I was 30 years old when I finally accepted who I was and came out as gay. The catalyst was finding the love of my life - my partner for four years now.
My partner is from Nigeria, and though I previously had a limited understanding of the challenges faced by the LGBT community in Nigeria, it was through him I learnt more and discovered that despite Nigeria being a wonderful and vibrant country, it has some of the most oppressive anti-LGBT laws in the world; Nigeria is one of only 12 countries where homosexuality can be punishable by death due to adopting Sharia Law in the northern states in 1999/2000. In the southern states, the LGBT community are repeatedly targeted following the introduction of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in 2013.
Generations before me risked all to fight for the rights and freedoms that my partner and I currently enjoy now in the UK. With rights comes responsibilities, and we owe it to our LGBT family in the rest of the world to advance the cause of freedom and be a voice for the voiceless, especially as it was European colonialism that brought homophobic attitudes and laws to its colonies in Africa.
I decided to get involved with the Bisi Alimi Foundation (BAF) becoming a Board Member in 2018. BAF was created by the inspirational Nigerian celebrity, Bisi Alimi, after he came out live on TV and was forced to seek asylum in the UK due to his life being threatened ( Bisi’s story ). BAF seeks to advance the social acceptance of the LGBT community in Nigeria by:
- Building a wealth of knowledge and evidence through research to inform and influence policy on LGBT issues in Nigeria.
- Training professionals, including journalists and lawyers, to ensure appropriate media reporting and legal representation from an informed position.
- Conducting social campaigns geared towards challenging and changing the perceptions of LGBT people in Nigeria.
- Engaging with businesses in Nigeria to create an awareness of the impact of homophobia on individuals and businesses and thereby creating a healthy and inclusive workplace.
I’ve had the privilege of visiting Nigeria a couple of times, meeting the staff of the foundation, and getting to understanding the issues faced by the LGBT community, culminating in a brilliant event at the British High Commission in Lagos (pictured). Bisi also organised what can be described at Nigeria’s first PRIDE event last October, despite the risks to everyone involved.
So as we celebrate PRIDE here in the UK, let’s remember that the occasion is not just a chance to reaffirm our identity, but the opportunity to remember those who fought for our rights and to stand in solidarity with those LGBT persons around the world who live in fear. Let’s use PRIDE to send them our love, to tell them they aren’t alone, and to give them hope of a better future.
By Alan De’Ath
Image caption: Diversity for Development event at the British High Commission, Lagos, Nigeria
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