The #EndSars protests within the country have continued, with today marking the 6th day of the protest. We have seen youths in different circles stand up for themselves and finding innovative ways to keep the protest on. The LGBTQ community is one of the circles, and they are using the protest to ensure that liberation isn’t for one person alone but everyone.
In a recent video Queer rights activist, Matthew Blaise dressed in a crop top is seen chanting ‘Queer Lives Matter’ in the ongoing protest. The video which now has over 3 million views and has been retweeted by so many international activists and celebrities such as Jay Versace, Jackie Aina, Bretman Rock and a host of others has been commended not only for his bravery for speaking up but also inspiring others to speak up and stand for their truth.
We spoke to Matthew Blaise whose images are saved on my phone as Icon Living is one of the forerunners of the ‘Queer Lives Matter’ Movement in the country amongst so many others. The activist explains that he has been racially profiled by the same corrupt police unit, SARS based ‘Perceived Gay’ on the 10th of July, 2020 he reports how the police held him up in a series of a thread posted on the social media platform, Twitter.
The hate towards people of the LGBTQ+ community has continuously been a topic for discussion within several human rights groups. In Nigeria, you are liable to face 10-14 years in jail for same-sex marriage and participating in any social group that is LGBTQ+ this was placed in law by the country’s former President, Goodluck Jonathan. Matthew says that;
The dehumanisation of LGBTQ+ folks in Africa is so apparent. You don’t need anybody to even tell you about it. Homosexuality is legal in just 22 African countries out of 54. Gay people can be killed by stoning in countries where Sharia law is practised like Northern Nigeria. Life imprisonment in 4 African countries. In Nigeria, we have the ten and the 14 years imprisonment punishment. Just for homosexuality, gay people don’t even have to only deal with the SSMPA here. They have to deal with police officers who misinterpret the law just to extort, blackmail, torture, harass, threaten and justify their unlawful actions. Gay people get denied jobs/local opportunities based on ‘perceived sexuality. No legal backing for gay people. So a gay person can be beaten or killed on the street, and no governmental organisation will do anything about it. It’s that bad.
Everyone needs to speak up even when it does not affect you. Be an ally and let people know when you stand. He says, ‘You wouldn’t say you care about LGBTQ+ folks, but when LGBTQ+ issues come up, you ignore them. You do not retweet or contribute, especially in a country like Nigeria. You’re a big joke. If you care about Queer liberation, add you wouldn’t know‘
The activist has sparked a movement, with so many members of the LGBTQ+ community, coming out to speak up and protesting with the hashtag; #QueerLivesMatter. ‘It is a movement, one that has never been seen before in the country but they are not stopping now‘, the activist says that there is still a long way to go, but we are not where we used to be.
“Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor”Ginetta Sagan
Why is it important to speak up?
We have the opportunity to liberate ourselves only if we allow it, and that is the truth, says Matthew. Despite Nigerian being one of the most homophobic countries in the world, Young Queer Nigerians are using social media platforms to liberate themselves, sensitise individuals and make them ‘know that we exist’.
It’s better to speak up and let your voice be heard.Joanna Oala
Speaking to Victor Emmanuel who recently came out to his family he says that; the SARS unit of the Nigerian Police have been doing the exact opposite of what they were created for. Instead of protecting lives and properties, they have endangered lives, and as a matter of fact, minority groups have faced their heat in the worst way possible. I consider myself lucky not to have encountered them, yet, but because of my positioning in the LGBTQIAP+ space in Nigeria, I get a lot of reports from members of the community who have had to deal with this menace.
From my close friends to acquaintances, to people I have never met before, I get complaints, at least twice a week of police brutality meted on them due to their sexuality. The Nigerian queer community as it is endangered, and I’m glad to see queer Nigerians inserting their voices, being loud, during the current #ENDSARS protest. Led by Queer Activist and my very good friend, Matthew Blaise, more queer people across the country have risen and are demanding that their voices be heard too. And I’m very proud to be alive to see it. Of course, more work needs to be done to amplify our voices and ultimately get us our liberation. It opens this energy, this anger, this rage and determination doesn’t waver because as the revolution has started, I believe it only gets louder.
Nevertheless, it is essential to note that the responsibility to speak out does not rest on members of the LGBTQI+ community alone we must continuously speak up through whatever platforms that we have to make our country a safer place for all marginalised groups, including queer people.