Tonto Dikeh (Instagram)
In a brave move, well-known Nigerian actress, singer, and philanthropist Tonto Dikeh has condemned the homophobic attack against American actor Jussie Smollett.
Writing on Instagram, the Nollywood star, who identifies as Christian, said to Smollett: “Sending you Love and Light.. No one shld suffer because they love differently..”
The openly gay Smollett, who stars in the hit show Empire, was attacked in downtown Chicago last week as he walked to his apartment after eating out. He was assaulted by two men wearing ski masks who shouted homophobic and racist slurs at him.
Perhaps anticipating the response from some Christian fans to her statement, Dikeh continued (somewhat problematically): “I know what the Bible says about this, AND I ALSO KNOW WHAT THAT SAME BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE OTHER SINS WE (YOU AND I) COMMIT SHAMELESSLY.”
The 33-year-old celebrity then said to her 3.8 million followers: “#say no to homophobia. We love you @jussiesmollett. The world at large needs healing, Say no to hate.”
The post received over 14,000 likes but was also the subject of homophobic comments, with many referencing “African values” and the Bible and calling for gay people to “repent”. Said one individual: “Homosexuality is not African, leave white culture alone… And let’s focus on how our country would be great.”
Dikeh has over the years come under fire from conservative Nigerians for at times being too “risqué” in her work.
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. It further stipulates 10 years in jail for public displays of same-sex affection as well as membership or support of LGBTI groups. Under colonial-era legislation, anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts can also be jailed for 14 years.