By Dotty Aken’ova*
It has been almost two years since the bill prohibiting same sex marriage in Nigeria was introduced to the national house of assembly. Open LGBTQ activists in Nigeria at the time were very few and advocacy capacity on LGBTQ issues was very poor. The introduction of the bill shook the few LGBTQ activists awake, and caused them to look of allies in the mainstream human rights and women’s NGO communities to team up against the bill.
The introduction of the bill also caused the international community to invest in sharpening advocacy skills among activists in order to enable them fight the bill.
This struggle was not without its challenges. We discovered that there is a huge gap in knowledge of human rights issues even among the so-called human rights activists in Nigeria. Also that the country is extremely hypocritical and homophobic. And shamefully, some states in Nigeria are introducing similar bills in their Houses of Assembly, such was the case with Lagos State and presently, Bauchi State. The Bauchi state situation is so bad that even though they do not have the bill passed into law yet, they have applied to take over the case of 18 young men of charges related with gender expression and identity and sexual orientation from the police.
We realized that we did not have sustained funding to enable us carry out projects that will lead to increased awareness of human rights issues in Nigeria and LGBTQ rights issues especially. Finally, we realized during this battle that LGBTQ focused NGOs need to be developed and their capacities built to make them into a strong pressure group.
The gains of this struggle include the fact that resistance to the bill triggered debates in the media with voices in support of LGTQ rights. The Coalition of NGOs for the Defense of Sexual Rights in Nigeria was able to call a number of sensitization workshops targeting journalists and other mainstream human rights NGOs and women’s NGOs who had not identified with the coalition ands its struggle. The bill opened a major window of opportunity to tell the country that LGBTQ persons exist in Nigeria and that homosexuality is not an imported behavior.
* Dotty Aken’ova is a member of the SPW Advisory Group
:: Posted in 12/07/2007 ::