Posted by Lucile Scott March 6, 2014
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The Solidarity Alliance, a coalition of Nigerian LGBT-focused human rights and HIV/AIDS organizations and individuals, has organized a March 7 Global Day of Action “for the world to stand in solidarity with LGBTI Nigerians” and speak out against the Anti-Same Sex Marriage bill that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law in January. Scroll down to find out how you can participate.
The law punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage or union with 14 years in prison and those who participate in LGBT organizations, societies, or relationships with 10 years—a category that could include HIV service providers targeting GMT, potentially gutting the national HIV response. Another draconian anti-LGBT law was enacted in Uganda in February, and Kenya and Malawi are beginning to consider similar draft laws. amfAR talked to Alex (not his real name), 37, a gay man from Nigeria, who has been granted asylum in the U.S., about the on- the-ground situation in Nigeria, where anti-LGBT violence is increasing and HIV services are shutting down. The following is excerpted from that interview.
I left Nigeria and sought asylum in the U.S. in July of 2012. At the time I was working as a referral officer for an organization funded by the Global Fund. I worked mostly with MSM throughout the north-central zone. I held meetings and provided guys with peer education, taught them to use condoms correctly, got them tested, and if they tested positive, got them to go to a clinic that was safe for GMT. Before, even though it was frowned upon to be gay and people would cuss at you or tease you and sometimes beat you, lives weren’t in danger.
“Before, even though it was frowned upon to be gay and people would cuss at you or tease you and sometimes beat you, lives weren’t in danger.”After this bill passed the Senate in 2011, people started to notice that it was only men in our meeting, and they figured it out. I was beaten almost to the point of death when I was walking home from a meeting. They were beating me, kicking me all over. I got to a time I couldn’t even cry out anymore. There were also calls and threats. After I was beaten a second time, I knew it was time to leave. And now that the bill is law, the violence is even worse. People have died and a lot more are going to die.
This law is going to cause the HIV rate in Nigeria to double. It’s only been in the past few years that the government has worked with us or targeted GMT with HIV services, but now the HIV services for GMT are being shut down. Many MSM in Nigeria have wives. And more are now going into hiding and they will secretly sleep with men and fear seeking out HIV services and they will infect their wives, their girlfriends, and the other men.
The Nigerian government is corrupt and this bill is a distraction. Passing it is the only successful thing the government has done in a decade. The country doesn’t have lights, or enough food, or good education, and the only thing they’ve done is to pass a law to kill people. People say being gay is against our religion, it is against our tradition. Being gay is as old as man and there are accounts in history that imply it was accepted in Africa before colonialism and Christianity. And if you say you are trying to serve God, he said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” He didn’t say, “Love everybody, hate gay people.”
I look at the videos on the internet from Nigeria that are sent to us and I see the way my people are treated, and my whole day is messed up at work, I cry through the night, because there is nothing I can do. I have a video where the police stand by and watch while a mob beats two guys to death, like animals. I knew one of the guys. But the government says, “Oh, that never happened.”
When I got here, before I had asylum, I had a visa but no social security number or way to get work. An AIDS organization in New York took me and my friend in. I am HIV positive and they helped me find health insurance so I could get medication and gave us housing and a job. My friend and I were the first LGBT people seeking asylum that the organization helped. Now they have nearly a dozen. And with this law, there will be more and more who need help. But most people cannot leave Nigeria. This Global Day of Action we need to show that people and the international community disapprove, because the voice of the international community is very strong.
And I am very grateful for everything the American government and people have done. I hope to go back to Nigeria one day to see my family, but my first allegiance is to the American people now. I am still part of them [the Nigerian people], but I’ve given up my citizenship. This is my home now.
What you can do on the March 7 Global Day of Action—and every day until the Nigerian law is overturned:
Post a message of support on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media using: #IStandWith9jaLGBT
For these posts you can say this, or something like it:
“I stand with the LGBTI community in Nigeria. The anti-gay law is unconstitutional and violates Nigerian and international human rights law.”
Attend a rally in New York, Washington, D.C., or London.
All three events are coordinated and scheduled to take place from 11:00a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
New York City, 11:00 a.m., The Nigerian Consulate, 828 2nd Ave., New York, NY 10017 (corner of E 44th Street)
Washington, D.C., 11:00 a.m., The Nigerian Embassy, 3519 International Ct. NW
London, 4:00 p.m., The Nigeria High Commission, 9 Northumberland Ave.
Or organize your own in a different city. If you do, please contact Michael Ighodaro at firstname.lastname@example.org in North America or Adebisi Alimi at email@example.com in the U.K. and let them know.
Sign a petition.
You can also call your elected officials and ask what they are doing to fight the bill and protect the safety of LGBT living in Nigeria and Uganda, or wear a t-shirt or badge stating your support.