The ink isn’t even dry on the paper yet and the Nigerian Police Force have started rounding up suspected gay men. Allegedly some members of the police have signed up to some gay dating websites and begun luring men to meet up with them. When these men appear, the officers arrest force them to reveal names and numbers of other gay men in the area. Many people have been arrested and some are asked to pay bribes or risk being outed. In the North, 12 men were arrested according to the BBC and one of them was sentenced to receive 20 lashes and pay a fine in accordance with Muslim Sharia law. The lashes were meted out in a packed court room. A Christian who was also arrested will be handed over to the regular courts. Gay men in Nigeria have been warned to stay off the sites and not to meet any new people.
While I’m thankful the poor man got flogged publicly as opposed to being stoned to death and will live to see another day, I can’t help but wonder how something like this could be occurring in today. It seems like there’s only darkness in the tunnel and the train has stopped moving.
The health implications of this new law are far-reaching and it will eventually affect the heterosexual population as well. As all LGBT rights groups including those that promote health for LGBT have been branded persona non grata, health facilities that cater to the LGBT community in Nigeria especially those with HIV/AIDS will find it difficult to stay open as they depend on funding from such associations. Currently the country has the second largest number of HIV positive people globally at 3.4 million and 17% of men who have sex with men are positive according to UNAIDS. This law again undermines President Jonathan’s resolution that “no Nigerian should be allowed die of AIDS” as he has effectively made sure that the group that is at the highest risk will be the one who cannot receive any testing or treatment. As much as leading medical specialists claim that no one who visits a clinic will be turned away irrespective of their sexuality, I have heard enough personal stories from people who have had terrible experiences in hospitals because they admitted to being gay to know that this assertion is not true on the ground. As many men who have sex with men are already married and many more will probably soon be, if only as a “cover”, infection rates in heterosexual women (and possibly children) may begin to rise as well.
Many have spoken out against this new law worldwide and people have written numerous open letters to President Jonathan. Maybe this is the catalyst that will finally push majority of Nigerians to rethink this “gay agenda” for themselves.
My favourite letter so far happens to have been penned by WP blogger keredim69 of Sagba Chronicles. It definitely put a smile on my face.