Religion has overtime continue to play an important role in Nigerian public’s perception of homosexuality and Transgender identity and the willingness of the masses to accept, embrace and respect queer persons within our families and society. As a matter of fact, religion is ineradicable within Nigerians’ national identity with about 46.9% of the population identifying as Christians and 51.1% identifying as Muslim. Given that over third of our adult population is illiterate and only 46% have internet access, religious leaders have remain influential in the transmission of disinformation around human sexual orientations and gender identities. These religious leaders are men, women and youths who hold formal or informal status of spiritual or organizational dominance over the masses, and their words and opinions influence political policies and social behaviors towards sexual and gender diversities living in Nigeria.
The idea behind conversion therapy for lesbians, gay, bisexual or Transgender persons in Nigeria is majorly rooted in religious dogmas and cultural affiliations. Words like natural or order of nature are being used loosely overtime to criminalize and control queer bodies from expressing our innate attractions and emotions, even when these feelings are natural to us and felt within our natural state of being. The idea that a person who is either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can, due to various therapeutic practices either ethical or non-ethical, religious or unorthodox, cease to be who they are but rather be either straight or cisgender, is a fallacy that is sold by religious and traditional entities and adopted by the politicians to exploit the conscience of gullible, ignorant and uninformed masses.
Religious organizations in Nigeria have historically supported and reinforced homophobia. Many LGBTIQ persons first encounter with homophobia in Nigeria is within religious spaces or with religious people. Our lives and the essence of our being is constantly defined by the tenants of our religious dogmas or cultural background, leading to self-denial, self-hate and self-abuse.
Reflecting on this year’s IDAHOT+ theme “Our Bodies, Our Rights, Our Lives”, we call to mind the negative effects, inhumane treatments and constant violation of queer bodies within the framework of conversion therapy by religious leaders. We debunk the aged long narrative that homosexuality is a “demonic possession” and the use of exorcism as a tool of conversion is the remedy to this possession. We challenge the dogmas that promote reparative therapy within the institutionalized religions in Nigeria and we question the motive behind the use of pain, torture, beatings, to manipulate and violate queer bodies as a form of conversion therapy. We demand to be free from physical violence in guise of conversion “therapies”. We take back ownership of Trans/Intersex bodies from forced sterilization. We vigorously and courageously take back our bodies and demand our rights to live and thrive within the Nigerian society.
Every society strive to protect and improve the lives of its vulnerable citizens but in the case of Nigeria, LGBTIQ persons are seen as a tool for political manipulation, religious caricature and social object of amusement. Commemorating this year’s IDAHOT+ as an organization, we stand with the poor and vulnerable LGBTIQ community in Nigeria to call to an end of all the inhumane treatments and violence faced by our bodies in the name of conversion therapy. We call to mind victims that we have lost to these inhumane treatments and the agony they felt, passing through such experiences which finally took away not only their rights to live fully and freely but their lives as well. We stand in solidarity with the survivors of these practices and call for an end to these impunities as we vigorously reclaim our bodies, our rights and our lives from the traumas of conversion therapy.