Monday, October 31, 2011

Statement on Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill 2011

Distinguish Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Members of the Press,
 My Fathers and Mothers,
Fellow Nigerians,

I stand before you today to appeal to your conscience not to promote discrimination and hate towards some Nigerian citizens who for the dilemma of their sexuality cannot speak for themselves. My name is Rashidi Williams, the Executive Director of Queer Alliance Nigeria. Queer Alliance works to promote the well-being and advocate for the rights of sexual minorities in Nigeria. I am proud to identify as a gay man of African and Nigerian descent.

At this point in the history of our country, it is important to note that we are going through a period in which the decisive support for the rule of law, principles of freedom, artistic and intellectual expression, association, religious liberty, dignity of the Human Person, freedom from discrimination of all sorts, an open society and the respect, protection and fulfillment of the rights of all Nigerians have become an absolute necessity.
According to the World Health Organization; sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. Sexuality is also influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, cultural, ethical, legal, political, historical and religious and spiritual factor. It therefore suffices to say that homosexuality is inherent in a particular percentage of the citizenry of our country.

Sexuality is a core component of what makes us human beings. Same Sex attraction as we know is not a matter of choice. No one will willing choose to belong to a marginalized group within any particular society. It is already a trial to survive the hardship of our nations let alone the discrimination we face as sexual minorities. We believe that our sexuality is God-given and that it should not be a basis for discrimination against us.

Nigeria’s constitution guarantees every citizen their fundamental human rights. The Chapter IV of the constitution gives a list of these rights. Notable is the Right to the Dignity of the Human Person, The Right to Freedom from Discrimination and The Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association. Our signatory to international covenants and treaties (notably Universal Declaration on Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women etc.), recognizes the fact that we know and acknowledge that sexual orientation and gender identity is and should be a protected clause in the context of human rights. It is also means that as people and a country, there is sexual diversity amongst us.

The Right to Freedom from Discrimination has been interpreted internationally to include freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. While the constitution endorse the Right to Freedom from Discrimination, discriminatory and repressive laws found in the Penal And Criminal Codes of the nation gives a breeding ground for the perpetration of hate crimes and violations of human rights on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in the country. This bill which is coming on the heels of penalizing legislation will further make life difficult for sexual minorities.

Distinguish Senators, in Nigeria violence against sexual minorities are frequent and occur on a daily basis, mostly under-reported. People with same sex orientation are being attacked by members of the society, using the discriminatory laws that exist in our statue books and religious texts to fuel their acts. These people go unpunished for these dastardly acts. This bill will escalate the tension that we are already experiencing as a result of our sexuality. Discriminatory laws found in the penal and Criminal Codes also prevent sexual minorities from seeking redress because state actors, especially law enforcement agencies use these laws to further abuse and violate their human rights. The killing of Innua Yakubu, a student of the Government College, Jigawa in 2002.  Innua Yakubu was tagged gay by his classmates. This is a vivid example of the daily horrific experiences that sexual minorities in Nigeria go through. 

May we also call the attention of the distinguished Senate of our country know that there is no place or evidence in Nigeria today that supports or affirms that persons with same sex orientations are getting married.  We believe that what this bill seeks to penalize is non-existence and therefore means that the bill to prohibit same sex marriage is null and void.

Our beloved country has committed herself to numerous Human Right treaties and convention under international laws of the United Nations and Human Rights Commission which expands on the understanding of sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity. We need these signatories to show in the protection of the lives of citizens of this great country that identify as same sex oriented persons. As citizens of Nigeria, we have contributed to the development of the nation, albeit in the closet of our humanity because of the laws present in the statues books of Nigeria.  We cannot stand or sit by any longer and watch our lives and dreams shattered all because of our sexual orientation and gender identity; a dilemma that we cannot overcome.

The last three word of the first verse of the National Anthem reads ‘Freedom, Peace and Unity’ for all its citizens. The proposed bill is a tear off this part of Nigeria that guarantees freedom to all its citizens as enshrined in the1999 Constitution. Our quest for development as a nation, meet the challenges of the Millennium Development Goals and attain vision 202020 in the light of the current transformation agenda of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration cannot be realized if we continue to have discriminatory and repressive laws in the statues books of Nigeria or legislate to make abuse and violation on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity possible. It takes away our rights as sexual minorities to contribute to the development of our country. Freedom enshrined in the respect for the rights of every Nigerian is essential to the development and growth that we all yearn for as a country. Furthermore, sexuality, sexual health and sexual rights are related to almost all the Millennium Development Goals of which we are still struggling to achieve as a country. This bill makes that largely impossible.

Initiatives to promote rights and an open society where everyone can sit at the table irrespective of their status, inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity and proffer solutions to the myriads of problems facing the country should be keen on the minds of everyone, now that Nigeria seeks to be among the 20 best economies of the world in the nearest future.  In this light, this bill is totally unnecessary and we as citizens of Nigeria urge the Senate and other bodies, to open up possibilities of discussing human sexuality in an open atmosphere rather than debating to further criminalize people with this orientation where it is already illegal and criminal. 

In conclusion, we also as citizens of Nigeria pledge to our dearly beloved nation that we shall continue to be faithful, loyal and honest regardless of the seasons, peace or tribulations, we shall serve Nigeria with all our strength and uphold the dignity and honour for all rightful citizens, Help us God. Thanks for your attention and we are indeed better off as a country without this bill.

Queer Alliance in the light of the proposed bill therefore urges the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria:

·         Recognize the importance of sexuality and sexual rights in the lives of all Nigerians and the role of sexuality in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

·         Take measures to protect the rights of every Nigeria irrespective of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

·         Repeal, amend or review laws relating to sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity that are discriminatory and repressive in the statues books of Nigeria

·         Legislate to protect from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

University of Virginia Study Shows Children Adopted By Lesbians And Gays Are Well Adjusted

07/26/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
The results of a new University of Virginia study show that there should not be any barriers placed upon same-sex couples with regards to adopting children. In a study that sampled some 106 adoptive children living across the United States, the study found that youngsters were developing well without regards to whether they lived with lesbian, gay or heterosexual couples. This study only reinforces a recent study which showed that children conceived via artificial insemination by lesbian couples were as well adjusted, or slightly more so, than the children of heterosexual couples. This U.Va study showed that how adopted children did was not related to the sexual orientation of their adoptive parents.

U.Va. Psychology professor Charlotte J. Patterson said
“We found that children adopted by lesbian and gay couples are thriving. Our results provide no justification for denying lesbian or gay prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to adopt children. With thousands of children in need of permanent homes in the United States alone, our findings suggest that ourtreach to lesbian and gay prospective adoptive parents might benefit children who are in need.”
The research assessed adjustment and development among preschool-aged children. It focused on children adopted at birth by lesbian, gay or heterosexual couples, and used a standardized assessment prodecure. What the researchers found is that parents and teachers agreed that the children were developing in a typical manner. The researchers also found that measures of the children’s adjustment, and the parents parental practices and stress levels were not associated with the parents’ sexual orientation. How well children adjusted was associated with how warmly the parents oriented to them.
Adoption rights for lesbian and gay parents has been a controversial topic, and denial of those rights has been pushed by people who often believe that children should have a mother and a father despite scientific evidence that this is not necessarily the reality. In fact, these measures are usually pushed by people who want to return to the days when homosexuality was illegal and punishable by prison. Some want to go further, as evidenced by one Texas lawyer who posited that prison was a hot bed of homosexual activity and, thus, it would be wrong to imprison gays. It would be better to execute them, he seemed to say.
Some states have tried to pass bans on unmarried couples adopting children, but those have been overturned in the courts. A number of states allow for same-sex co-adoptions.
Patterson is a faculty member at U.Va. and research scientist at the Fenway Institute’s Center for Population research in LGBT Health in Boston. The study was also authored by Rachel H. Farr, a U.Va. doctoral candidate and Stephenn L. Forssell, a George Washington University faculty member in psychology. Its funding came from the Williams Instituted at the UCLA School of Law.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill 2011: Homosexuals to Nigeria at 51

In spite of the fact that the constitution of Nigeria guarantees each citizens its basic human rights, the Nigerian Senate just last week again re-introduced the Same Sex Marriage Bill which if passed into law would criminalize person with same sex orientation and other activities connected with them. Is this a Greek gift to the gay at community at independence by the Nigeria Senate as we begin the second leg of journey as a nation into a century? It occurs to us as homosexuals that as a nation, the second phase of our nationhood is to begin by criminalizing our own citizens and denying their basic fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

As citizens of this great country and as sexual minorities, we strongly condemn the re-introduction of Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill and urge the Senate to shelve the bill.  It is a totally unnecessary
Bill that will further exacerbate the hardships of homosexual Nigerians. This bill is a waste of parliamentary time and a disgrace to our democratic society.

The Criminal Code of Nigeria, Section 214 and 217 already criminalize people with same sex orientation. Why then criminalize something that is already criminal by the statue books of the country?
Nigeria remains signatories to various International Covenants and Treaties that protect from discrimination even on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Notable among this is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Our signatories to these covenants and treaties mean and suggest that we do know that persons with same sex orientation exist in the country. The mere fact that we still hold on to colonial laws that discriminate and criminalize persons with these orientations means that the second phase of our existence as a nation should be a time in which we make the country non-discriminatory by repealing discriminatory and repressive laws.
We as homosexuals’ citizens of Nigeria are amazed at the ignorance of the Senate in wanting to pass a law on Same Sex Marriage when there is no tolerance, acceptance and freedom for persons with a same sex orientation. There is no place in Nigeria with evidence of same sex cohabitation. This therefore makes this bill totally unnecessary and waste of tax payers’ money in organizing public hearing and call for memorandums. This is total confusion.
The current laws in the criminal code of Nigeria have made it largely possible for all sorts of violence to be committed on homosexuals in the name of purging Nigeria of homosexuality. Just recently in Abia State University in South Eastern Nigeria, a gang of 5 men raped a female student and these people have not been brought to justice. Edge in 2010 reported the rape of lesbians in Port Harcourt by a gang, saying they were curing the ladies of their homosexuality. Where is the evidence that rape cures one of his /her homosexuality? Edge also reports in 2010, the killing of a man in a suburb in Lagos because of his homosexuality with Lagosians and the perpetrators of this heinous crime claiming they were curing Lagos of homosexuals. Where is the evidence that outright killing of homosexuals would make Lagos and Nigeria an overtly heterosexual society?
In the spate of the recent violence and insecurity that our nation is engulf now is time the Nigerian Parliament should rise and enact laws criminalizing and prosecuting violence accordingly and not criminalizing the ordinary Nigerian citizens who has a dilemma he or she cannot overcome; the dilemma of human sexuality.
As a country we must come to the realization that a particular percentage of our population is sexual minorities and  certainly this is not the time to criminalize people with these orientations, but a time to begin working with these people, understanding their sexuality and why they are who they are. Criminalizing persons with same sex orientation will not curb our society of homosexuals neither will it make Nigeria overtly a heterosexual community. It rather will slow back the development and growth we all yearn for as a nation. As a country that is serious about raising its tainted reputation abroad, this is the time to begin the re-branding; it should start with the respect of human rights, tolerance and acceptance of the diversity found in the human race.
The consequences of criminalizing people with same sex orientation and matters connected with them have serious consequences on the growth and development of the country. It will be felt in all areas of the country’s life, notably in health, judicial matters and tourism. Criminalizing people with a same sex orientation would further contribute to the spread of HIV and make it possible for other forms of violence and vices to be perpetrated against sexual minorities as a result of how they express their sexualities. Bills such as this if passed into law give room for unnecessary violence and evil in the society.
Davis Mac-Iyalla, the former Director of Changing Attitudes Nigeria reiterates and we as homosexuals citizens of Nigeria supports this: the only independence worth celebrating as  country is the Freedom to Love and Equality for all Nigerians Anything short of this is oppression.  The Nigeria government should focus on the more pressing issues affecting the country and stop using homosexuals as their escape goat for their failures. We should not be celebrating independence while trying to adopt a law that was given to us by our colonial master and which they (colonial masters) have long time rejected. As homosexuals’ citizens of Nigeria, we are not asking for a homosexual Nigeria, what we are asking for is a non discriminatory Nigeria society in which everyone can express their sexuality without a fear of societal demand and violence. As we celebrate the 51st anniversary of our existence as a nation, we call on all well meaning Nigerians, home and abroad to reject the bill and help in protecting the lives of the very vulnerable in the society.
Long Live Nigeria

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scientists find way to "disarm" AIDS virus

By Kate Kelland
LONDON | Mon Sep 19, 2011 5:08pm EDT
(Reuters) - Scientists have found a way to prevent HIV from damaging the immune system and say their discovery may offer a new approach to developing a vaccine against AIDS.
Researchers from the United States and Europe working in laboratories on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) found it is unable to damage the immune system if cholesterol is removed from the virus's membrane.
"It's like an army that has lost its weapons but still has flags, so another army can recognize it and attack it," said Adriano Boasso of Imperial College London, who led the study.
The team now plans to investigate how to use this way of inactivating the virus and possibly develop it into a vaccine.
Usually when a person becomes infected with HIV, the body's innate immune response puts up an immediate defense. But some researchers believe HIV causes the innate immune system to overreact. This weakens the immune system's next line of defense, known as the adaptive immune response.
For this study -- published on Monday in the journal Blood -- Boasso's team removed cholesterol from the membrane around the virus and found that this stopped HIV from triggering the innate immune response. This in turn led to a stronger adaptive response, orchestrated by a type of immune cells called T cells.
AIDS kills around 1.8 million people a year worldwide. An estimated 2.6 million people caught HIV in 2009, and 33.3 million people are living with the virus.
Major producers of current HIV drugs include Gilead Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.
Scientists from companies, non-profits and governments around the world have been trying for many years to make a vaccine against HIV but have so far had only limited success.
A 2009 study in Thailand involving 16,000 volunteers showed for the first time that a vaccine could prevent HIV infection in a small number of people, but since the efficacy was only around 30 percent researchers were forced back to the drawing board.
An American team working on an experimental HIV vaccine said in May that it helped monkeys with a form of the AIDS virus control the infection for more than a year, suggesting it may lead to a vaccine for people.
HIV is spread in many ways -- during sex, on needles shared by drug users, in breast milk and in blood -- so there is no single easy way to prevent infection. The virus also mutates quickly and can hide from the immune system, and attacks the very cells sent to battle it.
"HIV is very sneaky," Boasso said in a statement. "It evades the host's defenses by triggering overblown responses that damage the immune system. It's like revving your car in first gear for too long -- eventually the engine blows out.
He said this may be why developing a vaccine has proven so tricky. "Most vaccines prime the adaptive response to recognize the invader, but it's hard for this to work if the virus triggers other mechanisms that weaken the adaptive response."
HIV takes its membrane from the cell that it infects, the researchers explained in their study. This membrane contains cholesterol, which helps keep it fluid and enables it to interact with particular types of cell.
Normally, a subset of immune cells called plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) recognize HIV quickly and react by producing signaling molecules called interferons. These signals activate various processes which are initially helpful, but which damage the immune system if switched on for too long.
Working with scientists Johns Hopkins University, the University of Milan and Innsbruck University, Boasso's team found that if cholesterol is removed from HIV's envelope, it can no longer activate pDCs. As a result, T cells, which orchestrate the adaptive response, can fight the virus more effectively.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Friday August 26, 2011 saw the Coalition of African Lesbians, CAL, launch its LGBT Human Rights Defenders, HRD project in Lagos, Nigeria.
Participants in the HRD workshop, which was held in collaboration with The Initiative for Equal Rights, TIER, a Nigerian-based LGBT human rights organization, attended the launch alongside some members of the Lagos LGBT community.

“The human rights defenders project was inspired by the violence faced by LGBT HRDs especially in countries where there are laws prohibiting same-sex relationship and the advocacy of their rights” said Victor Mukasa, the CAL HRD Project coordinator.

“Instances of this violence include the murder of David Kato of Uganda and FannyAnn Viola Eddy of Sierra Leone to mention a few,” Mukasa said.

With funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA, CAL has already sets up a safe house for LGBT human rights defenders in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“The safe home is not only open to activists in times of crises but also open when they are crashing mentally. We encourage the mental stability of activists and promote their psycho-social welfare by also admitting them into the safe home at CAL’s expense,” said Mukasa.

The human rights defenders project has now been launched in West Africa and activity will spread soon to the Eastern and Southern Africa regions.


LGBTI activists from English-speaking West Africa attending a Human Rights Defenders workshop in Lagos organized by the Coalition of African Lesbians

Rashidi Williams: Queer Alliance Nigeria
We have trained media personnel in reporting issues of sexual diversity and human rights and involved more LGBTI persons in the movement for the rights of LGBTI in Nigeria. Recently, 40 media professionals were trained by INCRESE (the International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights) on reporting issues of sexual diversity and human rights.
This activity will build and sustain alliances to have more positive reports on sexual diversity. Now, we have more LGBTI individuals involved in the movement for the rights of LGBTI in Nigeria.
We have implemented sexual health, sexual diversity, human rights and HIV projects across the country. Consequently, we have improved access to information and HIV service provision to reach more LGBTI individuals. The LGBTI community displayed a courageous attitude at the National Assembly.
Courtesy of TIER, Queer Alliance Nigeria as a young movement has advocated for the rights of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM). Also, in 2010 TIER published a book ‘Unspoken Rights’ which is applicable to the Nigerian context.
In addition, MSM have been identified as a high-risk group and included in the national strategic plan of the National Agency for the Control of Aids.
Opportunities abound for the continued human rights advocacy for LGBT people in Nigeria. The current sexual diversity and human rights project of INCRESE remains a focal point of entry to begin dialogue with both the state and non-state actor in the field of human rights. Other opportunities include research development to identify areas for scaling up services for the LGBT community. Advocacy efforts will lead to expansion of programming targeting LGBT community.
Human rights defence in Nigeria is challenging and discouraging. Irrespective of the country’s being a signatory to regional and international human rights instruments, Nigeria separates human rights into justiciable and non-justiciable (whether or not an issue is liable to be brought before a court for trial). In particular, subsidiary legislation like the penal and criminal codes hinder human rights.
For instance, Section 214 of the Criminal Code Act provides offences against morality as unnatural offences. The application of the penal code has affected program implementation in the Northern part of the country, thus, limiting the LGBT community with limited access to services.
According to a survey carried out by INCRESE between 2007 and 2008, the study found Northern Nigeria has more homosexuals and is most hostile to them. The situation has made it difficult for organization working on issues of sexual minorities to work in the North.
Other challenges such as assault, threats, homophobic attacks, and blackmail are also issues HRDs face in Nigeria. Discourse about gender expressions, identities and sexual orientation are still built on myths and assumptions. Death threats, verbal and physical assaults, misquote and misinterpretation from the media and arrest are some of the issues the LGBT communities face. The work of human rights defenders in Nigeria is threatened as a result of the work they do.

The Gambia
Akeem Yayah, LGBT group
With the coordination from the National Aids Secretariat, the group conducted a Behavioural Sentinel Survey, in which 65 MSM around the country were identified. Support from the Global Fund and the President of the National Aids Supporting Organization strengthened us to form an organization.
In addition to an earlier survey implemented, we carried out a Bio-Behavioural study and have captured 150 MSM.
Despite our achievements, we have faced numerous challenges which include: the Criminalization Act, political statements made by the president and the unwillingness of other stakeholders to accept the LGBT community.
Also, there exists a low knowledge and understanding of LGBT amongst the community, inclusion of lesbians in the group has been difficult, there has been unfriendly behaviour displayed by group members, and a nationalistic concept of the group with regards to leadership. This has resulted in difficulty in getting participants to take part in the survey. Also, unethical principles have evolved for example, a colleague’s personal email was read and the person was fired.
The survey with the National Aids Secretariat will help to identify areas for future programming for MSM in the Gambia thereby creating opportunities for future activities and programs. In moving forward, possible strategies include establishing a formal MSM organization, integrated MSM/HIV and sexual health program targeting MSM, and organizing workshop and seminars on HIV/Aids, STIs and other capacity building programs for the group. In addition, conducting on-going sensitization for LGBT, organizing a study tour in Senegal to learn about best practices and establishing care and support for HIV positive members. 

Sierra Leone
Hudson Tucker, Dignity Association
LGBTI issues exist in the country because of the secrecy surrounding homosexual conduct, the unwillingness of victims to report abuse and the tendency for communities to discriminate against LGBTI individuals, rather than to enforce legal codes.
There is very little written evidence to support the claims of abuse in Sierra Leone. Being visible and keeping the office open has been a key achievement. Recognition of the issues of homosexuality from reports has led to sensitization of individuals.
LGBTI issues have been brought up at different meetings. Dialogues have been held with the police and other stakeholders on the need for high-risk populations to identify strategies to address these anti-gay laws. A positive relationship with the police has been initiated and as a result, even though the anti-gay laws still exist, they have not being used for quite some time now.
However, these laws can be used at any time thereby threatening the existence and functionality of the LGBTI movement in Sierra Leone. This is a barrier in the progress of LGBTI activism in Sierra Leone.
There have been multiple threats against activists and HRDs. LGBTI groups have been refused registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission. The government of Sierra Leone has no acts of parliament protecting the rights of LGBT persons in the country. Religion, culture and tradition are very intolerant to any form of sexual behaviour outside the “norm.” 

Nahnkamy N. Reeves, Action Aid Liberia (AAL)
For the past five years, the general human rights situation has been a consolidation of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and human rights activists. Focus has been on sexual violence, the rights of women, HIV/Aids, the rule of law and women rights. The country does not have a law that criminalizes LGBT.
However, the social mainstream is charged with religious intensity, which in a way stigmatizes or raises moral questions around the rights of people to exercise their right to freedom of choice. As a result, LGBTI issues are on the back burner of human rights activism.
Sexual minorities have not asserted their rights in a manner that the informal society is aware of their presence and needs. The perceptions of LGBT have not provided key actors with the knowledge they need to regard LGBT as a human rights issue.
Also, most Liberians regard being gay or lesbian not as a sexual orientation, but as a means of sexual exploitation. Research has shown that gays and lesbians are reluctant to come to the forefront of the rights movement and are either closeted or underground. There is also fear of stigma and discrimination and a lack of solidarity by human rights activists, CSOs to advocate for the rights of LGBT. People are not aware that homosexuals exist and some people perceive the issue from a religious standpoint.
We lack an official voice for the LGBT community by the LGBT people. Intolerant and resistant social mainstream is exacerbated by a high subscription to religious orientation. Our opportunities include the fact that the Liberian constitution does not have negative and punitive laws to criminalize LGBT. The UNDP has asked AAL to come up with a country context document around LGBT. The situation in Liberia can be described as being difficult.

Anita Confidence Cobbinah, CEPEHRG
We have created a Coalition Against Homophobia in Ghana (CAHG). Like many of the British ex-colonies under the criminal code “unnatural carnal knowledge” is illegal in Ghana. Unnatural carnal knowledge is not clearly defined, however, it is understood that this includes male-male sex acts especially sodomy or buggery.
Furthermore, under the constitution, sexual rights are not specifically protected. In this context, attacks and death threats are typical, especially against homosexual males. The media has written sensational articles that are flawed with inaccuracies on the influence, size, nature and desires of homosexual individuals. Black mail, violence, hate crimes, sensationalist and homophobic articles on homosexuality occur virtually every day. People have refused to attend outreach programs for fear of being tagged a homosexual.
In the past, staff have been subjected to assaults on their way to the office or while doing fieldwork and outreach programs. On one occasion, a car intentionally hit a member of staff and another was harassed by a group of men while walking on the road. These incidents happened because of their sexual orientation.
There have been several articles by politicians and government labelling homosexuals as irreligious and immoral. Also, there has been several state sponsored anti gay campaign. The media has said that homosexuals are recruiting young boys so people need to protect their young ones.
A woman was disqualified from being on the board of the West African Lawyers Association because she said the rights of homosexuals should be respected. In order to update our security measures to meet the existing threats, we have compiled a list of measures and materials we currently use to protect ourselves. We have also made a list of items and measures needed to protect ourselves.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Study reveals MSM as marginalised group in HIV treatment and prevention

A recent global study has disclosed that MSM (men who have sex with men) are a marginalized group of people with little access to basic HIV prevention tools.
According to the survey of over 5,000 men, less than half of MSM around the world have easy access to lifesaving HIV prevention and treatment services.

The survey carried out by Global Forum on MSM and HIV is titled, Access to HIV Prevention Strategies and Attitudes about Emerging Strategies.

The survey is the first of its kind to examine levels of access and knowledge regarding HIV services – including emerging prevention interventions like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – among MSM across all major world regions.

The study also showed that 36 per cent had access to HIV treatment while 27 per cent said it was available but hard to access, or that treatment was not available, or that they have never heard of HIV treatment.
According to the survey only 44 per cent had access to free condoms and 29 per cent could obtain lubricant.
The report further indicated that Africa showed the highest levels of stigma and external homophobia while both Africa and Asia-Pacific reported the highest levels of internalized homophobia.

The report quoted George Ayala, Executive Officer of the MSMGF saying, “The results of this study lay bare the enormous role that homophobia plays in undermining the global response to HIV. Even the most effective prevention, care and treatment tools are useless if discrimination prevents gay men from accessing healthcare services in the first place. More than anything, this data is a call to action.”

Pato Hebert, Senior Education Associate at the MSMGF was quoted saying, “Across the board, the trend is alarming – men who have sex with men are not able to access the services they need. But just below the surface, we find that those barriers are enormously complex, varying according to age, region, and other factors. We will need smart, locally-tailored responses to overcome these challenges.”
The report sought to answer whether globally MSM are being equipped to protect themselves and their communities and the study showed that the answer appears to be an unequivocal, no.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Statement on the International Day agaianst Homophobia and Transphobia 2011

Queer Alliance Nigeria

Statement on the International Day against Homophobia 2011

Fellow Countrymen,

Around the world today, the campaign against injustice on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is being marked. It may not be a popular day as compared with other dates on the calendar of the United Nations or national activities, but it also a day in which the United Nations stand in solidarity with all sexual minorities/organizations and progressive human rights group in calling for a climate of tolerance towards everyone irrespective of their perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity. As Nigerian citizens, we are also joining our voices in calling for this tolerance and to remind our government, religious bodies, media, schools and the general public that we may be run out of our churches, mosques, homes, jobs and neighborhood, but we cannot be run out of this nation because our contribution to national development is also needed. Most especially also, that Nigeria remains our country and this is the country we want to live in.

Permit me to on behalf of the sexual minorities’ communities in Nigeria congratulate the President-elect, President Goodluck Jonathan on his victory at the just concluded polls. Our message also goes out to all those who contested the elections but lost. It is not a loss per se but a step further in the development of our dear country. Barely two weeks from now, a new administration would be sworn-in to lead the quest for the development of the country for the next four years. Allegiance would be sworn by all those who won their election bid with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Whilst during the electioneering; power, job creation, improved education, fight against corruption amongst other pertinent issues surfaced as issues to be address in the next dispensation, one notable election promise was the 35% that was promised to the women on the Goodluck/Sambo ticket. The sexual minorities’ communities welcome this initiative which will believe will propel gender equity and development, linked to the rights of the Nigerian women which inevitable includes lesbian and bisexual women.

At this point in the history of our country, it is important to note that we are going through a period in which the decisive support for the rule of law, principles of freedom of speech, artistic and intellectual expression, association, religious liberty, dignity of the Human Person, freedom from discrimination, an open society and the respect/recognition of the rights of all Nigerians have become an absolute necessity. These are also revolutionary times all over the world. The world is beginning to revolt against old systems of exploitation and oppression – whatever the form of oppression be it civil, political, religious - paving way for a world in which justice and equality are fundamental issues. But we must not also forget that the world is revolting against oppression on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Nigeria should not remain indifferent; it must lead the way in Africa.

Nigeria’s constitution guarantees every citizen their fundamental human rights. The Chapter IV of the constitution gives a list these rights. Notable is the Right to the Dignity of the Human Person, The Right to Freedom from Discrimination and The Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association. Our ratification to international covenants and laws (notably Universal Declaration on Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women etc.), recognizes the fact that we know and acknowledge that sexual orientation and gender identity is and should be a protected clause in the context of human rights.

The Right to Freedom from Discrimination has been interpreted internationally to also from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. While the constitution endorse the Right to Freedom from Discrimination, discriminatory and repressive laws found in the Penal And Criminal Codes of the nation gives a breeding ground for the perpetration of hate crimes and violations of human rights on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in the country.

In Nigeria violence against sexual minorities are frequent and occur on a daily basis, mostly under-reported. People with same sex orientation are being attacked by members of the society, using these discriminatory laws and religious texts to fuel their acts. These people go unpunished for these dastardly acts. Discriminatory laws found in the penal and Criminal Codes also prevent sexual minorities from seeking redress because state actors, especially law enforcement agencies use these laws to further abuse and violate their human rights. Edge, a Boston based news site for the gay community reports that a man in Lagos was attacked and killed by a gang claiming “they were ‘cleansing’ Lagos of homosexuals” (Edge 17 April 2008). So also the death of Innua Yakubu, a student of the Government College, Jigawa in 2002 was premised on the basis of him being gay by his classmates.

In September 2008, members of the House of Rainbow, Metropolitan Community Church, a gay-friendly church based in Lagos were harassed by the public and police. This harassment began when national dailies published personal information about church members and the Pastor. The safety of the Pastor, Rev. Rowland Jide Macaulay was at risk, making him flee the country in which he grew up. These examples violate the Right to the Dignity of the Human Person, The Right to Freedom from Discrimination and The Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association, which are guaranteed in the constitution. On the 12th of April 2010, my friend and I were attacked as we walked down the neighbourhood in the evening. Since this incident I have been careful of the places I go when evening falls within my own community. Countless examples abound in the country on violence and hate crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity with impunity.

The provisions in the Penal and Criminal Code allows for the rampant abuse of the rights of sexual minorities. It has been the breeding ground for all kinds of assault, abuse and violence that sexual minorities face. From discrimination by state actors and non-state actors to family and societal rejection, sexual minorities will remains victims of homophobia and other forms of abuses, if the laws remain unchanged and nothing is done when peoples’ rights are violated on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Nigeria’s signatory to international treaties and covenants that protect from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity must reflect in the nation’s application of the rule of law and the principles of freedom. Fundamental human rights that are accorded to everyone in the constitution must not be in conflict with other laws of the land which fuels discrimination and violence. The constitution remains the guiding document for us all in Nigeria, and its contents under Chapter IV must be respected and made to take full force, such that violation of human rights on whatever grounds becomes a criminal offence. Hence, these laws need be reviewed, repealed or amended. This is the first step in ridding our society of intolerance and hatred based on perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sexuality is not a dark part of man’s life that must be shrouded in secrecy. But is a rare gift of life from the creator that must be expressed lovingly. No one should suffer abuse and violence based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The law should aid in helping members of the society respect one another’s sexuality.

As a country we do not need a religiously ordered society but a spiritually ordered mind that will propel us to love our neighbors as ourselves irrespective of our civil, political, religious and sexual differences. This in turn will transpire out into the socially ordered Nigerian society that we all yearn for. We must re-orientate ourselves from a ‘thing-centered’ perspective to ‘person-oriented’ perspective. Archbishop Desmond Tutu captures it all: Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family. Isn't it amazing that we are all made in God's image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And do any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love? My rights affects and is linked with your rights too.

Our own, Noble Laureate, Wole Soyinka, who with other distinguished African writer have condemned the wave of hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity sweeping across Africa: We wish to state emphatically that homosexuality is neither a sin nor a social or cultural construct. It is a biological given. Homosexuals are human beings like everybody else. Scientific research has been helpful in clearing the fog of ignorance entrenched by some religious texts in regards to homosexuality. Our opinions of same sex oriented persons must change for the better just as our opinion of slavery has changed even though it was endorsed by those same religious texts. All violence against gays and people deemed to be gay in Africa must cease forthwith.

Today we call on every citizen to abide by the principle of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’f and not love your neighbour as yourself unless he/she is gay. As the most populous nation in Africa and in our self-acclamation as the giant of Africa, we should lead the way in the respect for the rule of law and principles of freedom. As a country wanting to be among the 20 most developed nation by the year 2020, we cannot afford not to protect the rights of everyone. The protection of these rights would result in an enabling environment for the development of the individual and the nation holistically. Our nation should be known as a land in which the diversity of the human family is appreciated, respected and recognized.

We also call on African governments to learn from the South African example by expunging from their laws all provisions that criminalize homosexuality or treat persons with these orientation as unworthy of the same rights and entitlements as other citizens. African states must protect the rights of their citizens to freedom and dignity. People must not be denied these rights on the basis on who they attracted to.

Today we call on all African governments, especially governments of sub-Saharan African countries to:

• Decriminalize homosexuality and repeal all forms of discriminatory laws that impede the growth of every individual

• Legislate to criminalize violence and human rights abuse on the basis of perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity

• Uphold the fundamental human rights of their citizens, most especially sexual minorities

Let us appreciate the diversity that is present in our different societies and countries, of which sexual diversity is part. We are all unique and different. It is this uniqueness and difference that completes our humanity. Let us display the spirit of humanity towards each other.

As we use today to call and clamor for the respect and recognition of sexual minorities’ and a climate of tolerances, we urge our governments, legislators and policy makers to look back, reflect and repeal laws that deny citizens their fundamental rights and make them objects of violence and abuse in their respective communities. We look forward to the day that our rights as sexual minorities shall be upheld and protected constitutionally in Nigeria and across the sub-region region.

God Bless Nigeria and Long Live Africa.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


The first ever African Same Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity (ASSGD) conference came to an end on Wednesday, 16 February with a media conference aimed at tabling major outcomes of the conference.Touching on various topics, the conference intended to “identify and celebrate indigenous and evolving male and female same-sex sexual practices, identities and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, including expressions of gender diversity, and to promote their social acceptance and their physical and social well-being.”
This conference, a first of its kind saw over 80 gay rights activists, human rights defenders and scholars from 20 African countries descending to Pretoria’s Faircity Roodevallei Conference and Meeting hotel from 13-16 February.
“The conference was quite diverse in that it brought together academics and activists, a first press conference of its kind that brings a whole range of people together in a very focused way to look at what we know also giving us knowledge about the continent on issues relating to male and female same sex sexual practices in Sub-Saharan Africa” Professor Vasu Reddy of Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) said.
“It was not just a conference where people presented papers on ideas and research but it was also a conference that showed a visual dimension through portraits of transgender activists largely and photographs of experiences from Malawi”, He added.
Linda Bouman, Director of Outright Namibia said, “what I think was significant about this space, was that it brought about research that has been done over the continent that has never been known by people and those strategies that have been shared in terms of how the interventions around the research findings have gone around and how other countries can learn from those lessons and implement in their countries.”
The conference further aimed to “explore how social and structural factors affect the well-being and health of persons engaging in same-sex sexual practices and identify ways of reducing vulnerability.”
This is why on the second day of the conference participants heard stories about blackmail and extortion of LGBTI persons from Ghana, Malawi and Nigeria, followed by an educational discussion about blackmail.
It was also revealed that activists still face harassment death due to criminalization of same sex practices making it difficult for LGBTI people to access services.
It was further revealed that several initiatives have been implemented that reach out to MSM, but these initiatives are not enough hence it was agreed that educating and training health care workers to deliver unbiased services is needed.
“One of the speakers expected to be here was David Kato. He was on the list as a guest speaker and we kept his name on the programme, we had a very moving moment of silence when his presentation was due to take place and in the evening we had a tribute for him”, said Theo Sandfort of Columbia University.
Participating Organisations included African Men for Sexual Health and Rights, Behind the Mask, Human Science Research Council amongst others.