Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Mikola De Roo , March 07, 2014
Prisca Edwards Photography
Nine human-rights and LGBT advocates were arrested today after blocking the entrance to the Consulate General of Nigeria in Midtown Manhattan. This act of civil disobedience was to protest the draconian anti-LGBT law signed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on January 14, a law that makes gay marriage and same-sex relationships crimes punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The protestors’ demand was simple: to rescind the law and let LGBT Nigerians live their lives free of discrimination and violence.
The action was part of a larger rally attended by nearly 400 protestors, including many Housing Works staff, clients, and volunteers. The demonstration, organized by the Nigerian Solidarity Alliance, brought together nearly a dozen prominent human rights, immigrant, and LGBT advocacy organizations to co-sponsor the event, including amfAR, Housing Works, ACT UP, GMHC, and Immigration Equality.
Among the rally speakers was Nigerian activist and Housing Works social worker Michael Ighodaro, who sought asylum in the U.S. in 2012 after a violent attack and death threats at home. Ighodaro expressed his hope that the outcry of visible and widespread public support will ensure things improve and that the hatred and violence he and other Nigerians face abroad doesn’t last. “I am Nigerian by birth, just as I am gay by birth,” said Ighodaro. “I was born gay. And I am now American, grateful to find safety and support here but far from the home where I belong, because my own government says who I am and who I love is a crime.”
In his speech at the demonstration, Housing Works President & CEO Charles King described the devastating, domino effect of these anti-LGBT laws and the culture of intolerance, homophobia, and violence being fostered by them:
“We have gathered today to demonstrate our solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community of Nigeria and with their families and friends. We stand today not only in solidarity with this community, but also with the same communities in Uganda, in Cameroon, in Jamaica, with the young black gay man in East New York, with the young transgender Latina woman in the South Bronx, indeed, with all those around the globe, wherever they may dwell, who live in fear, who are forced from their homes, who suffer violence and indignities upon their person because of who they are or whom they love.”
King went on to note that the resulting shutdown of lifesaving HIV services at LGBT organizations in Nigeria, where an estimated 3.4 million people live with HIV, is also of grave concern. “This law has driven people who are most at risk of HIV further underground,” King asserted. “People who are living underground will not come forward to risk being tested. People who are infected with HIV will not risk coming forward for treatment. When every sexual encounter becomes a furtive gesture that risks one’s life, safer sex becomes an oxymoron. By driving people underground, we are driving the epidemic underground, where it will continue to flourish and spread…We have within our grasp the science and the technology to end AIDS as an epidemic around the globe. Sadly, we do not have the science nor the technology to end hate…That is why, at its core, the fight against AIDS is a fight for human rights and human dignity.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Donate to support our advocacy work on behalf of our Nigerian friends and allies. Housing Works is taking action through its Asylum Program, which provides housing, health care, and legal support to LGBT activists from Nigeria, Uganda, and other nations who have come to the U.S. to escape imprisonment for the way they live. You can help support this program by donating today and sharing this info with your network!
Help us advocate for the rights of all people living with HIV/AIDS