GOOD HEALTH CARE IS QUITE AN ISSUE FOR THE MAJORITY IN NIGERIA WHERE THE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNTRY IS IN UK RECEIVING MEDICAL CARE. ACCESS TO HEALTH FACILITIES HARDLY EXIST FOR MINORITIES BUT A LOCAL NGO HAS RECENTLY TAKEN A BOLD STEP TO SAVE THE LGBTQI MINORITY WITH A NEW APP.
Nigeria, the economic giant of Africa stands as one of the most homophobic countries in the world. Homosexual relationship was outlawed in the country in 2014 under the Ex-President Goodluck Ebelechukwu Jonathan. 38 African countries actively and legally persecute LGBTI people in the continent but in Nigeria a standing law imposes a 14-year prison sentence for homosexual acts and 10 years imprisonment for Nigerians belonging to any 'gay organizations' or supporting same-sex marriages. A 10 year imprisonment bill also stands for people caught displaying same-sex affection in public. Up in the actively Muslim Northern part of the country, 12 states, backed by Sharia law punishes the act by death. It’s easy to see, Nigeria in Africa stands sternly against homosexuality and this leaves a room for fear and harm for members of the minority group as the law can be wielded and interpreted wrongly. From street corners to religious institutions to school halls, homophobia manifests visibly in Nigeria. A new reality of this gesture recently took hold of the Nigerian literary community – a community one would expect would stand for freedom of expression and art.
Last month in May, a young Nigerian Writer Romeo Oriogun who won the prestigious Brunel Prize for his poem started receiving hate messages and death threats on and offline after his big win. His work was considered by some in the Nigerian literary community to be promoting a gay agenda in Nigeria owing to its same-sex theme. These threats highlights a popular approach to homosexuality in the country. The attack against Romeo grew into more public online posts, series of sponsored posts against him, threat to his job, threats of arrest, fear gripped the community for his safety became something to worry about. Many members of the community started an online move with the hashtag #LetRomeoBreathe to fight back the hate. Just after the settling of the dust, another Nigerian writer Chibuihe Obi, who works with and writes for Brittle Paper was reported to be missing on June 1, then later reported to be kidnapped for “spreading Satanism” through his repeated gay-themed literary works. One user said the writer who lives in Owerri was kidnapped over his last article on homosexuality. Chibuihe is well known for his essays on LGBTQ-themed poems.
These two stories highlight the realities of unsafety and harm the LGBTQI community face in Nigeria, many NGOs and activism organizations are working to help Nigerians become more tolerant with. Though little progress has been made as to gaining fair hearing, fair judgement, assault cases, blackmail and discrimination, NGOs like The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS) and NoStrings among other have recently been audible in advocacy moves assisting citizens with support in cases of injustice, harassment, assault and discrimination on the bases of orientation. Though some these organization also provide health assistance and counseling for LGBTIQ, fear and secrecy keeps a great popular far from seeking or getting such help when needed.
In response to this challenge, TIERS recently launched a new mobile app - ‘Quickcare’ designed to help members of the Nigerian LGBTQI community discreetly gain access to health services in the country. Available only on Android devices at the moment, the app is still in its testing phase. So far, the app is to provide users with useful basic information about STDs, safe sex tips and a comprehensive list of LGBT-friendly facilities spread across Nigeria. With the reality of getting attacked, judged or discriminated against, many members of the community die in silence or ignorance when in need of peculiar LGBT medical and health care. This “Quickcare” app might just be another subtle step in the direction of hope for LGBTs in a sternly homophobic Nigeria.