In a cowardly move, the Nigerian High Commission in London has refused to accept a petition signed by over 65,000 people demanding LGBTI equality in Nigeria.
Nearly 100 activists rallied outside the embassy on 30 September calling for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to repeal all his of country’s anti-LGBTI laws, which they described as “toxic”.
The protest was organised by Nigerian lesbian activist Aderonke Apata, with the support of the African LGBTI organisation, Out and Proud Diamond Group, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
When the protesters attempted to hand over the petition, however, embassy staff locked the doors and refused to let them in.
“I am standing in front of my government, and my government has shut the door against me, just because I am a lesbian. This is ridiculous!” said a defiant Apata, who fled Nigeria after she was arrested, tortured and extorted by the police because of her sexuality.
“We are not going to give up. We are coming back. So if they are listening to us behind the doors, we want them to know that we are going to be back… louder than this, noisier than this… and we will have more signatures to deliver,” she insisted.
Edwin Sesange, Director of the Out and Proud Diamond Group, commented earlier: “We urge Nigerian President Buhari and his government to repeal the anti-gay laws in Nigeria. He was elected by many people including LGBTI Nigerians and should therefore stand up for their rights.
“I call upon the African Union to speak out against these anti-gay laws that violate its own charter. It is time for them to stand together with the oppressed, rather than looking on when fellow Africans are being persecuted because of their sexuality or gender identity,” he added.
Male homosexuality is punishable in Nigeria by a sentence of 14 years imprisonment under a nineteenth century law imposed by the British colonial administration.
More recently, a draconian new anti-LGBTI law – the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill – was signed into law in January 2014. It is one of the harshest and most punitive of the many laws in nearly 80 countries that criminalise LGBTI people.
It prohibits same-sex marriage with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and stipulates 10 years jail for public displays of same-sex affection and 10 years for membership or support of LGBTI equality and advocacy groups.