Title: HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION AND MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS AMONG LESBIAN, GAY AND BISEXUAL PERSONS IN LAGOS AND OGUN STATES
Situation the project seeks to address
I. Illegality of Homosexuality in Nigeria
The Nigerian SSMPA Law 2014criminalizes and prohibits same sex relationships, public display of same sex affection and organizations rendering services to the LGB community.’ The penalties ranges from 10 to14 years’ imprisonment. These laws are a threat as they criminalize any form of homosexual activities. Even consensual sex among adults; such as anal sex between men and men, women and women is charged as sodomy. These laws have been used as an excuse to hunt down and arrest Lesbian, gay and bisexual persons. The police are notorious in arresting people all in the pretext of this law.Hence, LGB persons living in Lagos and Ogun states are constant customer to police and society brutalities.
II. Arrests and Police behavior towards Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual persons
There is a cartel of corrupt police officials who routinely extort and blackmail persons perceive to be Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual. They are often threaten with the threat of arrest and or imprisonment if they do not give bribes. Police routinely visit and stalk various spots or joints famed to have LGB patronage. They wait and after identifying one or two individuals, arrest them under the pretext of homosexuality. Effeminate men and masculine women are also occasionally stopped or harassed by police. Consequently, LGB persons in Lagos and Ogun states went into hiding and are living in constant fear. They cannot openly express their love or affection for one another in public lest they are arrested.
In most court cases involving the LGB population, the only proof, apart from a medical report is the word of one or two witnesses who claimed to have actually saw them in same-sex act. Lagos and some cities in Ogun states, with its cosmopolitan population has a large number of reported cases of such arrests.
III. Cultural norms and Religious Values in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a multi-cultural and multi-religious nation which is ‘culturally-bound’ and very often ‘religious intolerant’ in which most cultures insist that men have wives and children. Homosexuality is seen as evil, wrong and to some, a Western import or concept. As a result,LGB persons ‘blend in’ by marrying in conformity with the societal norms and having children while suppressing their sexual orientation or masking it. Most bow under pressure to marry from their family, friends, relatives and in some particular cases, their religious or spiritual leaders.
It is very hard for an LGB persons to be accepted by most Nigerian societies. As earlier stated, religion and culture do not allow for free expression, public or private, of one’s sexuality. We have numerous Cases of LGB persons being beaten and attacked for – perceived or real –Sexual orientation. Some lesbians are raped and assaulted. We have several cases of forceful eviction, without prior notice, from their homes/houses by landlords or forcefully evicted by neighbours only on the grounds of their perceive sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, Lesbian, Gays and Bisexuals are constantly attacked or portrayed in bad light by most main stream media. Their social lives are affected since they are discriminated against from entering pubs and clubs and other social scenes.
There has not been a better example of societal rejection of homosexuality than when in 2016 Bisi Alimi Foundation’s survey indicates over 80% of Nigerian are strongly opposed to homosexuality.
Blackmail and extortion takes many forms. There are several reports of LGBs receiving text messages, e-mails from blackmailers and extortionists ordering them to pay a certain amount of money lest they are ‘outed.’ In other cases, people dressed as police officers (but who are extortionists in real sense) make ‘arrests’ only to later make it known that they would release the person(s) after they pay some ransom. These people work in cahoots with some corrupt law enforcement officers. Other extortionists have been reported to issue death threats if they (LGBs) do not acquiesce to their demands. Some threaten to expose LGBs to their families, friends, or their colleagues.
V. Lack of Comprehensive Human Rights Education targeting LGB Persons
These constant violations of the Rights of the LGB persons in Lagos and Ogun states thrives in the absence of a comprehensive Human Rights Education targeting the LGB community members. Over 90% of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals are not even aware of their basic and fundamental human rights.
VI. Absence of Mental Health Awareness
Greater number of LGB persons in Lagos and Ogun states whose rights are constantly being violated suffers their ordeals in silence, as there are no visible strong support system. These community lives always on the edge, fear of the unknown characterized their existence, and as such, greater percentage of them are mentally unstable with visible traces of psychological/emotional breakdown, depression, suicidal thoughts amongst others. The situation is further compounded by the absence of a comprehensive mental health information available to the community.