TRUE Africa

Nigeria’s attitudes to gay people are changing – but far too slowly

The vast majority of Nigerians (83 per cent) would not be willing to accept a family member who is homosexual, a new poll shows.

However, it seems that society is slowly becoming more tolerant. In 2015, four per cent more of those surveyed (87 percent) would not accept a gay family member.

Despite this slight shift, attitudes towards homosexuality are still entrenched. A whopping 91 per cent of Nigerians refuse to believe that people are born gay. This is important: believing that you can choose to be gay or straight is often an excuse for telling people they have the option to choose not to be gay.

The survey conducted by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs), definitely shows that Nigerians would prefer you not to be gay:

But why is homophobia so prevalent in Nigeria? ‘Religion,’ says one twenty-nine-year-old, who isn’t surprised by the survey results. ‘In reality, there is no separation between the church and state. You see legislators arguing for laws to be passed based on religious morality. It also doesn’t help that a vast majority of the population suffer from poverty and a lack of education. This means that they will form their opinions based on what their religious leaders tell them.

‘Religious leaders operate based on what is sensational too, so if they feel they get an uproar from bashing gay people each Sunday, they will continue to do just that.’

Intolerance and ignorance mean many do not practice safe sex.

The 2014 Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act makes marriage between persons of the same sex illegal. However, it has a larger scope, Human Rights Watch argues. It also outlaws cohabitation between same-sex sexual partners and bans any same sex PDA. Registering, operating participating in and supporting gay clubs, societies and organisations can be punished by up to 10 to 14 years in prison.

These attitudes have consequences. Intolerance and ignorance mean many do not practice safe sex. Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world, according to the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA). Men who have sex with men are thought to account for 10 per cent of all new HIV infections in the country.

It also leads to a brain drain, as many talented and educated Nigerians leave the country to live in more tolerant societies. As Bisi Alimi said to TRUE Africa:

‘Skillful LGBT people are moving out to contribute to other countries that had nothing to do with their own development. I have been educated in three different institutions in Nigeria. But this country has denied my opportunity to contribute to its development because I am a gay man.’