Nigeria: When a law legalizes hatred

Move,’ one of them ordered as they directed them to an uncompleted building.
‘Where is your laptop?’ another man asked, the veins bulging in his neck.
‘I don’t have a laptop here,’ Valentine answered, his voice shaky.
‘Then where is your phone?’

Valentine handed over his phone. He knew that he had been set up. This kind of set-up is called ‘kito’ in the Nigerian LGBT community: slang for the planned harassments, extortion, and blackmail of LGBT people. Valentine’s assailants looked through his phone and found gay porn and incriminating messages.

‘You this gay boy! We will show you today!’ they threatened as they demanded his bank card. One of them went to a nearby ATM and emptied Valentine’s account. Unsatisfied, they made him call family members to request for cash which was transferred to his assailants’ accounts. His hands and legs were tied; he was beaten, sexually assaulted with a cucumber, and raped by one of the men.

Around 3 a.m., he was released with a threat: if he was to report, they had his phone as evidence against him. After he was released, he wobbled out to the road. A Good Samaritan paid his transport fare back home. The ordeal, which lasted for over five hours, remains the most horrible experience of Valentine’s life.

‘I was robbed!’ he lied to his Aunty. Nobody in his family is aware of his sexuality. He couldn’t report the incident to the police; neither could he seek medical treatment at the hospital.
He was even worried about sharing this experience.

‘I’m not sure whether it will help someone to avoid the situation or will give homophobes ideas?’

He says that the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act (SSMPA) is empowering homophobes.
Even though it's called 'marriage act', the law criminalises people who identify as LGBT, people who belong to LGBT associations, and LGBT supporters.

Clause 4.2 of the Act states that ‘a person who…directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.’

Yet, the law is not specific in its definition of ‘amorous’ so you may be unfortunate if someone thinks you are holding hands too tightly with someone of the same-sex.

The SSMPA also states that anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage is liable to a prison term of 14 years; while anyone who ‘administers, witnesses, abets, or aids’ a same-sex marriage or ‘supports the registration, operation, and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organisations, processions, or meetings in Nigeria’ is liable to ten years in prison.

‘If a police officer thinks that you aren’t ‘manly’ enough, you can be searched. You will be unlucky if there is anything gay on your phone,’ says Henry, who runs an LGBT service on social media through which he counsels LGBT people on health issues.

Read more via Love Matters