Africa / Commentary

Gay man trapped, beaten in Nigeria, where it’s too common

Stripped by his attackers, nervously awaiting a beating, Abraham stands naked in Bola's house on Dec. 13. His genitals have been obscured for decency; his face has been obscured for privacy. (Mike Daemon photo courtesy of No Strings)

Stripped by his attackers, nervously awaiting a beating, Abraham stands naked in Bola’s house on Dec. 13. His genitals have been obscured for decency; his face has been obscured for privacy. (Mike Daemon photo courtesy of No Strings)

By Mike Daemon

In Nigeria today, hatred of LGBTIQ people is so bad that young people are organizing groups to trap suspected homosexuals, then strip them, beat them, extort money from them, and sometimes turn them over to police.

Many cases like these go on, unreported in the Nigerian mainstream media.

I witnessed just such an incident yesterday. I was invited into a house in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to see a gay man was trapped there, naked. The man who invited me did not know that, under the pseudonym Mike Daemon, I publish the No Strings podcasts about LGBTIQ life in Nigeria.

I made a video of what I saw. The video is too troubling and intrusive to be published, but the photo at the left comes from it. The audio from that recording can be heard in the latest No Strings podcast, released today.

The victim of yesterday’s trap was a young Nigerian gay man who appeared to be between the ages of 20 and 22. Abraham had been lured into the house by an invitation from another young man, Bola, after they had several conversations with each other on the interactive WhatsApp media chat application.

When I arrived, the room was already filled up with people slapping the victim and beating him with plank sticks.

He was naked, and begging that it wasn’t his fault that he was gay.  He said he had been trying to change for some time, but had failed each time.

His attackers shouted at him:

“You cannot get a woman to have sex with?”

“Did you promise him any money? How come you came here without any money? Were you coming here to have sex with him for free?”

“God has punished you today.”

Abraham told them, “I realized I was gay in 2008, while I was still in school, and ever since then I have found it really hard to stop.”

He told them why he had come to Bola’s house: “We were only chatting as good friends until he inquired about why I was so serious with him, and if I was in love with him.  I told him that I really liked him and that I felt like I was with a woman each time I was with him, so he invited me over so we could see to talk more. That was when I decided to go see him.”

How the trap was set

Bola, who works at a local chemist’s shop, told me that he knew Abraham from the shop, where Abraham gets drugs for his asthmatic mother. Bola said he has been good friends with Abraham for some time and that they have been having regular conversations both on phone and on different chat applications.

Bola said, “I knew this guy was a homosexual when he started calling me frequently and constantly wanting to meet me.”

“He comes to get drugs for his asthmatic mother from my chemist, and that is when we exchanged numbers. I traveled to Lagos for my football training and came back, and that was when we agreed to meet.”

“I actually thought he was joking until when he came to my house, and asked that we have sex. I excused myself to go to the bathroom to call my friends on the phone, who mobilized friends and neighbors. I asked them not to beat him, but really I may not be able to help the situation if they go against that,” Bola said.

“Right now,” Bola said, as Abraham stood naked and surrounded, “we are waiting for his parents to come, so that we can inform them of the situation, so that they can know what their child is doing. We wouldn’t want to proceed with arresting him or anything of that nature, as the family is a good customer and they do not have money to get him out of the situation if the matter goes to the police.”

Here in Nigeria, the police often demand money to release a suspect instead of taking him to court.

Abraham said he is not out to his parents and that he fears that, if they find out he is gay, they might reject him.

That is exactly what happened, in fact. Bola turned Abraham over to his parents, and they promptly chased him out of their house. Abraham is now living on the streets of Port Harcourt.

Unfortunately, what happened to Abraham has also happened to many other LGBTIQ Nigerians.  The situation in Nigeria is so bad that even young people are organizing groups to trap suspected homosexuals, either via social media networks or from social meeting places, and luring them into coming over to their houses. And upon arrival they will ask their victims to strip naked and pretend to be in co-operation while they make calls, seize their clothes and sometimes threaten to expose them, or will collect valuable items from them, and then give them other clothes to wear back home.

Taking precautions

For gay Nigerians, the only way to avoid these kinds of things from happening is to make sure you confirm from other people within the gay community if they can recommend someone — before agreeing to meet them, that is.

Also, do not agree to meet people in their house at the first meeting. Instead, agree to meet them first in an open environment, at a neutral place that is far away from the other person’s house. If anyone disagrees, then the best thing to do is to just quit the arrangement.

Finally, stop obsessing over people you know that are not homosexuals, or that you are not sure of their sexual orientation, regardless of how they look. This can lead you into wanting to try out your luck, and this could be really dangerous. You could be trapped and exposed.

For more information, listen to the latest No Strings podcast. It’s titled, “Nigerian Gay Teen, Trapped & Beaten By Gang In Port Harcourt Nigeria For Homosexuality.”

The No Strings podcasts, which can be streamed or downloaded, provide a voice for the LGBTIQ community in  Nigeria; they are the first of their kind in Nigeria. They are presented in the form of a traditional radio program that  chronicles the struggles, tells the stories, and reports on issues affecting the lives of LGBTIQ Nigerians.

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