AIDS Issues Update Blog

Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS


Posted by Mikola De Roo , March 17, 2014


Activist Protesting at March 7, 2014, NYC Nigerian Day of Action/Photo by Mikola De Roo

In response to the anti-LGBT law signed by Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck in January 2014, which makes gay marriage and same-sex relationships crimes punishable by up to 14 years in prison, Housing Works worked with The Solidarity Alliance for Human Rights in Nigeria as well as a number of U.S.-based human-rights and LGBT organizations to mount a protest in front of the Nigerian Consulate in New York City. One of multiple events taking place on March 7, 2014, as part of a Nigerian Global Day of Action, the protest was attended by hundreds and nine advocates were arrested for an act of civil disobedience when they blocked the entrance to the Consulate. Other similar demonstrations took place the same day in cities across the globe, including Washington, DC, London, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. The demand made by protestors is for the Nigerian government to rescind the law and let LGBT Nigerians live their lives openly and safely.

The video above captures some of the best moments from the New York City rally, including the delivery of a petition in support of LGBT Nigerians, asking leaders in Nigeria to help stop this anti-LGBT terror; hosted by All Out on behalf of The Solidarity Alliance, the petition was signed by nearly 100,000 people.

Please share the video widely with your network via Facebook, Twitter, email, and other social media: March 7 NYC Nigerian Day of Action Video.

Speeches during the rally were made by Nigerian LGBT activists Michael Ighodaro, Adaku Utah, Adejoke Tugbiyele (U.S. Representative for The Solidarity Alliance for Human Rights), and Ekene Okwuegbunam; Housing Works CEO Charles King; and ACT UP’s Jim Eigo, among others. The full text of the remarks made by Adaku Utah, Adejoke Tugbiyele, and Charles King are available below.

At the March 7 rally, Charles King framed the Nigerian law as both a human-rights crisis and an HIV and public-health crisis:

“This law has driven people who are most at risk of HIV further underground. And 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.”

If there were any doubts about the immediate effect the law is having not only on the physical safety of LGBT Nigerians but on the spread of the HIV epidemic in a country that already has the second-largest population of people living with HIV (a whopping 3.4 million), a March 15, 2014, Mother Jones article, “You Thought It Was Tough Being Gay in Uganda. ‘It’s Hell in Nigeria.’” dispels those notions as wishful thinking. The article reports that since the law was signed in January, the number of patients coming to the International Center for Advocacy on Rights to Health (ICARH), an Abuja-based HIV intervention organization, for HIV treatment has dropped by over 50%. According to ICARH program officer John Adeniyi, “One person told me he would rather die…than come to the organization” and risk imprisonment. ICARH and at least eight other similar organizations that provide HIV treatment and prevention services in northern Nigeria have also cut back on HIV outreach, training, and education program, and others will likely follow suit rather than go to prison for providing medical treatment for gay people.

Housing Works is taking ongoing action through The Housing Works Asylum Project, which is providing housing, health care, legal support, financial support, volunteer work, job training, and employment to LGBT activists from Nigeria, Uganda, Jamaica, and other nations who seek sanctuary in the U.S. to escape imprisonment and violence for who they are and who they love.

Inside of the year and a half since its inception, the program has quickly grown from sponsorship of two asylees to 17, with new applications for assistance coming in regularly. In order to house the growing influx, Housing Works is in the process of renting a residence that will lodge up to eight people at a time while they make their way through the process of legalizing their status. Because it can take up to a year to get an initial asylum hearing and the applicant cannot legally work during this time, Housing Works offers new asylees in the program a stipend of $100 per week as well as volunteer work and training in positions at Housing Works so that we can employ them or place them in a position elsewhere as soon as they receive work papers.

Housing Works is currently absorbing the costs of health care, case management, and other services through its existing programs. However, the new residence and the stipend fund are the principal unfunded costs of the program.

You can help us provide safety and support to LGBT asylees by donating to The Housing Works Asylum Project campaign today!

NYC 3.7.14 Nigerian Global Day of Action Speech, Nigerian LGBTQ Activist Adaku Utah by housingworks

NYC 3.7.14 Nigerian Global Day of Action Speech, HW CEO Charles King by housingworks

NYC 3.7.14 Nigerian Global Day of Action Speech by Nigerian LGBTQ Activist Adejoke Tugbiyele by housingworks

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