Nigerian writer: Anti-gay law is ‘forcing people underground’

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A Nigerian writer has warned that his country’s anti-gay law is forcing the country’s gay community underground.

Novelist Jude Dibia penned controversial 2005 novel Walking with Shadows, which is thought to be the first Nigerian novel that has a gay man as its central character.

After receiving numerous death threats he left Nigeria – and now lives in the United States.

Mr Dibia told Voice of Africa: “Being gay in Nigeria is so funny because you cannot admit to it.

“You have to pass as something else and create a different persona and live that persona. And, sometimes for some people, they end up being married and they have families and they try to suppress who they are.

“But, there is a lot of depression and struggles there.

“People have gone further underground, but they still are trying to survive.

“And, I think maybe that is why online now on the Internet and on blogs you are seeing more stories coming out.

“There is a lot of anger festering in the underbelly.

“But, more stories are popping out there because of this law. And, I think it is a good thing. In its own way, it is a good thing.”

He added of reaction to his book: “There was a discussion that was started and that was very positive. Before people – oh you mentioned gay it is like under the table in whispers.

“It was such a taboo word even to say homosexual in public.

“Now people could talk about homosexuals in the context of my novel without it sounding like a dirty word.

“It was more for discussion and a debate on the character this, the character that. So, I started more or less a sort of discussion.”

Nigeria this year introduced a harsher anti-gay law, under which anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union may be jailed for up to 14 years, and all such unions entered into abroad are made “void”.

It also bans people who register, operate or participate in gay clubs, societies or organisations, or who publicly show that they are in a same-sex relationship will be punishable with up to ten years in prison – this includes couples holding hands.

“Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognised as valid in Nigeria,” the law states.