Nigeria: #BringBackOurGirls, but jail our gays?

Protesters demand the rescue of kidnapped Nigerian school girls. (Photo courtesy of BET)
Protesters demand the rescue of kidnapped Nigerian school girls. (Photo courtesy of BET)

Nigerian sociologist Obadare, currently teaching in the United States, argues that Nigerians should advocate for oppressed LGBT people as well as for the school girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok. Excerpts from his commentary in AllAfrica.com:

We want to free the Chibok girls, while keeping our gay compatriots firmly locked in their closets. You don’t have to be a theorist of democracy to know that both issues are connected, and that any society that purports to sacrifice one for the other will ultimately have neither.
As we march for the girls, let us not forget the gays.
Nigerian sociologist Ebenezer Obadare (Photo courtesy of the University of Kansas)
Nigerian sociologist Ebenezer Obadare (Photo courtesy of the University of Kansas)

That’s the conclusion that Prof. Obadare reaches. Earlier in his commentary, he asks:
Why have the same Nigerians who could not lift a finger in defense of homosexuals and lesbians suddenly found their collective voice in protest against the Boko Haram outrage? And while we are it, why have the same people who railed against western intervention in Nigerian/African affairs and pointedly asked ‘those Americans’ to mind their own business become desperate to have American military intelligence support, gay officers and all? …
On the face of it, the anti-gay legislation and the violent abduction of the Chibok girls are apples and oranges, bearing no comparison whatsoever. Part of my aim here is to show that they are actually fundamentally linked, and to argue that our contrasting responses to them speak volumes about the character of the Nigerian public, and the narrow (and often narrow-minded) elite that we have allowed to hijack the mantle of civil society. …
Nigerian President Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, also known as the  "Jail the Gays Law," in early January 2014. (Photo by Ricardo Stuckert via Wikimedia Commons)
Nigerian President Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, also known as the “Jail the Gays Law,” in early January 2014. (Photo by Ricardo Stuckert via Wikimedia Commons)

Confronted with arguably the most important civil rights crisis in the history of our country, the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), to name a few, elected to keep their counsel. Their shameful silence has continued even as ordinary Nigerians continue to be molested for something as natural and inalienable as their sexuality. …
The Same Sex (Marriage) Prohibition Act was … (and remains) a divisive issue, one in which an initial feeling of disgust is regularly allowed to impede critical debate. But that is precisely what should have recommended it to civil society; a matter in which the public has leaned in one direction, but where public enlightenment would have advanced the debate. It is morally ambiguous. And that is the point.
Michelle Obama supports the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
Michelle Obama supports the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

The answer to the questions he raises and his conclusion (again):
When you are the father of two boys, happily married and secure in your heterosexual skin, you are constantly asked why you speak up for those ‘those people’ and why you couldn’t just stay out of it since ‘it’s none of your problem.’
Here is my answer, in brief: If the study of society teaches us anything at all, it is that, in this life, everything is connected. Men who identify as feminists do so because they know that what touches one, touches all. This is something most Nigerians are yet to internalize. We want security, but balk at any serious discussion of justice. We want to free the Chibok girls, while keeping our gay compatriots firmly locked in their closets. You don’t have to be a theorist of democracy to know that both issues are connected, and that any society that purports to sacrifice one for the other will ultimately have neither.
As we march for the girls, let us not forget the gays.
Prof. Ebenezer Obadare has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and teaches in the sociology department at the University of Kansas in the United States.
For his full commentary, visit allAfrica.com:  “Nigeria: Bring Back Our Girls, and Yet, Keep Our Gays in the Closet?”
Dozens of people have reportedly been arrested in response to passage of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (the “Jail the Gays Law”).  The law provides for prison sentences of up to 10 years for belonging to a gay organization, supporting same-sex marriages, and public displays of same-sex affection, and up to 14 years for marrying someone of the same sex.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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