Are Nigerians Homophobic?
Of course, we are. On a collective level, that is. But when you ask someone, you get this type of reply: “Homophobic? Isn’t that the fear of homosexuals? No o, unless they are bigger than me and can beat me, I’m not afraid of them. But if you ask if I’m Anti-homosexual, which is having a negative view of homosexuals, then yes, I most definitely am.”
Generally, when people think of the word “phobia”, they immediately relate it to fear. So with homophobia, it translates to having a fear of homosexuals. However, in this context, a phobia is more complicated than that.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Homophobia is a culturally produced fear of or prejudice against homosexuals, that sometimes manifests itself in legal restrictions or, in extreme cases, bullying or even violence against homosexuals (sometimes called “gay-bashing”). This is also applied to all the branches of the LGBT community and is prevalent in Nigeria.
Why are Nigerians Homophobic?
Most of Nigeria’s homophobia, in my opinion, stems from the fact that the country very religious. Nigeria is listed as one of the most religious countries in the world. The South is full of Christians mainly, while the North consists mostly of Muslims (Sunni Muslims). Both religions have very high opinions and negative views of homosexuality.
In the Qur’an: A prophet of God, Lut preached to his people “Will you commit lewdness such as no people in creation ever committed before you? For you come in lust to men in preference to women. No, you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds’ (Qur’an 7:80-81).”
In another verse, Lut advised them: ‘Of all the creatures in the world, will you approach males, and leave those whom Allah has created for you to be your mates? No, you are a people transgressing (all limits)!’ (Qur’an 26:165-166). The people rejected Lut and threw him out of the city. In response, God destroyed them as punishment for their transgressions and disobedience.
In the Bible: “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” (Romans 1:26-27)
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who submit to or perform homosexual acts.” (1 Cor 6:9)
Both of these religions come from the same origins and region, so it is no surprise that they both have similarly negative views of homosexuality.
Islam has been in Nigeria longer, but Christianity was spread throughout the country by the British and previous colonizers like the Portuguese. The UK’s hostility toward homosexuality was reinforced by anti-sodomy laws with strict punishments in Nigeria because they were in charge of the then administration of the Nigerian colony.
The LGBT community began getting legal protection and sympathy in the UK during the second half of the 20th Century. This was after a great amount of pushback. Unfortunately, this sympathy did not happen in any of the UK’s colonies…including Nigeria. Between the late 1900s and early 2000s, many preachers from the USA started spreading their messages in Christian-populated African countries.
These preachers though, due to their homophobic teachings were already losing ground in the USA because LGBT rights began gaining acceptance. The homophobia in Nigeria became established through these teachings due to religious sentiments becoming more present. Religious zealots often have a significant effect on our society.
In general, people are taught that homosexuality is a demonic condition that causes lust. You either choose not to indulge or suffer eternal damnation.
The homophobia in Nigeria becomes apparent in different forms such as lynching, social stigma, dis-owning, loss of employment, murder, rape (to “correct the gay person), and disgust towards something as little as having a conversation about homosexuality. I’m not saying these things don’t happen in other countries, it’s just sad that they were dealt with in the 20th century and we’re shying away from it.
Why Don’t We Have Conversations About Sexuality?
Sexual education is not widely taught and even when it is, many teachers have their negative biases. To be fair to them, they’ll probably lose their jobs if they even mentioned it. Because of this, you will meet a majority of people not knowing that being a part of the LGBT community is not a choice to be made. It cannot be changed.
You’re not exempt even if you are only an advocate against homophobia in Nigeria. You’ll either be called sinful or having a white-man mentality, which will forever be funny to me because the white man brought their religion. You hear a lot of things like “It’s un-African,” “it’s unnatural,” “it’s a Western concept and we reject it.” Well, you should have rejected religion as well, sir/ma.
Some people have also explained that they avoid the conversation because they are afraid of the consequences. To help their political agenda, both Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari have strengthened laws against homosexuality. People who are LGBT face up to 14 years in prison, while Allys can get up to 10.
Many Nigerians haven’t interacted with anyone who identifies as LGBT, so it would be difficult to understand what their realities are. It would be easier to rely on the incorrect information about them than realize the blindness to how spiteful we are to something we don’t understand and will probably never experience.
It is also going to be difficult to understand that homosexuals have existed in all cultures, including Nigerian cultures before the colonial times. Explorers have written about the presence of gay people in Nigeria in the pre-colonial times.
It’s a bit refreshing though, to go on my Twitter timeline and see that people’s attitudes are changing. Younger generations have more empathy and the acceptance has grown. There are also a lot of articles, shows, and documentaries that talk about the LGBT people in Nigeria. It’s a slow process, but change needs to happen and I’m glad it has started.