no signboard to indicate that it is a hotel. But as from 10:00 p.m in the evening, everything changes; exotic cars are always seen in front of the brothel. Some of the gays would put on lipsticks like women while some of them try to walk like ladies. Most of the patrons of the brothel are said to be the rich and powerful in the society: army officers and top government officials. Access to the club is exclusive to the members of the gay club.
Homosexuality also abounds in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano and other cities in the country. Gay business in Kano is notorious as female prostitution in Italy or the Red Light District of Hamburg in Germany. The business is said not to be limited to any class. Low class gay brothels can be found along Abedi, Freetown, and Sani streets, all inside Sabon Gari. Among the gays are transvestites who usually dress and make up like female prostitutes at night. The high-class gays, incorporating Nigerians and some of their Lebanese friends do their own at guesthouses where they keep their lovers. Such guesthouses are along Sultan Road, Nassarawa, G.R.A, Kundila Estate and Maiduguri Road.
They are also found at Hausawa quarters and Sabongari. Among the top gays in Kano is the Galadima Kano, Alhaji Tijanni Ashim. Although, he has several wives, at the same time he has sexual peccadillo for his gender. Ibrahim Dan Kabo, who died last week, was also reputed for being a bi-sexual. Indeed, one of his hotels at the GRA in Kano has for some years been a rendezvous of gays and bi-sexuals. Some top journalists in the town have also been found among them. There is also Ibrahim Ismail, the former husband of women affairs minister, Aisha Ismail. He was said to be close to a former inspector-general of police. Insiders said that the fact of his homosexuality was one of the major reasons for his separation from his wife.
There is in addition, the notorious case of Bello Galadanci, a serving director of information at the Kano state ministry of information. He was involved in a homosexual scandal under the military administration of Brigadier Dominic Oneya. Oneya not only reprimanded him but also vowed to freeze any promotion for him while he remained the administrator of the state. Although Kano has instituted a new Sharia law, which bans homosexuality, the city’s notoriety for homosexuality is legendary. During the holy month of Ramadan in 1998, Bashir Yan Tandu, a famous businessman, was beaten up by residents of his quarters in Dala Local Government area of the city. He was caught making love to a nine-year old boy. This is another form of gay practice (pederasty, which involves a male adult and a boy).
Foreigners imported gay culture. Gay culture was never a tradition in Kano or any part of Nigeria. The belief was that it was introduced into Northern Nigeria by two influences, beginning from the Arabs, who brought Islam and then the British who colonised the territory. Then the practice was accentuated in the early public schools, all male, in most cases, where older boys abused young boys. Apart from the colonial masters, Lebanese and Syrian businessmen in the North started the act with their drivers, cleaners and gardeners. But it later became a pastime among top government officials and businessmen who considered it as an avenue to excel.
In Kano, there was (and still is) the belief that the vitality and luck of a man lurks in his anus.
Homosexuality is also another form of domination, especially by traditional rulers over their fellow men.
In Dutse, Jigawa State, Alhaji Maitama Yusuf, the minister of commerce in the Shehu Shagari administration, was accused of homosexuality in 1997 by 24-year old Mohammed Jamiu. Yusuff lured Mohammed to his house, pretending to be his (the latter’s) father’s friend. The matter blew open when the boy, after experiencing anus bleeding, reported the matter to the Emir of Dutse. Mohammed later wrote to the Inspector General of police, Ibrahim Coomasie.
Homosexuality, however, goes beyond the escapades of mischievous schoolboys or the perversion of politicians and boardroom players. In Nigeria, it rules the realm of politics. Major Gideon Orkar and his fellow coupists revealed this on 22 April 1990. In his broadcast, which was intermittently interrupted by the howling of radio morse, Orkar said: "Fellow Nigerian citizens, on behalf of the patriotic and well meaning people of the Middle Belt and Southern Part of this country, I Major Gideon Orkar wish to happily inform you of the successful ousting of the dictatorial, corrupt, drug baronish, inhuman, sadistic, deceitful, homosexual-centred… administration of General Ibrahim Babangida…" If Orkar scratched the charge of gay tendency against the Babangida regime on the surface, Colonel Tony Nyiam who also took part in the 1990 putsch was more revealing in an interview he granted a magazine in September 1995.
He said that the key allegation was on homosexuality. "You don’t need to go far," he argued. "Just ask officers’ wives who know their husbands were sent out of the army because they refused to be abused by IBB." One of such victims, according to Nyiam, was Brigadier Mayaki, a Hausa-Fulani combatant officer who studied political science at the University of Ibadan. In the words of Nyiam, Mayaki, a prince of the Sokoto caliphate excelled in all the courses he attended. "The only drawback that Brigadier Mayaki had was that he refused to become a woman to IBB," Nyiam revealed. Colonel Rabiu Isa, a brilliant officer of the artillery unit was, according to Nyiam, also retired from the army by IBB because he refused to be the former head of state’s gay mate. Nyiam complained bitterly: "We just could not tolerate this un-African attitude of men sleeping with themselves… This group of homosexuals has hijacked power from Nigeria. There are still some circles you cannot get to if you don’t resort to bottom power."
Justin Fashanu, Ex Norwich city striker and brother of John Fashanu, committed suicide after series of reports linking him with sodomy against several teenagers in England. Fashanu lived a life of a recluse but was a regular caller at police stations on matters bordering on homosexuality. Also connected to homosexuality is Babashola Rhodes, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, based in Lagos. Apart from students of the University of Lagos whom he lured with money, he, on many occasions, allegedly made sexual advances to young lawyers in his chambers. His colleagues on the bar generally disdain his sexual preference and were known to have boycotted the ceremony that made him a senior advocate of Nigeria, under the Babangida regime. Meanwhile, just as environmentalists and human rights activists have their own pressure groups, so also are Nigerian homosexuals.
They now have an NGO known as "Alliance Rights" to fight for gays and lesbians in Nigeria. In an interview which one Erelu, the president of the organisation, granted Radio Netherlands in January this year, he said that homosexuality had always existed in Africa, especially in Northern Nigeria, where they are called dan daudu (men who are wives of men). Erelu explained that in the olden days, although a harem of wives was a symbol of riches, to show stupendous wealth, "you had to keep a stable of men"… take care of your dan daudu and their families, have sexual relationship with and be a mentor to them.
Erelu and his NGO are not happy about the climate of intolerance towards homosexuals. This attitude, according to Erelu, dates back to the Victorian era when sodomy was made punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Now Sharia, according to him, has worsened the situation. There is a link between power and gay culture, which dates back to the colonial times in Nigeria. Some of the country’s colonial lords were suspected to be homosexuals who sowed the culture of the sexual predilection. Social historians said they passed on the culture to some of the first generation of political leaders in the First Republic.
The culture continues to grow till date. One puzzling question that demands answer about Sodomy is what pleasure does a man derive from having sex with a man like him? An herbalist told this magazine, that some people do it for ritual. It is believed that the gays get money and power from the act. While others make connections through it, individuals do it for one thing or the other.
But the origin of sodomy could be found in the Holy Bible. In the book of Genesis, it is written that in the city of Sodom and Gomorrah, men were having carnal knowledge of fellow men. Two Angels visited Lot, Abraham’s cousin, but they came in form of human beings. As soon as they entered Lot’s house, the Sodomites followed them and told Lot that they wanted to sleep with the Angels. Lot refused. The Sodomites insisted. The Angels, therefore, made the intruders blind and God sent the Angels to destroy the city with brimstone and fire. Is Sodom and Gomorrah here yet?
May 7, 2003
‘Pink Refugees’ in South Africa seek refuge from persecution at home
by Adam Levin, Planet Syndication
Sunday night at the Summit Club in Hillbrow. Anita, a pint-sized Whitney Houston lookalike in white micro-mini and fuck-off platforms, is belting out a flawless lip-synch of Miss Whitney’s classic, ‘It’s not right, but it’s OK’. Anita’s upturned almond eyes sparkle as the red stage light brushes her high, honeyed cheekbones. She gyrates, bends, touches her toes, and flashes that impossibly broad white smile. Her energy is total. The audience – mostly black, male and heterosexual – chug down their Black Labels and cheer raucously. Little do they realise the title of the song has a certain hidden poignancy.
First up, Anita is not a woman, but a young Nigerian man called Azubike Udogo, known to his friends as Azu. Azu is currently in the process of applying for refugee status in South Africa on the grounds of his sexual orientation. "I can’t go back to Nigeria," he fumes over a glass of Lemon Twist in his Troyeville apartment. "I’ll go somewhere else if I have to. Anywhere. If I go back to Nigeria they’ll kill me or they’ll throw me in jail and that’s it." Just how well founded this claim is, however, is a matter for the adjudicators at South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs. As a signatory of a 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees, South Africa is obliged to grant refugee status to asylum seekers who have been victims of systematic persecution in their home countries. Not only must they offer proof of this persecution; they must show the inability or unwillingness of their governments to offer them protection. While asylum seekers await judgement, which can take anything up to six years, they live half-lives without ID books or access to bank accounts. Although they are entitled to work, the asylum seeker’s permit must be renewed every three months.
Given the transience of this legal status, it is extremely difficult to secure employment or even a lease. But luckily, Azu is a fighter. He has a day job in the call centre of a Randburg attorney’s office, while at night Anita fills the breadbasket. Azu studies French, performs, socialises. Yet, having first presented his case in June 2000, he is, understandably, feeling rather frustrated at this stage. Azu was born 29 years ago in Lagos, the economic capital of Africa’s most populated country. Though he realised he was gay from an early age, he was always too frightened to admit this to anyone.
Not only would his family reject him, thanks to a strict Victorian penal code, homosexuality is still illegal in Nigeria, and two men found having sex are liable for up to 14 years’ imprisonment. Furthermore, it is alleged that in Lagos there are private groups of vigilantes who prey on gay men, humiliating and harassing them. Worse still, in the country’s Northern states – where Islamic or sharia law has recently been implemented – homosexuality is punishable by execution. While at least one gay man has been flogged publicly, last year a young man in Kebbeh province – accused of having sex with a male minor – was sentenced to death by stoning. Even in Lagos, Nigerian society is a long way from liberated when it comes to gay rights.
While historically it was customary for powerful Hausa men to share their wealth with young male lovers as well as their female harems, in Post-Colonial Nigeria it is almost impossible to be an out homosexual. According to the affidavit of Adolph Mabunda, a young, gay Nigerian in Johannesburg, "I am regarded as a public disgrace [in Lagos]. At University, I was often insulted by being called derogatory names like [H]’Omo Detergent’. I was rejected and excluded from the mainstream… I am an enemy to my family because they say I have brought shame on them". Ironically, the situation is so dire that Alliance Rights, an underground gay organisation, which cannot be registered, spends much of its resources helping persecuted gay Nigerians to leave the country. Azu worked as a travel agent in Lagos. He drove a decent car and enjoyed a relatively high standard of living. As his family was from River State, where Ken Saro-Wiwa had recently been killed, Azu participated in some peaceful anti-government demonstrations.
Secretly he had also begun dressing in drag. Armed with fierce dancing skills and that killer smile, he had won two major titles in the city’s underground drag contests – Miss Lagos and Miss Nigeria. He had also established a secret relationship with a man but this had ended when – under extreme pressure from his family – the man had been persuaded to marry. It was back in 1996, while walking one evening on the streets of Lagos, that Azu was arrested on suspicion of homosexuality – a charge that carries a seven-year sentence in its own right. The police held Azu in the cells without laying a formal charge. They beat him. Indeed, he still has the mark on his back from where he was whacked with a policeman’s baton. Eventually, after a week behind bars, the charge was changed to "Late Wandering." Azu paid a fine and was released.
Around two years later, Azu was visiting what he calls a "Man to Man" bar in Lagos. Though nothing as overt as a gay club, the venue was known to have a partly gay clientele. Late that night, police raided the premises, throwing more thirty patrons into a van and yelling "You are worse than dogs!" Had Azu not had sufficient money on grease the officers’ palms, he would have been imprisoned again. It was then that he decided to flee the country. "If I couldn’t be who I really was," he recalls. "I didn’t want to live anymore".
Azu had read on the Internet about South Africa’s progressive stance on homosexuality. As the only African country with anti-discrimination laws in its constitution and strong gay rights movement, it seemed a likely place of refuge. And so he gave up everything he’d established in Lagos and began the long journey, by road, through Cameroon, Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, arriving eventually in Johannesburg in late 1998. As he had no idea that sexual orientation was grounds for asylum, Azu applied on political grounds. With an asylum seeker’s permit granted, he began making his life in Johannesburg. He made new friends and got accustomed to the liberty of living openly as a gay man.
"Finally, I didn’t have to hide," he says. "I could just be myself and feel safe. It was magic." Azu also began making his name on the drag circuit, belting through Jennifer Holiday and Aretha Franklin at Monte Casino and private parties. At one point, he was flown down to Cape Town to perform at a Camps Bay restaurant. It was only after two years in the country that Azu heard, via the grapevine, of Abeeda Bhamjee, a young Moslem and Legal Counsellor for Refugees at Wits Law Clinic. "Azu came and told us his story," says Avida. "And we took his case to Home Affairs".
Azu is not the first gay African to apply for asylum here. Wendy Isaack, Legal Advisor at the National Coalition for Gay & Lesbian Equality, has processed around ten similar cases in the past few years. They have included nationals from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. While nine have been successful as asylum seekers, only one has actually been granted refugee status so far.
In October 2001, Azu was summoned for an adjudicators’ hearing at Home Affairs. Four months later, he received a letter of response. His application had been declined. Home Affairs had not accepted his claims of persecution. They also stated that he was able to take legal action against antagonists back home – though the fact that Nigeria’s legal system runs against the liberal tenets of our constitution was ignored. The implication – and one that I, as a gay man, find offensive – was that he should return to Nigeria and simply live in the closet. Understandably, Home Affairs is in a difficult position.
There are more than six hundred million people on this continent. At least half of them live in countries where human rights abuses occur and the modern liberties we have become accustomed to are but a dream. Toss in the needs of our own indigent population and the hordes of economic migrants creeping desperately over our borders and it is clear that the refugee question is one of the major challenges facing this country.
Furthermore, as Bhamjee points out, during the Apartheid years African countries offered residence to exiled South African activists and helped them mobilise against the regime. Surely, given Thabo Mbeki’s grand NEPAD drive, there is room for some reciprocity? In the nine years that have passed since democracy however, South Africa has been less than generous in its stance towards those who are fleeing. We have accepted around 70 000 asylum seekers, of which 18-20 000 have been granted refugee status.
While this may sound like a large number, it compares feebly with much poorer countries like Tanzania, which have camps housing up to a million people at a time. In South Africa, we have no refugee camps. Asylum seekers are housed in urban areas and are offered very little support from the government. Furthermore, while refugees are legally entitled to apply for citizenship after five years in a country, according to Abeeda Bhamjee, "to my knowledge, none has been granted."
While Home Affairs protest that a high workload prevents them from processing cases quickly, Bhamjee says the amount of time most asylum seekers wait for judgement is unreasonable. Indeed, there have also been various allegations of bribery at Home Affairs – specifically that asylum seekers are required to pay bribes to renew their permits. When they are granted refugee status however, they do not require renewals, and this alleged under-the-counter income dries up. If this is true, it is in the interests of corrupt Home Affairs officials to prolong the process. In March 2002, Avida Bhamjee launched an internal appeal at Home Affairs.
If this fails, Azu could take his case to the High Court at a minimal cost of around R15 000. If that fails, Azu may need to return to Nigeria, where he may be in greater danger after having lodged such a public appeal. Indeed, other clients of Bhamjee`s have decided against lodging applications based on sexual orientation for fear of rejection from their communities. Whether or not Azu is entitled to refugee status remains a very tricky ethical question.
When I discuss his experience of harassment with a black, gay, local friend, he exclaims, "Well, who wasn’t? The guy should go home and fight for gay civil rights in Nigeria. They need him." For me, however, the ultimate reckoning lies neither in the degree of persecution Azu could suffer back home nor in the unlikeness of his finding protection. For me, the mere fact that Azu cannot be who is in Nigeria is a gross violation of a basic human right to individuality and self-expression and should, alone, be grounds for asylum. It is clear from their correspondence that Home Affairs has little experience in dealing with such cases. The fact that adjudicators asked Azu to "prove" he is gay displays an insensitivity to the complex issues of sexuality. Ultimately, whether or not Azubike Udogo is granted refuge, the onus lies on brave gays and lesbians here and throughout this continent to stand up, roll up their sleeves, toss their fists in the air and state, "It`s not right!"
Nigerian Church threatens Anglican split in gay row
by Chris Hastings and Elizabeth Day
The head of the Church of Nigeria said yesterday that he had written to the Archbishop of Canterbury threatening to sever ties with any part of the Anglican Church that elected a gay bishop.
Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola revealed that he had warned Rowan Williams, the head of the world’s 70 million Anglicans, that if Jeffrey John was confirmed as Bishop of Reading it would have global implications. "We cannot continue to be in communion with people who have taken a step outside the biblical boundaries," said Archbishop Akinola. "When we sit down globally as a communion, I am going to sit in a meeting with a man who is marrying a fellow man . . . I mean it’s just not possible. I cannot see myself doing it." Earlier this month the Nigerian Church, with 17 million members, 81 bishops and 10 archbishops, severed ties with the diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia, on Canada’s Pacific coast, for authorising same-sex marriages. Archbishop Akinola said that this should "serve as a note of warning".The Nigerian Church’s uncompromising stance will add to the pressure on Dr Williams, who is already facing the possibility of plummeting income as wealthy, evangelical sections of the Church in England threaten a nationwide financial protest. Evangelicals claim to contribute more than 40 per cent of the £400 million raised for the Church by parishes each year. The most likely course of action for parishes opposed to the appointment is to cap the amount they contribute to their diocesan and central church coffers. They would agree to donate just enough funds to cover their own costs.
24 June 2003
Nigerian church irked by homosexuality
by Sola Odunfa, BBC, Lagos
One Church, one faith, one Lord, the congregation sang at the Cathedral Church of Christ in Lagos at the weekend. But the Worldwide Anglican Communion may not remain a united body for long if the current controversy over the place ofhomosexuals in the Church is not resolved soon.
The appointment of an openly gay bishop in the Church of England has pitted the church provinces in Africa against those in Canada, the US and in England. The African opposition is led by the Church of Nigeria whose Primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola, sees the appointment as a "satanic attack on the Church of God". The Reverend Canon Akin Johnson of the Cathedral Church of Christ said in the sermon that homosexuality had become an additional serious problem which must be rooted from the church ofGod. This is not a position shared strongly in the liberalised Western churches.
But it is one to which worshippers at the Church of Nigeria Cathedral in Lagos subscribe. At the end of the service I spoke to several people in the congregation and asked their views on homosexuality in general, and the appointment of an openly gay bishop in particular. "It’s an abomination. How can two men marry? It is against the Bible and it is against religion. They should not have appointed him at all", said one female member of the congregation"These white people, they are very different. They are very funny. They have their own reasons for doing these things which are not African at all. We should not copy them", said another member. "I believe it is not right and if there is no reconciliation on the matter, the Church of Nigeria has every right to consider what is best for it, even if it means breaking up", said a male member of the congregation From these responses Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of the Church of Nigeria, would seem to have a strong domestic support base for his uncompromising reaction to the liberalism in churches in the West.
Jesus loves me… says, gay priest in England–In the current debate on homosexuality, liberals like Collier stand arrayed against the conservative evangelicals.
Paul Collier is homosexual and a priest, the embodiment of a schism that threatens the Anglican Church worldwide. Next month, its leaders gather to seek a compromise, yet each side believes that the other contravenes Christian teaching. What Solomon can bridge that divide, asks Graham Bowley.
Paul Collier, who knew he was gay from childhood and is glad of it, sought ordination in the Church of England in the late 1980s. This was just as the church was experiencing another of its periodic bouts of seeking a compromise between social liberalism and biblical evangelism. In that particular bit of angels-dancing-on-pinheads theologizing, its elders decided they could tolerate ordinary lay people pursuing gay lives. The clergy, however, were different. They could be homosexual, said the elders, but they could never do anything about it.
They could not have gay sex. Collier, 40, has glassy blue eyes and a slow, considered manner. He came out at Oxford University, where he studied theology and was president of the Gay and Lesbian Society. He trained as a lawyer in London, but one day early in 1989 he went to see the director of ordinands at Southwark Cathedral on the banks of the Thames and said he wanted to join the clergy. He was warned that he must stay celibate: he refused.
The bishop of Southwark asked him to agree to the terms of a letter saying he understood church policy, even if he did not accept it, and in 1994 the bishop ordained him into the priesthood. Now, nine years later, he is among the church’s leading gay campaigners. In 2000, he was one of three openly gay priests to be elected on to the general synod, the church’s governing body. The following year, he broke into the church establishment’s inner circles when he joined the crown appointments commission, which recommends candidates for bishops and archbishops. If actively gay priests – even openly gay bishops – are ever widely accepted in the Anglican Church, the change will come through people like Collier.
According to a fellow gay clerical campaigner, after Collier’s first speech to general synod, George Carey, the then archbishop of Canterbury who was not known for his sympathy for the gay cause, said: "This is a person who has got to be watched. He is saying things that synod needs to hear." Being gay is important to Collier, but so is being a Christian. When he talks about God, he convinces. He’s a believer. He had a "Buddha" moment, receiving enlightenment just as the Buddha did beneath the Bodhi Tree. Or even George Carey, in 1972, hearing, according to his memoirs, "shamayin, shamayin" (the Hebrew word for "heaven") echoing in a Toronto hotel room. With these people, God’s long bony finger came out of the sky, and declared – "You!" Believers, of course, believe different things. Cruel wars have been fought over opposing creeds. Collier’s particular creed is a liberal one – that being gay and being Christian are not mutually exclusive.
Collier’s God welcomes gay people.
He is part of a growing movement in the vast net of Anglican churches spanning the globe, which expects the church to slough off its remnants of medieval thinking and catch up with the real world by accepting heterosexuals and homosexuals as equals. Yet recent events have shown there is a group of fervent believers, no less well organised internationally, who thinks the exact opposite to Collier. They are certain that the Bible says so, homosexuality is a sin, and may be the root of much of the world’s evil. This spring when Canon Jeffrey John, a round-faced, clever and gay theologian from Southwark, was selected to be an assistant bishop in Reading, these believers were strong enough to force him to stand down, thus demonstrating their power in England. In fact, they control much of the world church. Freshly emboldened, these new anti-gay puritans now aim to disqualify an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in the US, who was elected in August just weeks after John was routed.
From the Americas to Africa to Australia, conservative leaders are uniting to enforce their idea of Christian purity. Unlike Europe, their congregations are buoyant and full. Shut out the US heretics, they cry, or we will take our faithful millions our separate way. The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, a kindly Welshman who took over the job only last year, has called a crisis meeting next month at Lambeth Palace, his 800-year-old residence in London. That gathering will be critical in determining whether Williams’ global church can stay united, or whether the bitterly divisive issue of homosexuality will cause a new schism. I met Collier in his office at Goldsmiths College, which is part of the University of London, in a gritty district of south-east London, and he tried to explain what it is like to be both gay and a Christian. Collier is Goldsmiths’ chaplain; but term was over, so his office – a bare, white-walled room scattered with empty water bottles and juice cartons – was quiet.
It does not look like a priest’s room (compared with the darkened, book-lined studies I was ushered into while researching this article) and Collier does not much resemble a priest. Indeed, most things about him, including his shaggy brown hair and silver ring in his left ear, suggest that is the whole point – nothing’s as usual, everything’s up for grabs. He wore a scruffy black shirt but no dog collar, and told me he is careful about where he wears his black clerical dress in public – people would come up to him in gay bars, for example, to ask if he were a real vicar. He is open about homosexuality. "I went to boarding school at eight, and shortly after that I can remember, about the age of nine, having fantasies about sexual intimacy with men. The evidence is very strong that sexual orientation is pretty much determined by the age of five."
Collier often has a light, faraway look in his eyes, as if earthly matters could never shake him. But on the day I met him he looked positively grim when he considered the recent victory in the Jeffrey John affair of the conservative evangelicals and other traditionalists. Evangelicals is the name of the group of strong believers ("evangelical" comes from the Greek for "person with good news") who oppose, among other innovations, the ordination of women as well as homosexual practice. In their reading, the Bible opposes it and for them the Bible is the strict word of God. As Collier stared out of the college campus, he said, with a shrug: "In a sense it is a little disappointing that Rowan Williams did not stand up to them. It feels as if he caved in to bullyboy tactics. I can only think he did what was best according to his conscience."
In the current debate on homosexuality, liberals like Collier stand arrayed against the conservative evangelicals.
But homosexuality is only the most recent battleground.
The war between liberals and conservatives has been rumbling on since the 1800s, but flared up in the 1960s when thinkers such as John Robinson, in his book Honest to God, started to challenge the literal meaning of Christian ideas. Who was God? asked the liberals. Where was he? Could you still believe He was the bearded Father presiding above the clouds? Or that, after Darwin, He created the world in seven days? Human intelligence, rather than human faith, claimed its right to choose how much of the Christian myth to believe. The liberals also turned to ethics, questioning what the Bible says about how we ought to live, including our sex lives. Liberal belief can be summarized in three broad tenets. The first is that no one should necessarily apply the Old and New Testaments of the Bible literally.
They were, after all, written millennia ago, by men who lacked the insights of modern thinkers like Freud or Darwin. Victor Stock, the liberal dean of Guildford, explains it like this: "The Bible is not God speaking. It is not a magic tape recorder. They ([the conservative) have put off a lot of the hard slog of making sense of faith in the postmodern world. They don’t permit doubt. It is a horrible kind of fascism." Stock told me a story that illustrates the bitterness between the evangelicals and liberals. He once gave a sermon at St Helen’s Bishopsgate, one of the big shrines of conservative evangelicalism in the city of London. "I preached an orthodox sermon that God loved everybody. William Taylor (Vicar of St Helen) was furious. He stood up and corrected me. He quoted a favourite text of theirs, 2 Peter or something, which says God does not love everybody."
The second liberal tenet is that there should be sources of ethical authority other than Scripture. In practice, this means our reason and feelings. Colin Coward, a bright tall man in his 50s and another leading Anglican gay campaigner, explains it like this: "Both believe in the individual, but they believe only in external authority, the Bible, Jesus Christ, God. For me, authority is internal and external. It is up to me to experience and express myself to the full as a gift given by God. It is sinful not to."
Coward, who is gay, is director of Changing Attitude, one of several groups in the pro-gay church, which is itself riven by political factions. He left the board of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement after clashing with other leaders over divisions of bureaucratic responsibility and power. Other gay networks have split over women’s ordination, with some pro-gay campaigners unwilling to accept women as priests. Given such fragmentations, it is ironic that the third tenet of liberalism is inclusivity: God loves us all, and, gay or straight, we’re all going to heaven. Rather than excluding sinners, Christianity should be about helping people. Hell and sin don’t feature much in liberal vocabulary.
October 24, 2003
Nigeria gay movement in the open (anti-gay report on Nigerian LGBT conference)
The Weekly Trust has published an analysis
by Nasir Dambatta on the achievements of Alliance Rights Nigeria, but misinformation and prejudicial reporting does little to stem the flow of homophobia in the country.
It all began like a prurient rumour that was supposed to disappear after a while. But it never did, instead the rumour is been given practical expression, with the recent convention of gay advocates in Ibadan under the auspices of a body called Alliance Rights Nigeria. The well-publicised Ibadan convention, according to Weekly Trust findings, was well attended by a broad spectrum of Nigerians from various geo-political zones in the country in a carnival-like manner with the aim of giving open support to gay relationships.
Nigeria’s five-year-old democracy, which has provided fertile soil for spiritual matters such as Sharia has likewise opened the way for a multiplicity of interest groups some less desirable than others, to express themselves. It is this political liberty that has now given impetus to lesbians and homosexuals to join hands in the formation of an audacious, all-Nigerian movement that will promote what they now term "the right to be different."
As a first step, they are now striving for official recognition and a re-definition of sexual orientation beyond the limits of convention and moral values. In the near future, they foresee a new Nigeria that would legally accommodate same sex marriages as in countries like New Zealand, parts of Europe and Asia. However, Weekly Trust gathered that Imams, the clergy and religious pressure groups are warming up for a showdown with the emerging gay movement in the country, as sociologists, psychologists, legal luminaries and medical experts offer multi-dimensional analyses on gay unions and how they will impact negatively on the society in the near future.
Investigations reveal that the Alliance Rights Nigeria (an umbrella body of same sex advocates) held its latest annual convention in Ibadan between 21st and 22nd March this year. Probably the national parent body of all lesbian and homosexual associations, Alliance Rights Nigeria has mapped out the strategy for creating public awareness on what it called the rights of "sexual minorities" and the menace of HIV/AIDS.
During the convention, Weekly Trust reliably gathered there was the consensus that the time has come for the sexual minorities to partake actively in "the planning and implementation processes" of the war on HIV/AIDS infection. Participants at the convention also believed that their active participation in the war against the disease would pave the way for "multi-sectoral HIV/AIDS intervention" in the country.
The convention considered it "extremely expedient" for the lesbian and homosexual movement to assert itself, using its national spread and network. That the "continued stigmatisation, discrimination and criminalisation of same sex sexual relationships in Nigeria" has hampered a more co-ordinated onslaught against HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted ailments. Already, investigations show that Alliance Rights Nigeria has distributed advocacy stickers nationwide, which members paste on their cars as publicity stunt. A series of booklets aimed at ‘enlightening’ the public on the "sexual minorities" situation is well underway as some 10,000 copies would expectedly be distributed across the nation. These, according to reliable sources, would be supplemented by a special programme called "The Gay and Lesbian Adolescents Social and Sexuality Education Series (GLASSES).
Other programmes in the offing include "Well-being in Difference (WIND) workshops," billed to kick off in states like Lagos, which would expectedly be extended to selected states of the federation. It is the conviction of the members that lesbians and homosexuals in the country have been operating covertly for too long and now have to come into the limelight if their efforts are to be as effective as envisaged. Alliance Rights Nigeria at the convention, had lamented the "large number of our adolescents busy engaging in same sex relationships in universities and secondary schools without the use of condoms." The participants are agreed that the failure of high school, university and secondary school students to use condom in same sex relationships is a matter of personal challenge to the advocates.
They, however, recognised how much even cultism "has generated a lot of male-to-male sex acts through allegiance that is necessary for their operation," but lamented that those being initiated hardly use condoms. Similarly, the convention agreed that something tangible ought to be done to the "shebeens and brothels which abound in Lagos, Abuja, South-East Nigeria, Bauchi, Jos, Kaduna, Kano and Maiduguri-where male-to-male sex is highly commercialised and where condom usage is almost a taboo."
The convention also witnessed the presentation of resource papers on the agitation for the recognition of the rights of "Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)" and a concerted effort to check HIV/AIDS infection on "high-risk groups (lesbians and homosexuals)." The event, Weekly Trust learnt, was attended by Alliance Rights national delegates from North-West (Kaduna), North-Central and Middle Belt (Oturkpo); South-East (Enugu) and South-West (Ibadan/Lagos). International observer organisations and an organisation known as "Nigerian Gay Students Association" were all represented at the Ibadan convention.
The movement also intends to provide "access to specific information on Anal Anatomy" for all MSM members in the country. The event was tagged "The Right to be Different" and participants, at the end of it all expressed satisfaction that "history was made in Nigeria regarding the successful convention of a workshop. . .that had the active participation of MSM groups and non-MSM individuals, focussing on sexuality and the sexual rights of sexual minorities."
The nagging question at the moment has been, what attracts a male to another male or a female to another female? Dr Wole Akin Atere, a senior lecturer in the department of sociology at the Lagos State University, sought to provide intellectual response. Speaking exclusively to Weekly Trust in Lagos, he noted that some people indulge in same sex relationships because "from day-one they have never been attracted to members of the opposite sex." Dr Atere also identified males or females in a family who were "incarcerated or insulated" from mingling with opposite sexes outside their family, as being the most-vulnerable. This, he submitted, gives room for what he called "suppressed urges," which in the end makes the insulated family members to consider normal erotic pleasures strange and seek refuge in lesbianism or sodomy.
Another factor, according to Dr Akin Atere, could be "the question of deprivation of heterosexual relations" in such confinements as prisons-where contact with the opposite sex is nil. Criminals in the prisons, therefore, "don’t find legitimate means of expressing sexuality" and are, according to him, vulnerable to alternative ways of satisfying carnal pleasures.
He then identified the next category of lesbians and homosexuals as those making an adventure for "economic or material" gains. Dr Atere also said that the reasons why males go after males and females after other females are interlocked. As for the way forward, Dr Atere believes that the problem is psycho-social, genetic and psychological and therefore requires elaborate strategy.
He believes that the homosexual and lesbian that had convinced himself or herself that conventional sexual orientation is normal, would hardly be convinced to think otherwise, but that making them realise that heterosexualism is safer and more gratifying could be a springboard to capturing their minds. He does not see the use of legal instruments as effective in dealing with the same sex relationships in Nigeria. According to him, there is the tendency for Nigerians to be enticed more by activities that are sanctioned. Said he: "if you want any particular problem to escalate, put a sanction on it" and Nigerians, out of curiosity may want to explore it.
In his scientific explanation to sodomy, Dr Sani Garba, an expert in preventive cardiology and consultant physician at the Ahmadu Bello University, said there are other risks apart from HIV/AIDS. In an exclusive chat with Weekly Trust, the preventive cardiology expert said same sex intercourse destroys the epithalial layer of anal lining, making the place liable to invasion by some micro-organisms. He went on to say that unlike the inner lining of a woman’s most intimate part, the anal lining is not so lubricated as to "withstand frictional movement". He, however, discarded the widespread belief that accumulated spermatozoa in the anal lining develops into tiny, harmful worms. He would not confirm whether homosexuals avail themselves of a certain technological device that periodically washes the anal lining clean.
Expectedly, the coming to limelight of homosexual and lesbian associations has drawn the ire of the clergy and imams, as well as religious pressure groups in the country. The national missioner of the Ansaruddeen Society of Nigeria, Abdurrahman Ahmad, also believes that the emergent lesbian and homosexual movement would breed moral and social dislocation. He sees in them tools for corroding and eroding societal norms and values. He argued that after the deregulation of the Nigerian economy, the country is being confronted by "a deregulation of morality." He sees the movement as "misrepresenting the limits of liberty." Imam Ahmad wants the Muslim community in the country to either assert itself or risk the super-imposition of alien norms and values. This, according to him, could be avoided if the Muslim community "re-asserts its Islamic identity by upholding Sharia." He also expects government to legislate against lesbian and homosexual associations across the country.
The Secretary-general of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed sees lesbian and homosexual acts as twin evils condemned by "all the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism)." He warned that if government allows sodomy and lesbianism to grow "on the pretext of fundamental rights, it will lead to a further erosion of our accepted principles of morality." He views the phenomenon through the prism of "destructive and evil influences of secular values that are being fed all over the world . . ." and have the potentials of impacting on "the moral dictates of a sense of decency." Commenting on whether the lesbian and homosexual movement have the right to be different, the pro-Sharia activist argued that the Nigerian constitution "does not guarantee an individual the right to sexual orientation.
It says you cannot be discriminated against on account of your gender, creed, ethnic origin or religious beliefs." Taking as example President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe’s tough stance on sodomy and lesbianism, Dr Hakeem wants the Nigerian government to consider an "even tougher stance" against them.
In contrast to Dr Hakeem’s disposition on the emergent lesbian and homosexual movements in Nigeria, the president of Free Girls Association of Nigeria, Miss Osarurume Oviose told Weekly Trust in Benin City that only rape should be considered as a crime but erotic relationships between two consenting same sex partners should be allowed. Miss Oviose believes that by the legal teeth, "government would have control over the trade."
For the vicar in charge of St Michael’s Cathedral of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Abiodun Ogunyomi, sodomy and lesbianism are "terrible sins." He recalled that the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah were divinely "destroyed" because of homosexualism. He cited the Epistles of Paul in the Book of Romans as being condemnable of male-to-male and female-to-female erotic union. Commenting on the sodomy story rocking the Episcopal Church in America, Vicar Ogunyomi said it was an attempt to "replace the Bible with commonsense." He hopes that someday, Nigerian homosexuals and lesbians would receive Christ and have a change of mind.
But Miss Anita Ekhirame, the social director of a lesbian/sodomist association known as "Daughters of Jezebel" believes that the critics of same sex relationships are bereft of ideas on "the maximum pleasure" derivable from it. She told Weekly Trust in Edo State that in terms of same-sex relationships, the society cannot legislate because "nobody is innocent enough to cast the first stone." She went on to say that male-to-male erotic relationships reduce ‘the burden’ on girls. The social director of this lesbian, homosexual and prostitution advocacy group also told Weekly Trust that the target of her organisation, in the foreseeable future, is "to win the entire country and the world" to the side of same sex relationships.
In the opinion of the president of Lagos State University students, Ayo Odusote, sodomy and lesbianism are an aberration that must be checked by the society at large. He warned that sodomy will give way to large-scale lesbianism "if women are left without men" to go after them.
For a National Association of Nigerian Students presidential aspirant, Miss Christy Edwards, lesbianism and sodomy should be checked by school managements, the Students Union government and parents. While denying knowledge of the Nigerian Gay Students Association, she however recalled an incident where a fellow female student attempted to seduce her during her first year in school. She told Weekly Trust in an exclusive interview that there were moments when she would wake up from sleep in her hostel room only to find the lesbian by her side in bed. She said the lesbian made several overtures toward her without success. Christy said in the end, the lesbian schoolmate admitted being possessed repented after disclosing that she had been in the trade since her primary school days.
In other parts of the world, especially Europe, lesbianism and sodomy have legal teeth. Weekly Trust’s checks confirmed that in New Zealand, for instance, an organisation called Unitarian Universalist Association Supporting Legal Equity for Gays and Lesbians has been operating without hitches. The country’s Human Rights Act of 1983 "makes it unlawful to discriminate either directly or indirectly against a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation," and "this applies in the areas of employment, access to public places, provision of goods and services, accommodation and educational facilities." When a homosexual or lesbian in New Zealand has cause to feel discriminated against, the step to take is to seek for "assistance from the Human Rights Commission," failing which "the commission may decide to take the matter to the Complaints Review Tribunal for a hearing."
In the United States, the Catholic church has been battling credibility problems in the face of many cases of same sex abuses. From Boston to Los Angeles and St Louis Mo, Philadelphia, Palm Beach, Washington, Portland, Maine to Bridgeport, the song has been the same. According to American media, one Father Rudy Kos bagged three life sentences for sex abuse against a male child of 12 years called Lamberger. The young Lamberger reportedly had difficulty living with the memory of the incident and shot himself to death at the age of 21. Similarly, an American court ‘settled claims against Reverend Robert Larson who had same sex union with 12-year-old Eric Patterson. Haunted by the past also, Paterson committed suicide "later in life."
It is hard to conclude that in Europe, sodomy or lesbianism are considered illicit due to the ideals of free association and democratic principles. It is perhaps for this reason that Nigerians who are opposed to homosexuals and lesbians see the development as a wholesale importation of an alien commodity. At the moment, the gay movements have so consolidated that recognition for them, it is feared, may not be difficult.
On the other hand, opposition among the clergy, imams and pressure groups is mounting. It remains to be seen which of the two will blink in the end. However, analysts say the fact that same sex advocates could gain the upper hand should not be completely ruled out. But that the moral outrage from the clergy and imam quarters is becoming more poignant in their challenge against the success of lesbians and homosexuals’ union.
It is evident, however, that if the gay movement wins this raging war, it would establish bases but only in non-Sharia compliant areas in the country and areas without the strong presence of Christian evangelism. The religious activists, according to analysts, may well be another stumbling block against the official recognition of the movement. The analysts foresee the probable emergence of vocal anti-sodomy and anti-lesbian pressure groups to match the weight of the recent wave of advocacy in the land.
What with the cases of prosecuted homosexuals in many parts of the country including those of Kebbi and Kano states and most recently, Bauchi State, where a Sharia court declared sentence by stoning? The lesbian/homosexual movements may want the suspects protected in the name of the right to sexual orientation. These could, according to the analysts, be the kick-starter for conflicts between the gay advocates and pro-Sharia and Christian activists who may be waiting in the wings just to put a check on the emergent lesbian/homosexual associations. Other forms of resistance to the emergent gay movements in the country remain unknown. For now, the battle may have just begun. Whatever happens, official recognition for same sex advocates means that Nigeria may cease to be the same again.
November 3, 2003
Nigeria clerics condemn gay USA bishop
Nigerian Anglican Church officials reacted with dismay on Monday to the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the United States, but stopped short of saying their church would break away over the issue.
The Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson was consecrated on Sunday as a bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, an action condemned as "heresy" by conservative opponents. "The Church in Nigeria does not like this at all," said an Anglican Church official in Lagos. An official statement is due to be released later on Monday. Another Anglican source said the Church of Nigeria would protest against the consecration but was unlikely to announce a separation from the U.S. branch of the global Anglican church. "There is nothing to be gained from a separation," he said.
The Anglican Church in Nigeria says it has a membership of 15 million, making it the world’s second-largest Anglican community after Britain, which has 26 million nominal members. Regular churchgoers in Africa easily outnumber those in Britain. Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper quoted the Archbishop of Kaduna, Nigeria’s representative on an Anglican Church committee trying to resolve the crisis, as saying "those who are not prepared to accept the way of the Anglican Church will have to leave it."
"We are hoping that the commission that has been set up will find a way of resolving it," said Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon in the newspaper. In an earlier statement Archbishop Peter Akinola, the Primate of Nigeria, hinted at a break-up of the Anglican Church. "A clear choice has been made for a Church that exists primarily in allegiance to the unbiblical departures and waywardness of our generation," he said. "Such a Church is bound to become a shrine for the worship of men rather than God. We cannot go on limping between two opinions."
25 March 2004
Another sentence to death by stoning under new Sharia penal law quashed on appeal
Amnesty International welcomes the recent decision by the Upper Sharia Court of Bauchi State in northern Nigeria to quash Jubrin Babaji’s sentence of death by stoning for "sodomy". This latest development follows a number of cases where convictions and sentences to death have been quashed on appeal, including most recently the case of Yunusa Rafin Chiyawa on 14 November 2003. "The quashing, on appeal, of another conviction and sentence to death by stoning under the new Sharia penal legislation on the grounds that the trial was unfair, is a positive trend," Amnesty International said.
Jubrin Babaji was convicted and sentenced on 25 September 2003 for the offence termed as ‘sodomy’ in Section 133 of the Sharia Penal Code Law 2001 of Bauchi State. An appeal was submitted by the Nigerian non-governmental organization Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) which provided a team of defence lawyers.
According to LEDAP, the conviction was quashed on the basis of the denial of the right of Jubrin Babaji to a fair trial. The main reasons for the acquittal were based on the fact that the lower Sharia court had breached the principles of a fair hearing since Jubrin Babaji was not represented by a legal counsel. Furthermore, his alleged confession was deemed not to qualify as a confession according to new Sharia penal legislation. Although Jubrin Babaji’s conviction has been quashed, the appeal in another case involving a sentence to death by stoning against Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim is still pending with a Sharia Court of Appeal in Minna, Niger State. "The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, according to Amnesty International. The organization unconditionally opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases and for all crimes."
The Nigerian government should take steps to abolish the death penalty and amend legislation which provides for the death penalty as well as other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments at all levels of Nigerian legislation, including the new Sharia penal legislation. An Amnesty International delegation met members of the National Study Group on the Death Penalty during a recent visit to Nigeria to continue the appeal for the group to recommend abolition of the death penalty and an immediate moratorium on any pending executions in its final recommendations to the Federal Government. The recommendations are due in June 2004.
For more information please call Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org
December 6, 2004
Nigerian gay men may be stoned
A Nigerian man is in custody and his rumored male lover is on the lam after Muslim youth reportedly forced the first man to confess to "homosexualism," the Vanguard newspaper reported Nov. 28. A Shariah court in Keffi issued a bench warrant for construction-company supervisor Michael Ifediora Nwokomah after businessman Mallam Abdullahi Ibrahim allegedly acknowledged that the couple has been having sex "for some time," the newspaper said.
The Vanguard said Ibrahim confessed after the youths "almost lynched" him. The local district head intervened to halt the lynching and turned Ibrahim over to police. Nwokomah was at work and went into hiding when he heard what had happened, the report said. Trial will be delayed until the two men can be tried together, the paper said. Punishment is death by stoning.
Transvestite trial the talk of Nigeria
by Amina Waziri BBC correspondent in Kano
A transvestite faces trial in September in a case which has become a big talking point in the northern Nigerian city of Kano. Abubakar Hamza has become a big celebrity in northern NigeriaThe issue of sexual orientation is a controversial one in Africa and the existence of transvestites usually gets little attention. But 19-year-old Abubakar Hamza has become famous with posters of him dressed in women’s clothes selling well among male admirers.
He is charged with living and dressing as a woman in the first case of its kind in this conservative city. But what is shocking for many Nigerians is that he lived as a young woman in the heart of a family for seven years, without his secret being suspected. Betrayal The Adamu family, who have now themselves become celebrities in Kano, were shocked when they discovered Hamza was a transvestite. Until his arrest they fondly called him Kawajo which in the Fulani language means friend.
The mother, Hajiya, says she treated him like her own teenage daughters. "In fact whenever they quarrelled I always took his side because I never liked seeing him upset. I was so fond of him he was just like a daughter," she says. During his stay with the family, Hamza spent a lot of time with her teenage daughters but they did not suspect he was not a girl, despite the fact that he always dressed and undressed in the bathroom. "He never allowed people to touch him in a playful manner," says teenager Umma. Alhaji Adamu, whom I met sitting in front of his house, told me that even though Hamza had not engaged in any indecent behaviour he still deserved to be punished "because he had broken Islamic laws".
Abubakar Hamza is currently in Kano Central Prison awaiting trial where he will answer charges under Section 9 of the Prostitution and Immoral Acts Law. If he is found guilty he will get either one year in prison or be asked to pay a fine equivalent to $80. Many in Kano are talking about this story and are eagerly awaiting for the trial due on 16 September – if only to get a glimpse of the famous young transvestite.
15 February, 2005
Nigeria transvestite handed fine-man sentenced man to six months in prison and fined of $38 for living as a woman
Abubakar Hamza has become a big celebrity in northern Nigeria A Nigerian Islamic court has sentenced a man to six months in prison and fined him $38 for living as a woman for seven years in the northern city of Kano. The judge told 19-year-old Abubakar Hamza, who used his female identity to sell aphrodisiacs, to desist from what the "immoral behaviour". Mr Hamza, who appeared in court dressed in a pink kaftan and matching cap, said he was now "a reformed man". Since his arrest, he has become a celebrity in the strict Muslim city. Posters of him dressed in women’s clothing have been selling well. Free man Leading a double life, Mr Hamza had a wife in his village, but in town lived as a woman in quarters reserved for married Muslim women. He used his female identity, Fatima Kawaji, to sell herbal aphrodisiacs to women.
God makes people differently.
Until his arrest, Mr Hamza lived with the Adamu family, who fondly called him Kawajo which in the Fulani language means friend. The family’s teenage daughters did not suspect he was not a girl, despite the fact that he always dressed and undressed in the bathroom.
"It is hoped that you have learnt some lessons during your trial and I hope you will be of good character and desist from this immoral behaviour of posing as a woman," Judge Lawal Isa Rabo said. A Kano resident present in the court paid the fine on Mr Hamza’s behalf and having already spent nine months in jail, he left the Sharia court a free man. "I am grateful to them for paying the fine," Mr Hamza told the BBC’s Hausa service. Livelihood But he called on the Kano state government to help him find a job. "I used my previous identity [as a woman] to earn my livelihood, now that I have stopped that, I need a job."
When questioned about his high pitched voice, he said: "God makes people differently." "This is how my voice is… and you know when you live with women and you are close to them, you take up their ways." He was charged under the Prostitution and Immoral Acts law of the Sharia penal code, which was reintroduced in Kano in 2000.
"G.L SOUTH SOUTH.NG" E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
12 April 2005
Gays and Lesbians in the South South of Nigeria
We are gay and lesbians in the south south of Nigeria. We need info on gays and lesbians work shop amd seminers in Africa. We need you to help educate our members in the right of gays and lesbians who are treated as animals here. We are not seeking for funds but info on how we can educate our people on HIV, gay rights and more.
We hope you reply soon.
April 4, 2005
Lesbian and Gays in Nigeria (L.A.G.I.N) LGBT human rights groups forms in Nigeria
how are u all doing over there ,we are very inspired by your action and freedom in your country we will like to introduce ourselves we are an organisation know as lesbian and gay in nigeria (lLA.G.I.N) our membership is open to all gays and lesbian in nigeria and also from other countries. it was set up primarily to fight for the right of gays in our society we have been stigmatised for too long and this has slowed down
the growth of gays in the country also one of our objective too is to intoduce same sex marriage in nigeria and the west african regions sorounding it this we know we cannot do this alone without the guidance of gay clubs and organisation in civilised countries like yours. we have been oppresed and disgraced on several occasiona our country is so primitive that gays and lesbian are publicly mobbed arrested and there human right are being violated daily because of there preference. we are all living in fear recently two gay lovers in an hotel room were beaten to coma by members of the public who were alerted by the hotel management
of the hotel management this really was the last stroke that broke the camels back. it pained to our bone marrow and an emergency meeting was held on the 25th january 2005 were the follwing was agreed upon unanimously by all members present we agreed on the following below:
=firstly we should establish LAGIN in all states of the federation and encourage all gays to join us in other to ensure a formidable front,
=secondly we will build a 60 page website for gays in nigeria which we will use in promoting homosexualism in nigeria and same sex marriage in nigeria and west african region. use some of our members in the legislature to make the govement promulgate law that will favour gays,
=prosecute all cases of violation of human rights refusal to attend worship centers and club houses and also seeking legal redress for stigmatised gays,more importantly to create a gay social atmosphere whereby gays will apprecate who they are and what they are without being ashamed or feel embarrased a social circle were gays can interact freely with each other
=and share their view and participation on social, religous and political issues and atmosphere and voting rights, human rights
At this juncture we on behalf of all members of (LAGIN) ask for your moral support and any possible financial assistance in any of our projects is welcomed basically we will appreciate if your organisation can provide us with the needed support especially buy directives on how to achieve our aim. and also send delegates to nigeria to monitor our proceedings and we need someone who will help us design and host our website we have got all the materials for the site but web design experts and ISP in nigeria refused to host it so we need assistance in this area also.
we look forward to you anticipated support.
Mr Anderson Adrian, secretary(LAGIN)
suite 2 oriakhi hotel
Miss gay nigeria 2004/2005: a cry for understanding and acceptance
by Jimmy Leon
Homosexuality remains one of Nigeria’s most serious crimes: your neighbours can denounce you on suspicion that you have slept with another man and turn you over to the police; if you live in one of states that have adopted Sharia law you can be sentenced to 14 years in jail; in these states you could be stoned to death for showing feelings to someone of the same sex.
Despite all these atrocities the Nigerian LGBTI community face, there can not be a better embodiment of the spirit of resilience, courage, pride and commitment one man possesses. This enormous courage, wit and talent are personal traits Wale is gifted with. He was crowned Miss Gay Nigeria in a glittering function in December 2004. African-rapport interviewed this 18 year old student and model in a place where gay people are not valued and appreciated, a fact that he emphasized at length. Wale mentioned that at the moment there is a lack of cohesive gay and lesbian dialogue and unity. The only recourse are avenues of intimacy and underground social gatherings.
Wale explained that although the annual Miss Lagos was organized by a gay man, most people were frightened to enter the pageant. This particular event took place at a hotel somewhere in Nigeria with 15 contestants and a cheering crowd of about 300 people. Wale explained further that people “might get shocked and say to themselves how can this happen in an so unfriendly gay society, yea, in fact the gay beauty pageant does take place in all the Nigerian states and afterwards they all come together to the final content, most beautiful gay in Nigeria (MBGN) – Miss Gay Nigeria.
“ I am so proud to be the last queen, I am very happy. I will like all the people who happen to read this article on this website, to know and to believe that they could create something out of an unfriendly gay society like Nigeria. I am fully ready to do all I can do to promote acceptance of our African gay communities. I will like the whole world to know that in spite of our stiff laws, the LGBT community in Nigeria has dignity and pride. And let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the openly homosexual Nigerian priest based in the UK, Rev. Jide Macauly. He is my inspiration”.
Wale also expressed his concern at the lack of preventative HIV/AIDS programmes in the gay community. The LGBTI community in Nigeria is fast becoming a high transmission group due to reasons like seeking comfort in the opposite sex and forced marriages. Prof. Femi Soyinka, a leading human rights activist in Nigeria, agreed that men having sex with men (MSM) are pushed to the periphery of society. He told IRIN that, however, until they feel comfortable enough to identify themselves publicly, it will be very difficult for an outsider to help the LGBTI community achieve human rights. Source: Story by Jimmy Leon, Coordinator for African-rapport and Educator for Amnesty International USA
July 9, 2005
Nigerian man sentenced to stoning for gay sex
Reuters – A United Nations human rights expert has raised the alarm over the case of a man in northern Nigeria who has been sentenced to death by stoning after admitting to homosexual sex.
The UN special rapporteur on arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, has called for an immediate review of the entire process that led the man’s death sentence under Islamic Sharia law. Mr Alston says the man, who is about 50-years-old, had been accused of having sex with a much younger man. He was acquitted of that charge. But after the judge asked him if he had previously had homosexual sex, the man said yes The judge then sentenced him to be stoned to death.
Ten Nigerian women have been sentenced to death by stoning for having sex outside of wedlock since Sharia was brought in; all created outcries and were overturned on appeal.
03 August 2005
Nigerian Islamic court grants bail to male lovers
Katsina, Nigeria – A Nigerian Islamic court granted bail on Wednesday to two alleged homosexuals who face the death penalty and whose case has once more drawn international attention to their country’s rights record. Judge Mustapha Sani Saulawa of the Upper Sharia Court in the northern city of Katsina allowed the defendants, 40-year-old Yusuf Kabir and 18-year-old Usman Sani, to go free until the next hearing on August 24.
The pair were arrested by police in June after witnesses alleged that they had been having sex in a public toilet. Sodomy is punishable by stoning to death under northern Nigeria’s interpretation of Islamic sharia law. " The prosecution has not brought its witnesses before this court today; I therefore grant bail to you both on the condition that each of you bring adults to stand as sureties," Saulawa told the court.
The case has attracted the attention of gay-rights lobbyists in France, Democratic lawmakers in the United States and a senior United Nations envoy, who have all called for Nigeria to show tolerance towards homosexuals. — Sapa-AFP
October 16, 2005
Six Teens Face Lashings in Nigeria for Lesbianism
Six teenage girls, between the ages of 12 and 17, have been sentenced to 90 strokes of a cane each for lesbianism, according to dispatches from two wire services (the South African Press Association and Deutsche Press-Agentur) relayed on Friday by the large South African commercial news site News24.com. These reports say "A local vigilance group in Twon-Brass in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state arraigned the girls before a special local action committee, and they were pronounced guilty… for their ‘shameful and abominable act.’ The vigilance group said one of the convicts confessed to the crime and said a friend whose name she gave as Felicia introduced her into lesbianism. Felicia is still at large."
The oil-rich Bayelsa state in the Nigerian Delta (Bayelsa is in red in the map of Nigeria, left) is one of the 36 states in Nigeria — and the only one governed by a member of the Ijaw tribe that makes up Bayelsa’s population. Bayelsa’s governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (right), was arrested on money-laundering charges on September 15 in London, where he has been jailed since (Nigeria is the third most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International, the London-based group that monitors corruption world-wide.)
The Ijaw, while having largely formally converted to Christianity — Catholicism in the occurrence — have simultaneously maintained their traditional animist religion, which involves the ritual worship of water spirits through elaborate dancing as well as ancestor worship. Local government in towns like Twon-Brass, where the six young girls face the barbaric punishment of lashing, are governed by tribal chiefs. Bayelsa’s official website says, "Each community of the state has a traditional head while the State Council of Chiefs is headed by the most accepted elderly person. The traditional institutions are hierarchical."
Bayelsa has for decades been a fiefdom of the Chevron Oil Company, which has a long record of paying Nigeria’s Mobile Police and its army to protect — often violently — its installations and refineries (violence detailed in a 1999 report by Human Rights Watch.) As I reported in an August 10, 2000 article in The Nation on "Tricky Dick" Cheney’s nomination for Vice President, Halliburton (the company Cheney headed) was accused of the murder of Ijaw protesters against pollution in Bayelsa by Nigerian Environmental Rights Action, an pro-environment NGO. Halliburton was employed by Chevron to construct the world’s largest oil refinery in Nigeria. One way to try to stop the lashing of these young teenage Nigerian girls is to demand that Chevron Oil use its enormous power and influence in the state of Bayelsa to intervene on their behalf. You may write, call, or e-mail Chevron at Chevron Corporation,6001 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon, CA 94583, Telephone (925) 842-1000, e-mail Chevron.com
8 November 2005
Nigeria slammed for lesbian caning
Gay rights campaigners are calling on Nigeria to update its stance on sexual diversity, after six girls were sentenced to brutal treatment for apparently being lesbians. According to press reports, the girls, one as young as 12, were sentenced to 90 strokes of the cane after being accused of having sex with each other. They were sentenced in the Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta by a local group known as Twon-Brass.
According to the South African Press Association, the girls were given the punishment after admitting to “unspecified same-sex behaviour”. Those who doled out the judgement also warned that a girl who apparently instigated the sex was “still at large”. Their words have been criticised by campaigners.
Outrage leader Peter Tatchell has urged members of the UK’s LGBT communities to protest to Nigeria’s High Commission in London.
He has already targeted Dr Christopher Kolade with a letter urging him to adopt a “live and let live” approach to gay people in the country. "I urge you to call on officials to intervene to halt the planned caning of six teenage girls, aged 12 to 17, on charges of lesbianism,” he wrote.
"The punishment of 90 strokes amounts to inhumane treatment, and is contrary to the UN Convention Against Torture 1984.” "It is particularly appalling that girls of such a young age have been sentenced to such a severe and cruel punishment.” “Ninety strokes of the cane will cause severe skin wounds, bruising and scarring,” he added. "I respectfully ask the Nigerian government to ensure the protection of human rights in all the states and towns in its jurisdiction."
December 09, 2005
Nigerian sodomy suspects freed
Kaatsina, Nigeria – A Nigerian Islamic court has acquitted two men who had been accused of homosexuality, lifting the threat that they be stoned to death. Judge Mustapha Sani Saulawa told the court that the prosecution had not brought enough evidence to convict the pair on a capital charge and freed them after six months in jail. "Even if there is prima facie evidence, given the gravity of the punishment, the prosecution needs four witnesses to the kind of crime you are accused of," he told the defendants.
Kabir Yusuf, 40, and Usman Sani, 18, were arrested on June 19 in a public toilet a short distance from the Sharia court in the northern Nigerian city of Katsina. The police alleged that they had been having sex, but could produce no witnesses to the act itself, only to the two men leaving the toilet together while adjusting their trousers. "Therefore this court acquits you for lack of evidence," Saulawa said. "However, your stay in prison should serve as a warning to you to be of firm character and desist from any form of immorality," he added. Islamic Sharia law was reintroduced in Katsina State in August 2001, making it one of a dozen mainly Muslim northern states to readopt the code since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999.
Under the interpretation of Muslim legal texts now in force, sexual offences such as adultery, rape and homosexuality are punishable by death. But, while more than a dozen people have been convicted under these laws, no-one has yet been stoned to death and the law remains controversial. After the trial the older defendant, Yusuf, said: "I’m delighted to be acquitted, after six months in prison as an innocent man in fear of execution. I’ve been humiliated." Asked whether he intended to take legal action over his imprisonment and the accusations against him, he said: "As a father I have responsibilities, and no time to waste in litigation."
January 19, 2006
Nigeria To Criminalize Gay Marriage & LGBT Meetings
Lagos – Nigerian same-sex couples who marry would face five years in prison under legislation being considered by the government. A similar sentence would be handed out to anyone who officiates at a gay wedding. The legislation would also make it a crime to stage a protest in favor of LGBT civil rights or to set up an organization advocating gay rights. The bill was approved during a cabinet meeting chaired by President Olusegun Obasanjo and has been sent to Parliament where it is expected to receive little or no opposition.
Obasanjo spokesperson Frank Nweke told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the government was taking the "pre-emptive step" because of developments elsewhere in the world – a reference to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Belgium, Spain The Netherlands and Canada. "In most cultures in Nigeria, same-sex relationships, sodomy and the likes of that, is regarded as abominable," Nweke told the BBC Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. The powerful Anglican Church has been pressuring the government to bring in a gay marriage ban for more than a year. Archbishop Peter Akinola, the primate of Nigeria’s Anglican Church, has been one of the world’s most vocal opponents of homosexuality. He has denounced same-sex marriage and is the leader of a conservative movement within the worldwide denomination that sprang up following the election of a gay man to be Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States.
Homosexuality is already a crime in Nigeria
Since 2000, 12 of Nigeria’s northern states have adopted Sharia codes for their courtrooms. Under Islamic law, gay sex is punishable by death. Press reports say that more than a dozen people have been convicted to death by stoning but none of the sentences has been carried out. Last September 22 Democratic members of the US Congress protested death sentences handed out to men convicted of "sodomy" in a letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo. (story) He has yet to reply. The same-sex marriage ban would make Nigeria the second country in Africa to criminalize gay unions. Last fall Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
January 27, 2006
Nigerian leaders aim to ban gay sex
Abuja, Nigeria – The executive branch plans to introduce legislation in Nigeria’s parliament that would outlaw gay sex and same-sex marriages while making it a criminal offense for churches and mosques to sanction any such relationship. Justice Minister Bayo Ojo said Jan. 18 that the bill, which proposes up to 5 years’ imprisonment for homosexual sex, would be forwarded to lawmakers for a vote. Ojo said the law, if approved, would also forbid associations of homosexuals and lesbians. Public hostility to homosexuality is widespread in the largely conservative country of more than 130 million people Obasanjo’s governing People’s Democratic Party has an overwhelming majority in the legislature.
23 March 2006
Obasanjo Must Withdraw Bill to Criminalize Gay Rights say 16 Human Rights Organizations
As Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo prepares to visit the United States, he should reaffirm his commitment to the human rights of all Nigerians and withdraw proposed legislation to introduce criminal penalties for same-sex relationships and marriage ceremonies, as well as for public advocacy or associations supporting the rights of lesbian and gay people. In a letter to President Obasanjo, a coalition of 16 human rights organizations urged him to disavow the bill, which contravenes international law and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that ensure rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The bill also undermines Nigeria’s struggle to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, said the 16 groups which work in Nigeria and abroad.
" This draconian measure will only intensify prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "The bill criminalizes public expressions of love and any defense of lesbian and gay rights, denying fundamental freedoms that should be enjoyed by all Nigerians."
The bill, proposed in January 2006 by Nigeria’s minister of justice, Bayo Ojo, is entitled "Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act." It was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria and is poised to be submitted to the national assembly. The bill calls for five years imprisonment for any person who "goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex," "performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage," or "is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations." It also prohibits any public display of a "same-sex amorous relationship," as well as adoption by lesbian or gay people.
" This bill is yet another example of exploiting fear of same-sex marriage to trounce rights that lesbians and gay men have under international law to associate, engage in intimate relations, and speak openly," said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "We urge President Obasanjo to protect the rights and well-being of all Nigerians and disavow this dangerous bill."
The human rights groups detail how the proposed law also undermines international treaties designed to protect fundamental freedoms. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Nigeria acceded without reservations in 1993, which protects the rights to freedom of expression (article 19), freedom of assembly (article 21) and freedom of association (article 22). The ICCPR affirms the equality of all people before the law and the right to freedom from discrimination in articles 2 and 26. In the landmark 1994 case, Toonen v. Australia, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors states’ compliance with the ICCPR, held that sexual orientation should be understood to be a status protected from discrimination under these articles.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights similarly affirms the equality of all people. Its article 2 states: "Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status." Article 3 guarantees every individual equality before the law. And its article 26 prescribes 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."
The letter to Obasanjo also cites the destructive consequences the bill would have for Nigeria’s struggle against HIV/AIDS. The groups state that the government will damage its own prevention efforts by driving populations already suffering stigma for their sexual conduct further underground – not only making it more difficult to reach them with outreach and education efforts, but potentially criminalizing civil society groups engaged in HIV prevention.
" This proposed legislation flies in the face of Nigeria’s obligations to the rights and well-being of its people," the letter concludes. "Under international human rights law, the Federal Republic of Nigeria has the obligation to promote and protect the human rights of its population, without distinction of any kind. We urge you, as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to act in accordance with Nigeria’s legal obligations under international human rights law and withdraw this bill."
In a statement released in February, the U.S. State Department condemned the proposed legislation. It stated it was "concerned by reports of legislation in Nigeria that would restrict or prohibit citizens from assembling, organizing, holding events or rallies, and participating in ceremonies of religious union, based upon sexual orientation and gender identity… The freedoms of speech, association, expression, assembly, and religion are long-standing international commitments and are universally recognized. Nigeria, as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has assumed important obligations on these matters. We expect the Government of Nigeria to act in a manner consistent with those obligations."
In addition to Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the organizations signing the letter to President Obasanjo are:
Africa Action (United States);
African Human Rights Organization (Cameroon);
Alliance Rights (Nigeria);
Amnesty International, International Secretariat (United Kingdom);
Center for Democracy & Development (Nigeria);
Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche en Droits de l’Homme – Démocratie et Justice Transitionnelle (Democratic Republic of Congo); Civil Liberties Organization (Nigeria);
Global Rights (United States);
International Commission of Jurists (Switzerland);
International Service for Human Rights (Switzerland);
Legal Defense & Assistance Project (Nigeria);
National Black Justice Coalition (United States);
Support Project in Nigeria (Nigeria);
University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights (South Africa).
April 14, 2006
Nigeria Widens "draconian" anti-gay bill despite international protests
A far-reaching Nigerian legislative proposal criminalizing same-sex marriages and LGBT organizations has been expanded to include punishing people who support or celebrate same-sex unions. According to the Vanguard newspaper, the bill imposes a five-year jail sentence for those who violate the proposed law, including those who "witness, celebrate with or support couples involved in homosexualrelationship." It also invalidates same-sex marriage licenses legally conferred in other countries.
The bill received its first reading in the Senate on Tuesday in the capital, Abuja, the newspaper reported. " For the avoidance of doubt only marriage entered into between a man and a woman under the Marriage Act or under the Islamic and customary laws are valid and recognized in Nigeria," states one section of the bill. The bill aims to cover nearly all visible suggestion of homosexuality, including publicity that involves same-sex relationships, advocacy groups and any public event or parade focused on gay couples.
Gay or lesbian aid workers who go to Nigeria from countries where same-sex marriage is legal would have their passports scrutinized for any indication of their sexuality or marital status. The bill would include foreigners living in Nigeria–a move that has humanitarian aid organizations concerned. President Olusegun Obasanjo has drawn criticism from international human rights advocates over the proposal. " This draconian measure will only intensify prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "The bill criminalizes public expressions of love and any defense of lesbian and gay rights, denying fundamental freedoms that should be enjoyed by all Nigerians."
Last month, Human Rights Watch and several other groups sent a letter to Obasanjo urging him to disavow the bill, which flouts international law and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that ensure rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
April 13, 2006
Nigeria Toughens Criminalization Of Gay Marriage Bill
Abuja – A proposed law that would impose a prison sentence on same-sex couples who marry has been toughened by the Nigerian Senate to include anyone who attends a gay wedding or is a member of any LGBT organization. The marriage ban was proposed by President Olusegun Obasanjo and is likely to pass easily, received first reading in the Senate this week.
It would impose a five year sentence on any same-couple who marries or goes abroad to marry. It also bans same-sex couples from living together, wed or not, outlaws adoption by gays and goes so far as to make it a criminal offense to be a member of a gay club, social organization or LGBT civil rights group. The legislation would also impose a prison term on anyone who attends a same-sex union, witnesses a union or celebrates a ceremony involving gay or lesbian couples.
The bill would include foreigners living in Nigeria – a move that has humanitarian aid organizations concerned. Gay or lesbian aid workers who go to Nigeria from countries where same-sex marriage is legal would have their passports scrutinized for any indication of their sexuality or marital status. The ban on membership in gay organizations has raised concerns by human rights groups. The bill also says that publicity or any public display of "same-sex amorous relationships" including those depicted in the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise are prohibited under penalty of imprisonment in Nigeria.
The legislation is regarded as the most repressive gay measure in the world. Last month, before the additional prohibitions were included, and in advance of a state visit to the US by President Obasanjo human rights organizations called for the bill’s withdrawal. In an open letter to Obasanjo the groups, including the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Watch, said the proposed law contravenes international law, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and undermines Nigeria’s struggle to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
June 26, 2006
Do you have a right to be gay?
by:Noah Nash, Cape Coast, Ghana
As some of the Nigerian community in London prepare to host an international day of prayer in support of lesbian and gay people living in Nigeria, do you have a right to be gay?
The prayer day on 2 July is being held to voice opposition to a government bill introduced earlier this year. The proposed law bans same-sex marriage, forbids gay people forming associations and criminalises any organisation that works on homosexual issues. Homosexuality is criminalised in the majority of African countries however in South Africa, homosexuals are protected under the constitution.
Should people have a right to be gay and live their lives in peace? Or should homosexuality be illegal? Are you gay? What is it like to be a gay African? This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments. You can read a selection below.
A person’s sexual preference is a private matter. If someone is gay or heterosexual society has no control over the issue. Societies should strive to offer all their citizens equal opportunities independent of sexual preferences, religious believes, political affiliations and ethnic grouping.. Concerned African, WashingtonDC/US
"Judge not, so that you will not be judged" Homosexuality is a moral crime against God and man. However, we can’t hate them, we have to love them, and forbid any violence against them. Nevertheless, we can’t legalize their marriage, because it does not agree with the institution of marriage. I ask you, how would you feel if men start giving birth to babies? If it sounds right, then gay/lesbian marriage sounds okay. Henry, Texas/USA/Nigeria
Yes and Yes! you have a right to be gay but NO right to demand respect and acceptance from the non gay community. Think about it- Do the gay community ever think about the pain felt by those who love them but hate their adopted lifestyle?. Richard, Kampala/ Uganda
My friend committed suicide last year simply because he was feed up of being attracted to men. He was born in Africa and had never been overseas. He was a good person, a Christian as well. He got married but the likeness towards men never left him. Can someone explain this? I hope Africans will grow up someday; we have to stop being the backward continent. David Lagos, Lagos
More prominence is being given to pro-gay comments and I guess majority of the anti-gay comments are being censored. The perverted Western world is once again trying to push a perverted agenda in Africa. Homosexuality is against the order of nature. It is not only a sign of mental disorder (for which the perpetrator should be consigned to a mental home,) it should be treated as a crime.Ade, Lagos
It’s crazy that so many people are arguing that it’s not ‘African’, or traditional, to be gay. These are people who are arguing in English, and who frequently refer to the Bible. Times change, we all change in so many ways – justifying prejudice with reference to tradition is ridiculous. sky, Perth, Australia
We are male or female for a purpose of procreation which is the intention of the creator. It is also a human right which should not be violated. Man was created for woman and there is no way we can avoid that without breaking law of nature.
I think some of the comments on this subject are unbelievable and sad. Being gay is not a life style choice because who would seriously choose it over being straight??.. Being gay is something you’re born with and the sooner people in Africa and around world realise this the better!.. A decent education system without religious interference would certainly help this narrow-minded view of gays. Bob Hall, Guildford, UK
It is astonishing how ignorant many people are, especially leaders in Africa who are too busy focusing on discrimination rather than solving the many, many problems on their continent that we in the US can hardly imagine. Of course people have a right to be gay, and I don’t care what your culture, community, or religion says. Tom, NJ, USA
The ratio of women to men in Africa is 200 to 90, then why legalize homosexual relationships since they are more than enough women around for every man? Henry Baba, Uyo, Nigeria
Being gay is against nature. What people decide to do in the privacy of their homes is there business but I don’t think we should set aside special laws for gays. Rita, USA
I was born in Namibia and found it hard to adjust being a white gay African. I regard myself as being African. The homophobia is not just a black African issue and is also very rife amongst the conservative and liberal whites. I live in UK now with my partner of four years in a happy stable relationship. The only problem with this is that our partnership would most certainly not be recognised in Namibia and my partner would not be allowed to work there. Francois, Namibia
People (whether heterosexual, homosexual or asexual) should exhibit their sexuality (or lack of it) within their bedrooms. By the same token, governments have no business peering into people’s bedrooms. However, there should be zero tolerance for discrimination when a person’s sexuality becomes public knowledge, for whatever reason. Governments, particularly those in Africa, have more pressing problems, eg healthcare and poverty reduction. Akpan, Kent, UK/Nigeria
People have a right to chose whatever they wanted be, but in Africa we have a culture. Family name is so important that you strive so much not to tarnish this. I will say for anybody that wants to be a gay, they have the right, but they should think about their culture and their faith. Babatude Adewole, Nigeria
Of course people have a right to be gay. It is a basic matter of respect for the individual. Those who would stop homosexuality or punish gays, anywhere in the world, are simply evil. We must not compromise, or allow for cultural relativity. That would be as bad as compromising with al-Qaeda. Richard, London, UK
I am an African lesbian. My sexual orientation is me, how can there be any debate about whether I have a right to be what I am? Heterosexual Africans should wake up to the truth. Chris Smith
I don’t think people should debate about an issue like homosexuality. It’s not African at all. God said that a man will leave his parents and cleave unto his wife, not to another man. Victor Owo, Eket Nigeria
We don’t choose to be gay and we shouldn’t have to suffer discrimination and injustice because we are gay. No matter where in the world we live. Africa should spend more effort (along with our help) on feeding and housing its people rather than making laws that vilify some of them. Brendan Taggart, Bristol, UK
Why do people have to interfere in the lives of others when they are not harming anyone else? It’s not as if you legalise it the whole country will turn gay and stop reproducing if that’s what you’re worried about. And on the basis of religion, didn’t God give us free will, and what right do we have to impose our religious views on others? John, Leeds
Being a gay in Nigeria is a taboo. One may lose his or her life if found to be one. I believe we all have equal rights and ought to have the same treatment. I am one but I don’t know how it came about. I think is natural. There should be laws that back homosexuality in Nigeria. Stan, Owerri, Nigeria
Of course anyone has a right to be gay. In my opinion, this right is not any different from the right to live and breath. As a heterosexual African, I have been dismayed by the attitudes of many Africans toward gay people. We tend to be more hostile toward gays than many Western societies. This is even more shocking in the context of our history of suffering discrimination at the hands of those who considered us "an abomination". One would expect us to be more sympathetic and accepting of gay people. Henry, Lusaka, Zambia
The culture of Africa forbids same sex marriage. The fact that it is practised in other continents does not make it right. Africans, let’s respect and defend our culture. Daniel Bassah, Accra, Ghana
Nature versus nurture arguments aside, there is no earthly reason why anyone should meddle in the issue. There are no questions of "rights" here; of course we have the right to be gay. It is a fact of life and always will be. Tom, Chicago, IL, USA
No such right exists for any person man or woman to be gay/lesbian. If so, how do mankind reproduce? It is clear that a man and man or a woman and woman relationships cannot reproduce another human being, why do we belabour the issue? Clearly, such relationships are against the laws of creation and therefore should be discouraged. Chuka, Enugu, Nigeria
Anyone has a right to be gay, lesbian or even bisexual. It’s based on individual preference. What bothers me about the whole ordeal is the gay and lesbian community’s eagerness at shoving their adopted lifestyles down our throats. Homosexuality and lesbianism shouldn’t be gathering as much momentum as the media has accorded them. Lara Ladejobi, USA
The bible says that it is an abomination. It is a dirty game. It is dangerous to humankind. The first time I saw a man kissing another man on TV, I vomited the whole day. Rickie, USA
Of course I have the right to be gay. Just like I have a right to pick up a sword and kill someone or breathe if I want to. It is the consequences that follow that I must decide whether or not I want to deal with. In Accra it is difficult for me to justify being gay since our whole society seems to go against it. Kwadwo, Accra Ghana
Homosexuality is un-African and should not be encouraged. Serwaa, Switzerland
I don’t believe sexuality can be chosen by most people. I think it is mostly innate and set well before puberty. Therefore if people cannot "choose" to be straight or gay (apart from the bisexual anomaly), it is wrong to deny people their inbuilt desires. To deny homosexuality is like to deny immigrants a right to acknowledge their own ethnicity. Justin Baidoo-Hackman, Hatfield, UK
It’s incredulous that this question is even asked in this day and age. Despite what many bigots might still feel, asking the question only fuels their ignorant and misdirected ire. People who discriminate and otherwise marginalize anyone should be given as few opportunities as possible. Ron, NYC
Homosexuality should not be seen as crime but governments have the right to protect the families at all cost. we don’t want any unfruitful relationship in Africa. Uno, London
We all have the right to become what we wish to be, provided they conform to the norms of a community. Bad relationship all over the world is the cause of same-sex relationships. it all happens when a united family breaks apart because of lust by a father or mother in a home. when children witness situations like that, they are tempted to believe that relationship with a female or a male is bad.
December 11, 2006
New law, old prejudices threaten Nigeria’s gay community
Lagos, Nigeria- Lawmakers in Nigeria are debating a bill that would ban same-sex marriage and any form of association among gays, even sharing a meal at a restaurant. Few in Nigeria’s deeply closeted gay community have publicly opposed the legislation, which proposes penalties of up to five years in prison and is widely expected to pass. Engaging in homosexual acts is already illegal in Nigeria, with those convicted facing jail terms in the mainly Christian south and execution in the mainly Muslim north. “This meeting, right here, would be illegal,” said activist Bisi Alimi, stabbing the air with a French fry for emphasis as he sat at a table with three gay friends and a reporter.
Other activities prohibited under the proposed law include belonging to gay clubs or reading books, watching films or accessing Internet sites that “promote” homosexuality. Alimi has been trying to drum up opposition to the legislation, but says Nigeria’s gay community is too far underground and the subject too taboo.
The 27-year-old activist is one of few openly gay Nigerians, having been “outed” by a university newspaper three years ago. None of his companions have told their families of their sexual orientation. They asked to be identified only by their first names, citing the risk of arrest, beatings or even death. “A few of my best friends know, but I don’t have the courage to tell my parents,” said Ipadeola, a 23-year-old medical student. “I don’t tell people because it is none of their business,” said Mukajuloa, a 21-year-old beautician. “Do heterosexual men go around telling the world they are attracted to women?”
Haruna Yerima, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, said he supported the proposed ban. Social contact between gays should be limited, he said, because it might encourage behavior that was “against our culture … against our religion.” Attitudes toward gays in Nigeria are typical of those across the continent. In neighboring Cameroon, Amnesty International says accusations of homosexuality and anti-gay laws have been used as a weapon against political opponents. South Africa legalized gay marriages last month in fiercely debated legislation, making it the only country on the continent to do so. But the impetus was more a desire to stamp out all forms of discrimination in a reaction to apartheid than tolerance of gays, who are subject to prejudice and violence in South Africa.
The hostility in Nigeria means that there are very few gay or lesbian organizations. Oludare “Erelu” Odumuye – the nickname means “queen mother” in Yoruba – heads one, Alliance Rights. "That bill would criminalize me if it was passed into law. It would criminalize my organization, it would criminalize my friends,” he said. Thousands of people use Alliance Rights for health services, to gather information or to meet, Odumuye says. To avoid harassment, the group has no membership list and its buildings are not in town centers or identified by signs.
Visitors find them through word-of-mouth, Odumuye said. To give an idea of their size, he says the group received more than 1,500 responses to a recent health survey among gay Nigerians. Odumuye said the bill is aimed at pleasing the ruling party’s political base – which includes powerful religious groups – ahead of April elections. Akin Marinho, a Nigerian human rights lawyer, argued the bill’s prohibitions are illegal under Nigeria’s constitution and international treaty obligations. Not only does the legislation affect freedoms of speech and expression, but foreign companies could face lawsuits if gay or lesbian staff are unable to take up positions in Nigeria, he said.
Even some conservative religious leaders say the bill goes too far. Though Bishop Joseph Ojo, who presides over the congregation at the evangelical Calvary Kingdom Church, contends gay relationships are “foreign to Africans” and should be outlawed, he adds that gays should “have freedom of speech and expression.” Nigerians have been publicly flogged or beaten severely in prison after being charged with homosexuality. “There is a lot of ignorance, and that is why people are afraid,” Alimi said. “We are not willing to come out and say, “Yes, I am gay. Here I am. I am human, too.”
12 December 2006
Gay Nigerians speak out
by Katharine Houreld, AP
In the Muslim north of Nigeria, Bisi Alimi could be stoned to death for being having gay sex. In the south, he could face three years in prison. Now, a proposed law would make it illegal just to share a meal at a cafe with gay friends. The proposal under debate in Nigeria’s House of Representatives would outlaw not just gay marriages, but any form of association between gay people, social or otherwise, and publication of any materials deemed to promote a "same-sex amorous relationship".
Anyone attending a meeting between gay people, even two friends in a private house, could receive a sentence of five years under the act. Engaging in homosexual acts is already illegal in Nigeria, with those convicted facing jail terms in the south and execution in the north. Few in Nigeria’s deeply closeted gay community are publicly opposing the bill and it is widely expected to pass.
"This meeting, right here, would be illegal," says activist Alimi, stabbing the air with a French fry for emphasis as he sits at a table with three gay friends and a reporter. "We could be arrested for talking about this. You could be arrested for writing about us." Other activities specifically prohibited under the proposed law include participating in gay clubs, or reading books, watching films or accessing Internet sites that "promote" homosexuality. Alimi’s been trying to drum up united opposition to the legislation, but says Nigeria’s homosexual community is so far underground and the subject is so taboo that it’s been difficult.
The 27-year-old activist is one of few openly gay Nigerians, having been "outed" by a university newspaper three years ago. None of his companions have told their families they are attracted to men. The risk of arrest, beatings or even death is why they requested that only first names be used for this article. "A few of my best friends know, but I don’t have the courage to tell my parents," 23-year-old medical student Ipadeola says.
"I don’t tell people because it is none of their business," says Mukajuloa, a 21-year-old beautician. "Do heterosexual men go around telling the world they are attracted to women?" Haruna Yerima, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, portrays the legislation as aimed at stamping out something already well under control. "It’s not really such a big problem in Nigeria, we just want to prevent such occurrences (gay marriages) from happening here," he says.
Yerima said he approved of the limitations on films and books because they could be used to "make such practices popular." Even social contact between gays should be limited, he said, because it might encourage behavior that was "against our culture…against our religion." Alimi’s friends say the bill will make a difficult life even more dangerous. Families already often cast out gay children and neighbors turn against gay friends. Civil rights organizations and human rights lawyers have said that the bill could also be used to deny legal representation to gay people who have been arrested.
Attitudes toward gays in Nigeria are typical of those across the continent. In neighboring Cameroon, Amnesty International says accusations of homosexuality and anti-gay laws have been used as a weapon against political opponents. South Africa legalized gay marriages last month in fiercely debated legislation, making it the only country on the continent to do so. But the impetus was more a desire to stamp out all forms of discrimination in a reaction to apartheid than tolerance of gays, who are subject to prejudice and violence in South Africa.
The hostility in Nigeria means that there are very few gay or lesbian organizations in Nigeria. Oludare "Erelu" Odumuye — the nickname means "queen mother" in Yoruba — heads one, Alliance Rights. Odumuye said he has been harassed in the street and detained by police accusing him of promoting homosexuality and running an unregistered organization. "That bill would criminalize me if it was passed into law. It would criminalize my organization, it would criminalize my friends," he says.
Thousands of people use Alliance Rights for health services, to gather information or to meet, Odumuye says. To avoid harassment, they have no set membership list and their buildings are not in town centers or identified by signs. Visitors find them through word-of-mouth, Odumuye said. To give an idea of their size, he says the group received more than 1,500 responses to a recent health survey among homosexual Nigerians. Odumuye argues that the bill is aimed at pleasing the ruling party’s political base — which includes powerful religious groups — ahead of April elections.
Nigerian Anglicans split with the American Episcopal church over the ordination of a gay bishop and many in the country say they want to prevent anything similar to the South African legislation. But Akin Marinho, a Nigerian human rights lawyer, says that bill’s prohibitions are illegal under Nigeria’s constitution and international treaty obligations. Not only does the bill affect freedoms of speech and expression, but foreign companies could face lawsuits if gay or lesbian staff are unable to take up positions in Nigeria, he says.
"It’s a civil liberties issue as well as a gay rights issue,"Marinho says. "Under this bill, anyone watching ‘Brokeback Mountain’ or even ‘Will and Grace’ could be prosecuted … it could also infringe on lawyer-client relations," he says, pointing out that the vague wording of the bill could interpret a meeting between a gay client and a lawyer as a meeting designed to promote same-sex relationships. Even some conservative religious leaders say the bill goes too far.
Though Bishop Joseph Ojo, who presides over the congregation at the evangelical Calvary Kingdom Church, says gay relationships are "foreign to Africans" and should be outlawed, he adds that homosexuals should "have freedom of speech and expression." Nigerians have been publicly flogged, exhibited before the press naked, or beaten severely in prison after being charged with homosexuality. Alimi’s companions say they’re wary of voicing too much opposition to the new law out of fear of arrest. Death sentences have been meted out in the north, though no one has yet been executed.
"There is a lot of ignorance, and that is why people are afraid," Alimi says. "But we are not willing to come out and say, yes, I am gay. Here I am. I am human too."
December 13, 2006
Nigeria Law Would Ban Gays from Associating
by Buzzle Staff and Agencies
Lawmakers in Nigeria are considering enacting a law that would ban any form of association among gays, with penalties of up to five years in prison. Nigeria has a small and deeply closeted gay community with very few openly gay Nigerians. It is illegal to engage in homosexual acts in Nigeria, and anyone convicted of violating that law faces prison in the south, which is mainly Christian, and in the mainly Muslim north, homosexuals face execution.
Lawmakers in Nigeria are now debating a proposed law that would ban same-sex marriage as well as any type of association at all among homosexuals—even sharing a meal at a restaurant or traveling together. The law, which is widely expected to pass, calls for penalties of up to five years in prison for people convicted of breaking it. Activist Bisi Alimi, one of the few openly gay Nigerians, has been trying to garner opposition for the legislation, without much success. Alimi, 27, said that none of his companions have told their families that they are gay, because the subject is too taboo in their society and any public knowledge of their sexual orientation could lead to arrest, beatings, or even death.
Some of Alimi’s friends have reported that they don’t have the courage to tell their parents, or they don’t tell people because it is nobody’s business. One friend told Alimi, "Do heterosexual men go around telling the world they are attracted to women?" Some of the other activities that would be against the law if it passes include reading books or watching films with gay themes, belonging to gay clubs, or visiting Internet sites that "promote" homosexuality.
Attitudes towards gays across Africa are very similar. Amnesty International says that accusations of homosexuality and laws against gays have been used to wage war against political opponents in neighboring Cameroon. South Africa legalized gay marriages last month, making it the only African country to do so. But most people believe the act was a symbolic ban on all forms of discrimination in reaction to apartheid, than it was a show of tolerance and support for the gay lifestyle.
Haruna Yermia, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, is in support of the proposed ban. Yermia believes social contact between gays must be restricted because it might encourage behavior that is "against our culture…against our religion." But Akin Marinho, a human rights lawyer in Nigeria, said that prohibiting gay associations is illegal under Nigeria’s constitution and international treaty obligations. Marinho said that foreign companies could face lawsuits if gay or lesbian employees are unable to fill positions in Nigeria.
Some conservatives are against the passing of the law. Bishop Joseph Ojo, minister to the congregation at the Calvary Kingdom Church, believes that gay relationships are "foreign to Africans’ and should be outlawed, but he also believes that homosexuals should "have freedom of speech and expression."
Nigerian Gay Man Denied Asylum in UK
by Andy Humm
Britain has shipped Emmanuel Obahiaghbon, 20, back to Nigeria despite evidence that he had suffered from anti-gay attacks in his home country. Outrage!, the LGBT rights group in the U.K., showed the Home Office "new evidence corroborating Emmanuel’s claims of persecution, including a Nigerian police warrant for his arrest on charges of homosexuality and a solicitor’s letter stating that he was likely to be sentenced to death by stoning." Islamic Sharia law is in force in the man’s home region and the penalty for same-sex activity is death.
Jill Power of Outrage!, who advocated on behalf of Obahiaghbon, said, "The Home Office dismissed these documents as fakes," and gave him no opportunity to present them to an asylum tribunal. She also said that he has been "disowned and denounced by his family" and is likely to face a Sharia trial upon his return.
Peter Tatchell, the founder of Outrage!, wrote in the Guardian, "Labour has lost its heart and soul. It seems more interested in pandering to the anti-asylum hysteria of the Sun and the Daily Mail, than in ensuring justice for refugees.