Friday , 27 May 2022

In Nigeria – even the closet is dangerous: An interview with Nigerian LGBTI rights activist Davis Mac-Iyalla


KaleidoScot: Tell us about the situation for LGBTI people in Nigeria.

Davis: If you are LGBTI person, you are a criminal in Nigeria. Earlier this year, a new draconian anti-LGBTI law has been signed into law making life near impossible for the country’s gay community.

The law contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison and bans gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership of gay rights groups.

“Persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” reads the law.

“Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison.”

In Nigeria gays are not even safe even in the closet. A mere rumour is enough to trigger violence against anyone who is said to be gay.

One of the games of the Nigeria government is to create an atmosphere of fear and persecutions that has forced many out LGBTI activists to flee the country. Those who stayed behind don’t think its safe/right to come out, instead they lead an intolerable double life by trying to pretend to be heterosexual because they now fear reaction of their family, community and authorities.

The media is constantly causing hysteria among the country’s population with incessant homophobic reporting.

So both the law and social climate has pushed the LGBTI Nigerian community further into the closet and exacerbates HIV/AIDS infection rates.

KaleidoScot: Tell us more about yourself, and your own journey.

Davis: I’d say I am a Christian who happens to be gay. My Nigerian Anglican church claims that its sinful to be gay but my faith and personal spirituality proves to me that there is nothing sinful in being so. When I came out publicly in Nigeria to challenge the dishonesty of my church about homosexuality and sexuality in general. I was rejected and castigated.

Nevertheless I stood firm to continue to tell my story. I have been arrested and beaten and spent time locked up in a Nigerian jail. I was even stabbed in my hand and when I was in the UK to preparing for the Lambeth Conference of 2008. I also got a threat email saying if I come back to Africa that will be the end of my life.

So I had to seek advice and found out that my last and only option was to seek asylum. Being an an asylum seeker and a refugee was one of the most painful journey of my life but I am glad to be alive to continue my work as an activist. I’ve recently published a book entitled FIYABO, where I share my story with readers.

KaleidoScot: How do you feel about the Commonwealth Games being hosted in Glasgow and your countries’ participation?

Davis: Actually, I did protest against Nigeria hosting the game in 2007 and was happy when Glasgow won it because it means LGBT athletes from all over the Commonwealth could participate without hiding their sexuality or gender identity. I think the games are an opportunity to highlight the difficult situation many LGBTI people face in the 42 member states that criminalise same-sex acts.

My take is that the Commonwealth should do more to promote equality and human rights of all people. Ideally I would like the Commonwealth to adopt the universal declaration of human rights, which includes sexuality and gender identity, and then kick out any country that does not abide by it from the commonwealth.

About Dan Littauer

Dan Littauer is a journalist who specializes in LGBTI current affairs, travel writing, feature writing and investigative journalism. He is a correspondent for LGBTQ Nation, ManAboutWorld, and previously worked for Gay Star News, PinkNews, San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Gay Middle East, Lonely Planet as well as contributing occasionally to the BBC, Al-Jazeera, CNN and The Guardian. He also had an extensive career outside journalism, which included teaching psychoanalysis and social science, and consultancy work for the travel market. When he is not busy writing, he can be spotted rambling around the stunning Scottish landscape, where he lives, spending time at home with his cat.

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  1. Well done Davis, May the Lord carry on blessing you and keeping you in His Care against the bigots and those that think He said GO and HATE your neighbor instead of LOVE thy neighbor as thyself!

  2. This is so sad. People live in fear in Africs.

  3. Nigeria has so many problem to tacle other than this religiously orientented law. So I call on Nigeria to repeal this law, to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedom of all Nigerians regardless of their sexual orientation.

  4. The Nigerian LGBT community is not united. We must first find a way to settle our differences.

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