Will gay Nigerians ever be free to openly live their authentic lives?

It’s time to evaluate the successes and failures of LGBT rights strategies in Nigeria.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

By Mike Daemon

Since the Nigerian government passed into law the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act (SSMPA), LGBT Nigerians have continued to suffer many forms of discrimination as well as exclusion from society. Many wallow in frustration and wonder if society will ever accept their kind of love.

Looking at the present state of things, it is tempting to conclude that the situation will never get better, especially as human rights abuses of LGBT persons seem to have heightened over the past few years and the pace of LGBT acceptance remains slow.

True, knowledge about LGBT issues has increased rapidly, thanks to social media and LGBT-dedicated media platforms, but much work needs to be done, especially in the area of making sure that the rights of LGBT persons are recognized, respected and protected. Those rights will not be guaranteed without a court challenge to the constitutionality of the SSMPA.

Many LGBT rights activists in the country have argued about when will be the right time to put up a fight against a law that has continued to oppress LGBT persons and and put their lives at great risk.  Sadly, many LGBTQ+ rights activists seem to lack a clear sense of focus and the courage to stand up and speak against the law, even though they have the resources to do so.

Unfortunately, the problem seems to be more internal than external to the LGBTQ+ community. The community is divided, with LGBT leaders thinking too much about themselves, their egos and their brands. They lose their focus and maintain a nonchalant attitude toward issues of real concern.

The community also lacks strong role models, even though the generation of younger LGBT Nigerians  is fearless and bold. They are left without strong community support, so they lack a sense of direction. Their potential to contribute meaningfully to the fight against inequality needs to be harnessed.

This is the time to rethink our position, re-evaluate our strategies and reflect on the impact of the LGBT rights movement so far. Doing this will allow us to understand what it is that we are doing right and what more needs to be done, and how.

In order to make progress in guaranteeing our rights, perhaps we need a selfless, committed and visible leader.

At the same time, even though we have done so much important work in the area of physical health, especially in regards to HIV/AIDS, we seriously need to look beyond just that single issue and seek ways to address other core issues affecting the LGBT community.

Programs tailored toward helping to restore the self-esteem of LGBT persons need to be prioritized. Members of the community must start believing in themselves and recognizing their worth. They need to understand that their sexual orientation is valid and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. This is the only way we can nurture a generation of courageous LGBT persons who will be ready to do whatever it takes to reclaim their freedom when the time comes to put up a fight.

The bottom line is that we will surely get there if we are committed and focused. True, it might take some time, but we need to get prepared and ask ourselves the right questions, especially concerning the real reasons why we are a part of the movement in the first place.