Sticks & Handcuffs: 6 Stories of Young Gay Men in Nigeria

tunde adolescente gay arrestato in nigeria
Tunde, uno dei ragazzini arrestati a luglio a Lagos

In Nigeria, same sex relationships are illegal. It has been so since the British Empire, which imposed the crime of “sodomy” to a people who, until then, were not inherently against homosexuality. Nonetheless, the situation deteriorated in 2014, when a new law against gay marriages lead to a multiplication of detentions and hate crimes. Under the new laws, gangs of thugs have been authorized to hunt homosexuals down and beat them, rob them, blackmail them, and in the worst cases, even kill them. Those who are brought to jail have to undergo bashing and rapes in the cells, only to be socially dead once out of the prison. Here are some of the latest stories from the press.

Blackmail and bashing

Last August, an alleged homosexual 17 year old boy was bludgeoned to death by some of his classmates, in the state of Jigawa, in the Muslim northern area of Nigeria. According to the killers, they were trying to “re-educate him” and stop his perversion. In September, a lesbian woman barely made it out alive after she was assaulted by 4 men, sent by her ex-husband, who had already clubbed her once and wanted to burn her alive. Her ex-husband had already got her arrested once, and threatened to throw acid at her. Luckily for her, she managed to flee abroad, where she asked for asylum.

Collins Gideon is a boy from Nigeria. He is a fervent Christian and was publicly exposed against his will. His nude photos, showing him with a boy, circulated on the social networks, blogs and more or less reliable information sites. Gideon explains what happened to No Strings Nigeria: a good friend of his invited him to his house. There, a group of boys came in and assaulted him, ripped off his clothes, took some pictures and threatened to publish them if he had not paid a ransom. Collins had not enough money at the time and the photos went viral. His family kicked him out and disowned him, forcing him to leave university and move to another city, where he currently survives thanks to his friend’s hospitality.

Life after prison

ABC News contacted some of the victims of a police raid in a Lagos hotel that took place last July. 40 alleged gay men and boys, some of them minors, were rounded up and arrested for engaging in gay activities. The reality was that they were gathered to conduct HIV-tests provided by Access to Health and Rights Development Initiative [BBC]. Among those arrested, some were able to bribe their way out of the prison; the others got a provisional release pending trial.

[read also: Chinonso Kept Quiet About His Homosexuality: Here’s Why]

Femi* is 23. After spending a month in prison, he was kicked out of his home, forced to leave university and lost his job. Life has never been easy for him: at 14, he was raped by a man. His dad has always treated him badly and despised his feminine manners. After leaving the prison, Femi was forced into prostitution to survive. He would sleep over at some of his clients’ places, or on his friend’s couch. He saved some money for his future: a one-way ticket to get out of his country.

Faint hopes

Tunde*, who is even younger, was arrested on the same cursed day. His photo, name and information about his homosexuality, as well as his HIV-positive status, were shared on local and national media. His grandmother found out about him as she read the newspapers. He was then kicked out of home and lost his job. He now lives on the streets awaiting trial. On the positive side, he is out of prison, where he was beaten up by his cellmate, instigated by the prison guards.

Doyin*, 15, is one of the youngest victims of the blitz that occurred in Lagos. He is also one of the luckiest: not only did he spend just 7 days in prison, but he can also count on his family, who supports him. He genuinely speaks about this: “My parents know that I am gay: this is how I am, this is what I chose to be and they tell me that I have the right to live my life. A gay person is a human being and God made me this way.”

* names have been changed


translation by Barbara Burgio
©2017 Il Grande Colibrì

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