On May 28th 2018, an association of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria mobilized allies nationwide to observe a “National Day of Mourning and Remembrance” for victims of violent deaths across Nigeria.
Various Advocacy groups such as the Bring-Back-Our Girls campaign, the Not-Too-Young-To-Run, Internally Displaced Person groups” as well as organizations working with victims of forced evictions in Nigeria rallied crowd in various cities to observe the day.
A week prior to this, I sent a message to our UK office seeking permission for the Bisi Alimi Foundation to join the rally in remembrance of this day but more importantly, in remembrance of LGBT people that are victims of aggressive homophobia, from both state and none state actors. Although approval was granted, there was a bit of scepticism for safety reasons.
Our group (made up of direct organizations) was the biggest group gathered for this rally nationwide, and we marched through the highbrow Lagos singing, dancing and distributing fliers.
This event was so dear to my heart and our participation as the Bisi Alimi Foundation made me proud, I felt fulfilled to organize and be a part of exposing something that our society so desperately wants us to hide.
The amount of atrocities, deaths, homelessness facing LGBT persons in Nigeria is hidden. The 2016 Human Rights Watch(HRW) report suggests that the mob violence against Nigerian LGBT persons was on the increase; many of these victims were detained by the Nigerian police for as long as three weeks without charging them to court and eventually made to pay bribes of up to 100,000 Naira ($278) before release. When enforcement agencies commit, enable or support an act of violence against any particular group, it fuels fear and paranoia, and in some cases death which leads to violations of human rights without consequences.
The punitive governance that creates stigma, marginalization, oppression and discrimination of LGBT persons have increased and enabled marginalized access to health care for men who have sex with men. This is impeding a sustainable solution to issues such as mental health as well as HIV & AIDS responsive care, support, methods and preventive strategies in Nigeria.
Our society and the media often act like as if any LGBT person killed deserves it. This shaped by the narrative of media and religious and political leaders that overtime has presented the community as an outcast. This engagement with the foundation has exposed me to knowledge and a reality, I would have in the past termed frictional stories.
I still have friends and family members who think I am losing my Christian faith because I chose to work with an LGBT organisation and I always tell them that I know God differently and I feel it in the depth of my soul that if the pillar of Christianity; Jesus the Christ was alive today, he would be an LGBT advocate! I refuse to believe that any religion which claims to love will remain silent, indifferent or in support of the deaths, the kidnap, violence, oppression and discrimination facing the LGBT persons in Nigeria today
I did not arrive at supporting LGBT rights in Nigeria from birth; it was a journey I had to go through. As a straight woman living in Nigeria, I know the struggles and I know what it means to face oppression and it is this that has connected me to the struggle of LGBT persons in Nigeria. Most importantly, it is because, I myself have been a victim of oppression by a powerful structure and nobody wanted to stand with me, but I am alive today because a few decided that, as a human being watching what was happening to me and doing nothing was a crime against humanity. This is what I hope to do for every oppressed, victimized and marginalized persons in Nigeria.
As the tagline of Bisi Alimi Foundation states, we are working really hard to accelerate social acceptance of LGBT people in Nigeria, sometimes, it will be easy and sometimes it difficult and challenging, but one thing I am sure of is, change comes because people opt to do something. It is time for every human being in the world and every Nigeria to rise up and stand up for the LGBT persons, who in most cases are unable to speak for themselves.
I continue to have to explain why as a straight Christian woman, I am working with an LGBT organisation, but one thing is very clear to me, in years to come, our faith won’t matter, our gender won’t matter, our sexuality won’t matter, what will matter will be our humanity, the love we share and the compassion we show, because, in essence, I believe this is what God is. However, this will not happen tomorrow if we are indifferent today
For long, LGBT interventions have mainly focused on working within the community and this is important. However, in 2018, it has become imperative that allies across Nigeria and globally be given the chance to speak up and be counted as the attacks and marginalization against LGBT requires urgent intervention.
This is why I feel that the work that we are doing in Nigeria is extremely important. Today, I am calling upon everyone who cares about LGBT human right to support our work and help us scale our projects scope and advocacy to penetrate more states in Nigeria by donating here