News / Africa

Nigerian Gay Rights Activists Call for Dignity, Acceptance

Ifeanyi Kelly Orazulike at his office in Abuja, Nigeria, July 19, 2012. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Ifeanyi Kelly Orazulike at his office in Abuja, Nigeria, July 19, 2012. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Heather Murdock
ABUJA — Nigeria is a dangerous place to be gay. Activists say homosexuals are hunted, threatened and ostracized. Last year, a bill passed through both the Nigerian house and the senate that would punish homosexuality, or even supporting gay rights, with up to 14 years in prison. The bill has yet to be signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan. Despite the dangers in Nigeria, a handful of activists operate publicly in the hope that eventually more people will come out and demand equal rights. 

In the Nigerian capital, there are no gay bars, clubs or "cruising," strips and many locals will tell you there are also no gay people.  
 
But in an unassuming house in an unassuming neighborhood, gay-rights activists say that despite hate messages and death threats via text, email, telephone and Facebook, and the constant fear of being attacked, they want their message to be public.

“Someone has to stand up for the community. Someone has to stand up to say, ‘This is what we need. We are not aliens. We are human beings. We deserve our right to be respected and to be recognizedv'" says Ifeanyi Kelly Orazulike, the executive director of the International Center for Advocacy on Rights to Health, an organization that provides HIV/AIDS care and prevention for sexual minorities.
 
Orazulike says last year he was struck on the head near his Nigeria home after staging a protest in the United States against a bill that criminalizes same-sex marriage, and essentially would criminalize being gay or advocating for gay rights.
 
Under the current law in Nigeria, he says, gay sex is a criminal offense that carries a 14-year jail sentence. If passed, the new law additionally criminalizes gay marriage and says that merely "aiding and abetting" gay marriage would carry a punishment of 10 years in jail.

"Human rights violations of sexual minorities would increase," he says. "The prevalence rate of HIV infection would also increase because people would no longer be comfortable to come out to access services and it would drive people underground."
 
John Adeniyi, the human rights and advocacy officer at the HIV/AIDS care and prevention organization, says if the gay marriage bill becomes law it would also shut down the seven to 10 organizations that openly support gay rights in the country.

He says the debate about stricter laws has made gay rights activists more prominent, encouraging some people to speak openly about their sexuality while scaring others.

“A lot of people are going back into the closet while some people who weren’t out before are coming out to say, ‘Wow, this is human rights and we really need to talk about it,’” says Adeniyi.
 
He says the vast majority of people in Nigeria would never tell people if they were gay.  Adeniyi says openly gay or even suspected-to-be-gay people could be fired from their jobs or thrown out of their family homes.  
 
About two months ago, a 60-year-old man known to be gay was beaten to death on the streets, he says.
 
Thaddeus Ugoh, the head of Sexual Minorities Against Aids in Nigeria, says homophobia in Nigeria comes from many sources, including deep religious convictions, both Christian and Muslim.

“The key factor is religious sentiment, that’s one. Second is ignorance - which goes to education, actually. Thirdly, I could say on the basis of the leaders, political pressure [on] traditions,” he says.

Ugoh says Nigeria has one church that openly accepts gay parishioners in Lagos.  The House of Rainbow quietly reopened last year after it closed in 2008 when stories in local newspapers prompted the founder, the Reverend Rowland Jide Macaulay, to flee the country, saying he feared for his life.

Ugoh says despite the dangers, activists are making progress.  More and more often, he says, his countrymen will admit that there are gay citizens of Nigeria.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid