Last month, the Nigerian government passed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act , which criminalised gay clubs and meetings.
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It also made it an offence to not report known homosexuals, and banned "indirect" public demonstrations of same-sex affection. What exactly that means is anyone's guess, but one thing is certain: For a short amount of time, the country's LGBT community had the world's attention. Now, since the Sochi Winter Olympics kicked off, all that focus has been turned to Russia and its own anti-gay laws. Do you both feel as though you've had to hide your sexuality? Rashidi Williams: Growing up as a child in Nigeria, I knew I was different. But I never understood this difference until my late teens.
Because there was no information on the issue and I grew up with a very conservative mother. My liberal father was always away. But since coming to know what exactly this difference is, I never felt like I had to hide my sexuality. I came out when I was 20, so I don't think that I've had to hide my sexuality.
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The answer is YES. It has always been that way, even before this new bill was signed into law.
Being gay isn't something you parade before family and friends, because the chances that they won't understand are very high. What's the gay scene like in Lagos? Where do you go and are these places ever raided by the police? The gay scene went from being overtly closed to being somewhat open in the past decade. But with the passage of the bill into law, the scene will become hidden.
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How long that will be, we don't know. The visibility we've been able to create as a community has again been taken away from us in the name of protecting religion and cultural practices. Some people in Lagos can tell you where LGBT people gather to socialise on a weekend; some can even name the gay-friendly bars around town. Simply put, the gay scene in Lagos was relatively free and peaceful. The law jeopardises that.
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So there was never any trouble before? In the past we had the police and other security agencies raid gay parties in Lagos. But that was a long time ago.
The last raid was about five years ago — at least to my knowledge. LGBT communities usually gathered every now and then to celebrate their sexuality and, at times, the police knew about it. However, because there's a law that expressly bans [gay clubs], we should expect to see more raids on gay places of abode, parties and other such events.
The main aim is usually not to arrest, but to extort people by blackmailing them. You see, a majority of gays — in a bid to keep their sexuality under wraps and not risk exposure — hardly go out to places that offer homosexual pleasures. In fact, I didn't even know there were gay bars and stuff like that until a few years ago. That's how deeply secret these establishments are.
In the past, there used to be gay parties with strictly coded invitations, but I've never been to one. I simply hear about them. I'm just much too protective of my identity. Do you think it would be easier for you to live in another country? It's because it is easier and living is more pleasant.
Living as a gay man outside of Nigeria would be the most pleasant thing, but then you think about your country and the country you want to live in. See world news and more. I feel the music, the 1 urban outlet responsible for nearly a dog.
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