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Nigerian University students talk about being gay on campus

A Nigerian researcher, Kehinde Okanlawon, has released an article in an academic journal which includes interviews with 14 gay and lesbian Nigerian University students, as well as analyzed secondary data sources about the experiences of LGBT students in some Nigerian schools.

The report, titled “Homophobic bullying in Nigerian schools: The experiences of LGBT university students,” was based on interviews with 14 gay and lesbian students of a Nigerian university as well as other experiences of Nigerian LGBT students compiled from diverse secondary data sources.

In the interviews, the students said that the constant bullying that they received from fellow students was inevitable and that accepting it was preferable to complaining to school authorities, who would then suspend them or expel them for homosexuality.

The students said:

  • Verbal abuse is common. Fellow students openly call them names on campus such as “homo,” “faggot,” “lesbo,” “woman,” and “gay lord.”
  • It is common for gay students to face harsh condemnation from Nigerian school authorities, who often justified their homophobia by claiming that morality motivated their actions.

Among the other examples of discrimination based on sexual orientation found in secondary data sources from other Nigerian universities are:

  • A final-year student of Covenant University was expelled for committing lesbianism.
  • A gay student was almost deprived of his certificate by the university despite his academic excellence. “He was on the disciplinary committee twice because he is gay. The disciplinary committee acknowledged that he graduated with a good grade but said that he didn’t have the morals required for a student who ought to be a good ambassador of the university. Fortunately, with the intervention of family and friends, he was eventually given his certificate.”
  • Heterosexual students blackmail and extort money from LGBT students, taking advantage of the fact that certain sex acts associated with homosexuality have been criminalized. Sometimes heterosexual students try out other students who are gay/ lesbian by approaching them sexually just to get them to admit that they are gay.
  • Violence sometimes occurs when certain gay or lesbian students approach other students whom they think are gay or lesbian.

But things have not all been bad. A few of the gay and lesbian students who responded to the survey mentioned positive experiences, such as being defended by tolerant students and lecturers who consider homophobic bullying to be unjust.

In conclusion of the study, Okanlawon argues that homophobic bullying in Nigerian schools impedes educational rights of LGBT students and contradicts the African Ubuntu which calls for compassion, solidarity, and respect for human dignity. Given these reasons, he recommends that appropriate policies be put in place to punish perpetrators of homophobic bullying in schools. Additionally, Okanlawon suggests that Nigerian schools incorporate anti-homophobic bullying policies into gender-based anti-bullying/anti-harassment-related policies in Nigerian schools in order to ensure respect for diversity. Besides, Okanlawon acknowledged that in order to address the issue of homophobic bullying in schools and homophobia in the larger society, many Nigerians and other Africans need to decolonize their minds so as to build an inclusive society with our own rules, where tolerance, solidarity, and empathy for one another can thrive as opposed to a society where we are psychologically colonized by the ideology of U.S Evangelicals and antiquated colonial legacies of homophobia. Finally, he recommended that Nigerians challenge the colonial legacies such as heterosexist and homophobic legacies which cause division and hatred among Nigerians today.

Okanlawon noted that the belief that homosexuality is un-African is a fallacy. Actually, Okanlawon stated, it is homophobic bullying that is un-African. Historically, before colonization, Africans have been historically tolerant of diverse forms of sexual and gender diversity. 

In the research, Okanlawon argues for culturally relevant knowledge and approaches using locally meaningful values and terminologies in proposing solutions to the problem of homophobic bullying in Nigerian schools and homophobia in the larger society.

To access the full article, click HERE.

Kehinde Okanlawon, MA, MPH, is a sexual health and rights educator, activist, and researcher in Nigeria. He works with the House of Rainbow, an LGBT-Rights Organization, as the Project Coordinator for Human Rights Education and Counselling for LGBT persons in Nigeria. He also coordinates House of Rainbow’s recent HIV interventions in Nigeria.

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    Seun 6 years

    I can relate. It is such a good reporting. Thank you, Okanlawon.

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