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Homosexuals Go Underground Over Passage Of Law

Published by Guardian on Sat, 01 Jun 2013

AS lawmakers intensify efforts to criminalise homosexuality in Nigeria, investigations have revealed that gays and lesbians in the country have gone underground for fear of being used as scapegoats.Unlike before when some of them freely identified themselves as homosexuals, The Guardian learnt that most homosexuals now keep mute on their gay status.While a church, House of Rainbow, solely dedicated to the interest of gays in Nigeria was forced to relocate from Lagos where it had two centres and several followers to the United Kingdom some years ago, most of the known clubs and relaxation centres often patronised by gays in Lagos have practically dried up.But sources told The Guardian in confidence that gay practice is still secretly thriving in the country. BBC had reported about a gay club in Lagos early this year. And House of Rainbow founder, Rev. Jide Rowland, told The Guardian early this year that his church, though operating underground now, has at least three cells in Lagos, making Nigeria where the church has the highest members in Africa.Chief Researcher/HOD (Head of Department) of Clinical Sciences Division, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Dr. Oliver Ezechi, however, said that the subterranean method of operation of gays would worsen the fight against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Nigeria.Ezechi said over a dozen homosexuals had approached NIMR for HIV counseling and treatment before the passage of the nations' anti-gay bill by the Senate in 2011. He added that for fear of being punished, the homosexuals have since gone underground.'Anti-gay bill will affect the fight against HIV in Nigeria because homosexuals would go underground. We were discussing with them on HIV-prevention service before the onset of the law. But once the bill came up, the homosexuals were not ready to talk to us because they were afraid they could be picked up. Once you criminalise any medical service, people would go underground. That might not solve the problem of HIV. Therefore, we need to dialogue and see how to provide assistance to them,' Ezechi said.Lawmakers in the House of Representatives joined their Senate counterparts on Thursday when they voted to ban gay marriages, outlawed any group actively supporting gay rights and endorsed a measure that also calls for 14-year prison sentence for any 'public show' of affection by same-sex people.The Senate had passed the law in 2011 despite pressures from foreign countries where gay marriage is acceptable. Senate President, David Mark, insisted that the bill prohibiting same sex marriages 'is irrevocable'.'We will not compromise on this. I want to invite you all to join the crusade of decency in our society. There are many good values we can copy from other societies but certainly not this one (same-sex marriages). We have to prove to the rest of the world, who are advocates of this unnatural way, that we Nigerians promote and respect sanity, morality and humanity. Every individual is a product of the union of a man and woman,' he said.Coordinator of Justice for Gay Africans Society, Mr Godwyns Onwuchekwa, a gay and a UK-based Nigerian, had said that the Nigerian government should leave the fight against gays to God.'If God hated gay people, let God himself destroy them as you said he did to Sodom and Gomorrah. Or is your God powerless' Why are you fighting for the one who is supposed to be most powerful' If God is against homosexuality, what is he waiting for' It is either there is no God or God doesn't hate gay people,' Onwuchekwa said.Speaking in the same vein, Rowland said the bill would be detrimental to the work of his church in Nigeria. 'Any negative effect on the anti-gay bill will have detrimental effect on the work and mission of House Of Rainbow in Nigeria. The lives of LGBTI people and their friends, families and allies will be further frustrated with fear and prejudice. We need to pray and stand up against injustice,' he said.
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