He fought for equality in a country where sexual difference is punishable by stoning. Metro spoke with Rashidi Williams, one of the only LGBT activists because Nigeria who dare lead his face in battle discovered.
Mr. Williams, aged 29, was invited to Montreal by Equitas organization, held this week a rally at which more than 150 human rights defenders involved.
Nigeria, like other African countries, adopted in January 2014 a law that criminalizes homosexuality. How does it affect you?
This law is an embarrassment to all Nigerians and a disaster for the LGBT community, which is now in danger because it is perceived as criminal.
This law is a permission to violate the LGBT community in the country. Shortly after its adoption, raids took place in the districts of Abuja, the capital, and those suspected of being homosexual were beaten. None of the executioners has been sentenced to anything. In this kind of aggression, are often the victims who find themselves behind bars. When this is not the police themselves who carry out arbitrary arrests of gays to extort money in exchange for their release.
Homosexuality has always been illegal in Nigeria. When did you realize you were a criminal because you were who you are?
From the moment I knew I was gay, I was aware that the society around me considered me an off-the-law. It’s been hard, but it’s been even more difficult to choose to live in harmony with who I am.
“I realized that I was a criminal in the eyes of my country the day I knew I was gay.” -Rashidi Williams, activist for LGBT rights in Nigeria Queer Alliance
Have you declared your homosexuality to your parents?
My family is made up of Christians and Muslims. It was easy for anyone to accept my difference, but my family had to, because that’s what I am. Now she helps me to carry the burden of my activism. If other families rode in front with us to address the government and say, “You have no right to criminalize my son for his way of loving” things would change.
What explains the intolerance of the LGBT community that seems to permeate African society?
It has nothing to do with culture. Religion is for many, and these are religions imposed by colonialism. The settlers, with them, brought their homophobia in Africa.
Act of January 13, 2014
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed January 13, 2014 a very repressive law against sexual minorities. It provides up to 14 years in prison for homosexuals found “guilty” of having had sex.
In the 12 states of the country where sharia, the same “crime” is punishable by death by stoning. No law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in Nigeria. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act contravenes the country’s constitution, which guarantees every citizen equal before the law, and several treaties acceded, according to Human Rights Watch.
Some 2.8 billion people live in countries where homosexuality can lead to prison, physical laceration, even death. Only 20 countries in the world recognize marriage between same sex.
Two weights, two measures
Nigeria is not the only African country to have adopted laws similar to Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. Uganda and Gambia have also adopted measures that discriminate against people with different orientation and gender identity. The United States imposed sanctions on both countries, but not in Nigeria, a richer and larger countries on a geostrategic level.
“I am disappointed by this, says Rashidi Williams to Metro. It reflects not only that there are two weights, two measures in diplomatic matters, but also in terms of human rights. ”
The consequences of laws such as the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act are yet many serious for sexual minorities in Nigeria.
“Shortly after the adoption of the law, 14 men broke into a neighborhood Abuja to pick on people they suspected of homosexuality, breaking into their home to humiliate them and hit them, says Mr. Williams. This climate of fear that is established in several pushes to live their love in secret. ”
In Nigeria, which is the third country most affected by the HIV virus in the world, many homosexuals who do not dare go see their doctor or who no longer receive their treatment.
“We found a dramatic decrease in the number of men seeking health care, says Williams, adding that the number of attacks against the LGBT minority, he soared.
Does he believe that a tragedy such as occurred in Orlando Sunday will change attitudes in the country? “Africa is united against this senseless violence, no matter against whom it is directed. Even former President Goodluck Jonathan has offered condolences to the victims of Orlando. “