Will Nigeria’s Anti-Gay Law Stand the Test of Time?

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Last week I asked a married colleague what could be most disappointing about raising a child in this generation. He went on and on, talking about the usual father’s fears about their daughters getting pregnant out of wedlock or their sons getting involved in cultism or fraud.

There was a time when these were parents’ biggest fears, but in a world getting stranger by the day, these might soon become the least of concerns.

When my colleague finished talking, I chipped this in: ‘How will you feel if your only child grows up and comes out as gay?’ He stopped a little to think. I could read the terror on his face; the joke didn’t go down well. “It is completely unimaginable”, he said. He was struggling to convince himself.

“I beg your pardon, this is not ‘unimaginable’, start thinking about it,” I said to him.

With how liberal the world is getting, this will soon happen in some homes. As a matter of fact, it is already happening, even in Nigeria.

In a post on the battabox.com, some guys who pleaded anonymity were interviewed. One of them confessed, “My parents don’t know I am gay in Nigeria. They said to me, we don’t see you with any girls, it’s always guys, guys, guys. And I asked myself – how can I do this?”

Nigerians may not be coming out straight to celebrate being gay, but it is obvious that the country is losing guard in its position against the LGBT community.

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill in 2014, criminalizing same-sex relationships in Nigeria, despite pressure from Western governments to preserve the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) bans gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership of gay rights groups with penalties of up to 14 years in prison.

This law was greeted with great controversy nationally and internationally because at the time it was enacted, people felt Nigeria had greater things to worry about. However, years after, it is not very clear if anyone has been convicted so far. All we’ve had are stories of individuals who were almost lynched and those who were dragged to court by the Nigerian police for being gay.

Suspected gay men paraded in Nigeria

In the latest example of Nigeria’s stance against gay practices, 42 men were paraded in a Lagos court for homosexual practices and released soon after. In April, 2017, 53 men were arrested in the northern state of Zaria and were accused of participating in a gay wedding. They pleaded ‘not guilty’ and were released on bail. Most times, people rarely hear anything after the initial media noise.

Reports are indicating that Nigerians may not be so averse to homosexuality in coming years, as there is ‘progress’ being recorded in LGBT perception. A 2017 survey by NOI Polls compared attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Nigeria against a 2015 poll.

It found a 7 percent increase in acceptance of LGBT people, and a 9 percent rise to 39 percent of those surveyed who think that LGBT people should be allowed equal access to public services such as healthcare, education and housing.

One of the highlights of the report was the fact that 17 percent of respondents admitted that they know someone who is Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual- a family member, friend, or someone within their locality.

Nigerians view homosexuality as part of a foreign culture, but it is not. It is a closet practice almost everywhere in the world. The more liberty those involved are given, the more the country’s anti-gay law loses grip. We’ll resist it hard at first, and then we will no longer care. The strategy of manipulation is simple: the media.

Nigerian Gay Right Activist, Bisi Alimi

Media has always been instrumental in constructing meanings about sexuality and how it interferes with our identities, our history, our social institutions and more importantly, our everyday lives. I guess this explains why the western media is trying to fill up television shows with as many ‘loveable’ LGBT characters as possible in the name of equality.

There are more gay characters on television now than ever. And as we consume more foreign media in Nigeria, this will be continually rubbed in our faces till it becomes the new normal.

When you watch some of the movie series that have dominated TVs since the LGBT movement became intense, you will begin to feel so at ease with homosexual relationships. People desperately wanted Delphine and Cosima in Orphan Black to be together. Same goes for Connor and Oliver in How to Get Away with Murder. We fell in love with the character of Jamal in Empire and became angry anytime he was treated badly for being gay.

That is exactly the feeling these characters were designed to elicit.

Children are not exempted. The Guardian UK reports that the Disney Channel made history last week when the hugely popular tween sitcom Andi Mack introduced a gay storyline – the idea being to set a positive example to young kids who might be struggling with the realisation they are gay. The show has an average viewer age of 10.

This is coming after Cartoon Network introduced its first gay character in 2014 and Nickelodeon in 2016.

Should children also start dealing with the ambiguity of the new age sexual construct? Shouldn’t they be allowed to learn their rhymes in peace?

People have good reasons to start thinking about the future of their children in this regard. Global prediction shows that we will have more homosexuals than straight people in the world in coming years. This, of course, might have serious consequences on human existence and population in the long run, even if we try to deny it now. The process of reproduction will become more and more unnatural to cope with the needs of gay families. A lot of homes will be built on sperm and egg banks. Children will be born into homes with two fathers or two mothers. A lot of people fear that the human race will evolve to eventually eliminate itself.

As more pressure is mounted on Nigeria by international communities and advocacy groups, how long can the country and other African nations uphold the anti-gay law?


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