On Jan 31, 2016 The Nigerian Tribune wrote this editorial which describes the challenges of gay people being accepted in that country. “Being gay in Nigeria is like being on the most wanted list of a law enforcement agency; you are not safe and no one wants to associate with you. Sometimes I feel so scared, lonely and terrible that I just feel like ending my life.”
These were the words of 25-year-old Tope James (Not real names) as she discussed how life has been since she discovered her sexual orientation.
Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, of 2013, which took effect in January 2014, made a bad situation much worse for the already subdued Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, as the law prohibits any form of gay marriage, or civil union entered into between persons of the same sex.
On 13 January, 2014, former president, Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which imposes various punishments for some types of homosexual acts.
The Act imposes a 10-year prison sentence on anyone who “registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations” or “supports” the activities of such organisations. It also provides a 14-year imprisonment for persons who contract same-sex marriage in the country.
However, it seems the law has paved the way for people to engage in homophobic violence without fear of legal consequences. There have been various reports of LGBT people in the country being molested due to their sexuality, as the Act has been used as an excuse by many to stage violent attacks on the LGBT community.
While some are extorted for their secrets to be kept, others have been sexually abused, and there seem to be no legal protection against discrimination of the LGBT community in Nigeria.
Although the Act only intensified the attacks, the challenge of homosexuality is not a new thing to the Nigerian society.