A group of brave Nigerians has faced arrest and abuse by openly marching in support of LGBTI lives in the streets of Lagos on Monday.
The individuals protested as part of the National Day of Mourning and Remembrance, held by civil society organisations to condemn high levels of violence in the country and to mourn its victims.
According to the organisers, over 1,400 people were killed in violence across Nigeria in just the first 70 days of 2018.
The pro-LGBTI protesters, led by the Bisi Alimi Foundation, joined the march to highlight the forgotten reality that sexual and gender minorities are also victims of violence.
The defiant group held up signs that stated, “LGBTI people are being killed too. Why are we so silent?”, as they peacefully walked among the other protesters. Another placard read: “We also remember LGBT people killed in Nigeria for being who they are.”
The foundation wrote on Facebook: “In solidarity we stand for the LGBTI persons killed and exposed to extreme torture and homelessness because of who they are in Nigeria.”
The organisation was created by activist Bisi Alimi to fight for the rights of LGBTI people in Nigeria. Alimi is believed to be the first gay man to come out on Nigerian TV, in 2004. The resulting backlash and threats eventually forced him to flee to the UK in 2007, where he is currently based.
“Amazing to have people fighting for different rights and varying just causes, not sideline or refuse LGBTI collaboration as anticipated by many,” said the Foundation about the march. “At the end of day, whether against an LGBTI, women or the poor, oppression is oppression and injustice is injustice. #NationalDayOfMourning #NigeriaMourns #AllNigerianLivesMatter”
Writing in the Rustin Times, activist Peter Okeugo, said: “While we mourn these people who have been killed through insurgence or conflict, may we not forget our brothers, sisters, fathers, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts and children who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and have been killed for who they are.”
He called for the remembrance of LGBTI people killed through mob violence, those forced to flee their homes and live in exile, and those who have fallen to suicide and the country’s harsh anti-LGBTI laws.
“On this day, I have also chosen to light a candle in memory of fallen Nigerian heroes who were gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender and are no more,” said Okeugo.
“The ones who did not conform to societal pressure. The ones who rebelled against the law and society to stay true to themselves. Those ones who were bold and courageous enough to stand for what they believed in.”
Nigeria has some of the most repressive anti-LGBTI legislation in the world. A 2014 federal law prohibits same-sex marriages and relationships with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and stipulates 10 years in jail for public displays of same-sex affection as well as 10 years for membership or support of LGBTI groups. Under older colonial-era legislation, anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts can also be jailed for 14 years.
All images: Bisi Alimi Foundation / Facebook