When I read the story of the 4 students of University of Port Harcourt that were lynched on allegation of theft, I wept for my country one more time. I have not watched the video and I do not ever intend to watch it. It is very difficult getting an online report of the story without graphic images of the victims being burnt alive. Nigerian bloggers and news reporters need to understand that such violent graphics should come with a trigger warning. I am already tormented at the thought of a human being burnt alive by a sick mob; I can do without the pictures and violent video, please.
Following the breaking of this horrible news, most Nigerians expressed shock that such barbaric acts could still so wantonly be carried out in Nigeria and with the tacit cooperation of members of the police force too. State security men were said to be present at the scene of the lynching but chose not to intervene. Also, there were a few Nigerians who actually tried to justify the murders, they felt if these students actually stole mobile phones and laptops as alleged, they deserved to be lynched, and some even cited their religious books to justify this atrocious mindset.
This ghastly incident also brought to mind the hideous views many Nigerians hold on homosexuality, and what many Nigerians think should happen to homosexuals. Many Nigerians threaten gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals with public stoning. I have lost counts of the many times I have received messages and comments on social networks threatening just that.
Most Nigerians obviously think it is OK to threaten lesbians, gays, bisexuals and Trans with jungle justice. They also think it is their civic duty to send threat messages, sometimes graphic violence related messages to sexual minorities’ rights advocates. My public advocacy for decriminalization of homosexual acts and the call for recognition of LGBT rights as human rights have indeed exposed me to this primitive side of Nigerians.
I wonder how many people that are indignantly condemning the lynching of the 4 University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) students would also condemn this action if the accusation was not that of robbery but that of sodomy. What if these students were accused of being gay, would it be OK to lynch them?
I ask this question because many Nigerians often very casually mention that gays should be publicly ridiculed, mobbed and stoned to death. Many Nigerians make it a duty to leave threatening messages on social networks where any gay person, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual is featured. When I granted a National newspaper an interview where I condemned the anti-same-sex marriage bill and called for the recognition of LGBT rights as human rights, many Nigerians left comments calling for gay Nigerians to be lynched. Unfortunately, only few Nigerians ever bothered to condemn such comments.
When Sir Richard Branson on his blog, condemned the homophobic bill as cruel, many Nigerians posted vitriolic comments on the blog, many went as far as calling for gays to be publicly stoned to death. They gleefully cited the case of Sodom and Gomorrah to justify this atrocity. As Voltaire said “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”.
Some Nigerian journalists and bloggers even go as far as unethically lifting pictures from social network sites of LGBT rights advocates and publish these pictures with malicious comments encouraging jungle justice. Why do Nigerians think it is OK to threaten anyone with jungle justice, yet shed crocodile tears when jungle justice was meted out to the Aluu4? Is it that jungle justice is not acceptable when the victims are supposedly heterosexuals but acceptable if they are suspiciously gay or confirmed LGBTs? Why the double standard?
Jungle justice is of course barbaric in every sense of the word, no right thinking human being should ever advocate for such an evil action. It is certainly not something we should wish on our worst enemies, yet many Nigerians take delight in wishing jungle justice on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals even though sexual orientation is not harmful to anyone.
Does anyone deserve to live in fear of Jungle justice?
Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals face the threat of jungle justice every day in Nigeria; they know that if caught in the act, getting to court alive would be a luxury. If ever caught in the act, they could be mobbed to death instantly or even on mere suspicion.
Would the percentage of Nigerians condemning jungle justice drastically drops if the victims were gays and lesbians? Not too long ago, a video was posted online of three female students who were allegedly ‘Lesbians’. They were forced to perform sexual acts on themselves by a group of primitive, violent guys. The accused ladies were flogged, tortured, humiliated and raped by these barbarians who also recorded the ordeal of the ladies and posted the video online. I wrote an appeal calling for justice and urged people to stop sharing the video. I was indeed surprised by the number of ‘likes’ on the horrendous, violent rape video.
This horribly violent video did not receive a wide condemnation, the police never acted on it, the National Human rights Commission was informed, various Human rights NGOs in Nigeria were contacted but none felt it would be productive to demand for justice for the ladies. The fact that the tortured students were alleged to be lesbians did not earn them much public sympathy, the allegation of Lesbianism already made them sub-humans in the eyes of Nigerians. So I ask again, how many Nigerians would really condemn the jungle justice suffered by the Aluu4 if the victims were gays caught in the act.
There have been many documented cases of public bullying and torture of gays and lesbians in Nigeria, yet we never heard a public condemnation of such barbaric threats and acts against LGBTs. Under Sharia law adopted by 12 Northern states in Nigeria, homosexuality is a criminal offence punishable with death by stoning. Hate crimes are not uncommon in Nigeria as can be seen in the following cases and remarks:
- On 12 January, 2013 in Ekwe local government area of Imo state, Nigeria, seven men were beaten and paraded naked on the streets on allegation of homosexuality. Many online reports of the incidents featured comments from Nigerians applauding jungle justice for gays.
- In Jigawa State, a Muslim state, in April 2002, a 22 year-old student at the Birnin Kudu College, was beaten to death by fellow students because they suspected he was gay.
- Anietie and Joy, lesbian Christian couple, were attacked with acid by some people through their bedroom window. Joy died as a result of the attack and Anietie was hospitalized.
- On 12 September 2008, four newspapers published the names, addresses and photographs of the twelve members of House of Rainbow, a LGBT-friendly church in Lagos. As a result, some members were threatened, beaten and stoned. One woman was attacked by 11 men. As of the end of 2011, no action had been taken against the perpetrators.
- Two suspected gay pastors, Prince Ejimole, 26, and Lawrence Udo, 25, were arrested and charged to court after they were allegedly caught having intercourse in a hotel room at Ijeshatedo, Lagos State, southwest Nigeria. They face charges of having carnal knowledge of each other against the order of nature.
In the international arena, Nigeria has continued its homophobic campaign, openly calling for killing people who engage in homosexual conduct. At the UN Human Rights Council in September 2006, Nigeria ridiculed the notion that executions for offences such as homosexuality and lesbianism are excessive. Its diplomat said:
“What may be seen by some as disproportional penalty in such serious offences and odious conduct may be seen by others as appropriate and just punishment.”
Also, recently at the United Nations, Nigeria was one of the countries that voted in support of removing sexual orientation as one of the grounds which extra judicial, summary and arbitrary execution would not be tolerated. Need I point out that extra Judicial, summary and arbitrary execution include jungle justice? Well, Nigeria actually voted that jungle justice be meted out to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals.
Law enforcement agents are not sympathetic to sexual minority cases, the government seeks to further criminalize homosexuals and the majority of the citizens want to stone gays to death, what a country!
When leaders of our country, our security agents and the majority of our citizens have such mindsets, how can we even begin to expect a social justice conscience or envision a just society?
When Nigerians have so much hate for LGBT persons who have not caused them harm in anyway, how can they even have an iota of humane feeling for those who actually harm them?
We must rid ourselves of mental slavery, self-righteousness and religious stupidity before we can truly empathize with another human being or other earthlings. We must break the need to justify our actions with quotes from some imported ‘holy books’.
Selective justice is bad and jungle justice has no place in a civilized, sane society. Of course Nigeria is not yet a civilized, sane society, but this is not a reason for us to flaunt our primitiveness. Let us at least make an effort to rid ourselves of these primitive urges. We must understand that every life matters.
To maintain sanity, law and order in our society, we must rise above primitive urges, and give everyone a fair chance to be heard in a democratic court of law. Some would say it is easy to say this if, for instance, one had never been attacked by armed robbers. Well, some of us had experienced armed robbery at gun point, we have had horrible people do despicable things to us and our loved ones, but what makes us stand above these malevolent people is because we have refused to drag ourselves down to their vile level. An eye for an eye is never a good thing; it would leave everyone blind. Hate is easy but Love takes courage.
How long shall we be held captive by the ignorance and hate of our neighbors? From South Africa where corrective rape is the order of the day, to Malawi where gays who attempted to marry were mobbed and jailed, to Kenya where young girls were suspended from school on suspicion of lesbianism and not to forget Cameroun, where a young man was handed a 5 year jail term for sending a text message declaring “I Love You” to another man, and now Nigeria where legislators supports a bill to imprison gays for 14 years to Uganda where they want to kill gays, Africa is indeed still a dark continent, populated by many proudly ignorant haters. Ignorance and hate is too high a price to pay for innocent lives.
The stories below are so sad and depressing. Some of the horrific stories are coming from South Africa, the only African country with constitutional protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
- A 19-year-old was stabbed to death in Samora Machel in what they believe was a hate crime. Sihle Sikoji, a member of Luleki Sizwe, a project that supports lesbian, bisexual and transgender women (LBT) who have been raped, was stabbed in the chest with a “mini-spear”. Another one killed for her sexual orientation, her friend a victim of corrective rape.
- Three lesbian women were brutally assaulted and sexually molested by persons known to them inside a lodging house in downtown Nairobi, The attackers claimed that they were going to ‘funza the lesbians adabu’ (teach them a lesson) for behaving like men and taking up the role of men in sex. They proceeded to attack the three women, descending on them with fist punches and kicks as they tore their clothes until the women were stark naked.
- 12 teenage girls were suspended from school on suspicion of lesbianism. The school’s principal, Dorcas Kavukum, said Pastors will be invited to the school to exorcise homosexuality demons. She also blamed the school’s low academic performance on lesbianism. The poor girls were allowed back only after pressured ‘confession to the acts’. With Headmistress like Dorcas Kavuku, no wonder sexual education is still considered taboo in many African schools.
- Thapelo Makutle was attacked and murdered by two men for his sexuality and being transgender. Makutle was a drag queen known as Queen Bling and was recently crowned Miss Gay Kuruman.
In this civilized age, why would any sane human being behead another because the other is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual or for any reason whatsoever? How could any rational person justify the slitting of throats, stoning gays to death or even the imprisonment of another just because of differences in sexual orientation? How could any decent human being justify hate crimes?
A nation is as good as the conscience of its citizens; a nation is also as bad as the conscience of its citizens. On the issue of sexual minorities’ rights, many Nigerians lack a social conscience. There is no encompassing social justice that can come from such a nation. We can only fairly fight against that which we totally condemn, we cannot on one hand condemn jungle justice and on the other hand advocate or passively accept that it is OK for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or trans to be mobbed or stoned to death. Where do you stand on the issue of jungle justice; are you totally against Jungle Justice or is it “No to Jungle Justice, but…”?