The vicious vigour with which Nigeria is witch-hunting gays is simply an attempt by a government to control its people through fear, says Rob Buchanan.
Not content with inciting the public to inform on their own families and attack gay people in the streets, the Nigerian authorities are now resorting to the entrapment and torture of queers. They’re combining these measures with the time-tested technique of forcing prisoners to inform on other gay men (both real and imagined ) to perpetuate the cycle of arrests.
The so-called ‘Jail the Gays’ law received the approval of Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan (pictured above) on Monday of this week and the floodgates on state-sanctioned homophobia have already opened. Dozens of gay men have been arrested, along with presumably many straight men, denounced under the duress of torture.
The ‘Jail the Gays’ law seeks to fracture all areas of gay society in Nigeria by banning any gay organisations or facilities, including desperately needed health resources in the fight against Aids on a continent wracked by the disease. It seeks to cripple all aspects of gay identity. Belonging to any gay organisation is punishable up to ten years in jail under the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.
There has always been persecution of gays in Nigeria but the approval of this new law as caused the witchhunt to be renewed with vigour. A list of 168 ‘gay’ men, gained through torture, is leading to mass arrests in Bauchi state in Northern Nigeria, and this is only the beginning.
It is important to consider that in nine of Nigeria’s states there is a two-tier legal system, using both secular law and Sharia law, with the country’s 175 million citizens roughly divided into 50/50 Christian and Muslim. Chairman Mustapha Baba Ilela of Bauchi state Sharia Commission boasted about how they were using the relatives and friends of gay people to “fish them out” and that they were “on the hunt for others”.
Take a moment to consider living in a society where your own family may be turned against you and forced to inform on your ‘illegal’ existence. Consider living in a constant state of fear that you might be named under torture, even if you are not gay, because some poor soul is desperately clutching at straws to end his or her agony. Or, even more sinister, imagine corrupt police officials seeking to take your property or jealous of your political position, naming you as gay as a pretext for arrest and imprisonment.
With frequent rebellions, mass illiteracy, grinding poverty and even starvation among the people in a nation teetering on civil war, are we really to believe that homosexuals living their lives, loving their partners, going to schools and clubs is the primary threat to Nigerian society? The real result that the Nigerian authorities want from the ‘Jail the Gays’ law is an atmosphere of dread and paranoia, so they can gain complete control. They want the Nigerian people to be constantly looking over their shoulders, uncertain if a stray thought or word will have them disappeared.
The creation of a Gay Boogieman is also a convenient whipping boy, which the government can unite the restless masses behind, safely deflecting any thought of revolution. The Nigerian ‘Jail the Gays’ Pink Scare is simply another version of the McCarthy-era mass manipulation of fear to make a population absolutely compliant and united against a straw dog enemy.
Sign All Out’s petition to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan to veto the Jail The Gays Bill here.
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