Nearly three-quarters of LGBT Nigerians say they have suffered abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Most did not report the abuse, whether out of shame, fear of reprisal or a belief that no one would help. Those are some of the findings of a new survey conducted by the Bisi Alimi Foundation.
The foundation described the survey results in the report titled “Not Dancing to Their Music”:
Since 2014 and the introduction of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act
(SSMPA), life for LGBTQ Nigerians has become increasingly difficult and
unsafe. Pre-existing fiscal and organisational problems with law enforcement, education, healthcare, and the media have created an environment where LGBTQ Nigerians are at risk if they are out about their sexuality or gender identity; limiting what healthcare, work, and educational opportunities they can access; with scant legal protection if they need assistance.
A SNAPSHOT OF LGBTQ LIFE IN NIGERIA
As a charity focused on supporting the rights, needs and well-being of LGBTQ Nigerians, we ran an online survey promoted via social media, and through charities, NGOs and other LGBTQ organisations. 446 LGBTQ Nigerians aged 18-65 (median age 27.40) answered questions covering six key areas of their lives – physical and mental health; public perceptions and reactions to gender identities and sexualities; harassment and violence; daily life experiences; law and legal issues; and demographic information.
WHAT LGBTQ NIGERIANS TOLD US
Our survey suggests the SSMPA, cultural attitudes, and infrastructure in
Nigeria create a situation where LGBTQ people are not safe to come out,
where discrimination and human rights abuses are routine, and where
isolation and stigmatisation is commonplace. This, in turn, has a knock-on
effect to mental health, causing more distress and reduced life satisfaction,
with few LGBTQ friendly services available for support. In short, wherever
an LGBTQ person may turn for help it is likely they may be met at best with a refusal, but at worst with abuse or sanction. In the words of one respondent “the present Nigerian situation is designed to kill gay people.”
[The survey found that] 12% of respondents were told by doctors or nurses that their health problems were their own fault, and 12% reported experiencing verbal abuse from doctors or nurses. …
[Survey respondents answered the following questions:]
Where did you experience discrimination or abuse?
- A cafe, bar, or club (25.5%)
- School or college (23.8%)
- Work (21.7%)
- When seeking housing (15.7%)
- Jobseeking (13.3%)
Was the perpetrator (abuser) alone, or was there more than one perpetrator?
- More than one (64.6%)
- Alone (20.8%)
- Unsure (14.6%)
We asked people about how ‘out’ they were (how able they felt to be open about their sexuality to others). Predictably, given the situation in Nigeria, we found the more out about their sexuality and/or gender identity someone is, the more negative Homo/Bi/Transphobic reactions they encountered. Which, in turn, increases their likelihood to both internalise self-hatred and become mentally distressed.
FUTURE PLANS FOR THE BISI ALIMI FOUNDATION
Based on the findings from our survey, the Foundation is in a far stronger position to offer bespoke training, outreach and advocacy. This will include:
• Lobbying for a change in the SSMPA.
• Media training for journalists to support them in more accurate, fair and representative coverage of LGBTQ issues in Nigeria.
• Developing online content addressing the specific mental and physical health needs and rights-based information for LGBTQ Nigerians (including noting ways new technologies and social media can best deliver these resources). This includes interventions to build and deliver LGBTQ Nigerian-focused psychological support packages to increase personal resilience.
• Engaging businesses in developing culturally sensitive equality and inclusion based training in Nigeria that will empower them to address issues of gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace.
• Supporting NGOs, charities, law makers, educators, policy makers, politicians and healthcare providers to work in positive, supportive and non-discriminatory ways with diverse LGBTQ communities.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
• One of the key findings from the research was how isolated, lonely and afraid respondents felt. Stereotypes, stigma and legal sanctions all serve to ensure sexuality is hidden and secretive. Fragmented and disenfranchised health workers, and a media and … a repressive legal situation also serve to stop people speaking out about sexuality in positive ways. A key step all of us can take is to mobilise, to connect together – on or offline – and to share stories of all aspects of diverse sexualities and genders.
• Support, mentor and speak up for existing services, rewarding good practice in education, the workplace, healthcare or the law. Who do you know who is doing a great job – what help do they need and how can you give it?
• Create safe spaces on or offline for LGBTQ people to connect, network, and feel stronger together. While also helping activists, charities, NGOs, journalists and health providers find each other to share good practice.
• Support big, medium and small-scale businesses to create safe and healthy spaces for LGBTQ staff to come out. Can you enable companies to set up and run equality and diversity units?
• Challenge legal inequalities and other barriers within healthcare, education, and workplaces. Who is currently being left out? What is keeping them outside services and opportunities that are theirs to access by right? How can you help existing organisations to welcome LGBTQ people and create more harmonious communities?
• You can also assist with the steps we are taking, as outlined above. Please contact the Bisi Alimi Foundation for updates on events, activities and calls for donations at bisialimifoundation.org.
A full copy of this report can be found at bisialimifoundation.org/reports.
The Foundation stated in a press release:
LGBT Nigerians severely stigmatised and isolated
“This is not just about data, these are stories and real life experiences of stigmatised and vulnerable citizens of Nigeria. These are the stories of police extortion, family betrayal and rejection, abuse, work place discrimination and isolation in schools and hospitals. We are hoping that the government, businesses, both local and multinational, powerful organisations such as the United Nations, Commonwealth and other interested parties will look at this report and take action in name of human rights, empathy and justice.”– Bisi Alimi, Executive Director of Bisi Alimi Foundation/Having been the first person to come out live on Nigerian television, threats and violence forced Bisi to flee to the UK.
- “The present Nigerian situation is designed to kill gay people” Gay man living in Nigeria
- “I’m straight acting so people don’t even suspect… That’s a whole lot of hard work, it’s like fighting [a war] you have no idea of.” Bisexual man living in Nigeria
- “I was seriously harassed by a police officer of which I was locked up in cells for more than 2 weeks and I was denied access to a lawyer, phone calls and my human rights was being violated.” Trans man living in Nigeria
- “I travelled to my home town with my girlfriend some years ago…a neighbour [burst] in and caught us in the act. They’re two guys they hit us with belt and even threatened expose us to the public if we don’t comply with them. They ended up forcing us to have sex with them” Lesbian woman living in Nigeria
In cooperation with Erasing 76 Crimes