It comes as no surprise that the LGBTQ community in western Africa is under duress. Most of Africa is still largely homophobic. In Nigeria, it is a criminal offence that is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. It is also a crime in Northern Nigeria (a Muslim section of the nation) that is ruled by Sharia law.
Western Africa comprises of many nations that all do not support nor recognize the LGBTQ community. In francophone west Africa, a major challenge is ongoing due to an underdeveloped civil community. The people in the LGBTQ community in Western Africa do not enjoy the same security and protection given to the rest of the citizens.
The Activist community in west Africa has been far from quiet. Not only is there an ongoing quiet revolution, West African pride members feature across the globe speaking up and demanding to be recognized and respected. Lesbian and non-binary women have often been some of the most marginalized and unrecognized in the LGBTQ community in Africa but this is slowly changing as they continue to be more vocal about the issues they face.
Lesbian and Non-Binary women are speaking out
In Nigeria, Lesbian activists came forward to discuss some of the major challenges that only lesbians and non-binary women face. Besides having close to nil recognition, they felt that the civil community was not doing enough to protect them.
Not enough money is being set aside to protect the interests of lesbian women in danger from society and the governments oppressive laws by the civil society. A lot of women in greater West Africa region still face violence and undergo “corrective rape”, sometimes even from family members.
In an unidentified West African college, some homophobic students took it upon themselves to publicly ‘out’ lesbian girls within the campus. This led to their identities, pictures and room numbers being publicly shared making them vulnerable to cyber bulling, physical bullying and even corrective rape from the more hateful individuals within and outside the institution.
These is but an inkling of the issues that lesbian and non-conforming women face every other day in Western Africa. Public outing of lesbians has a great effect on their mental and psychological health. It can be depressing to face humiliation because of who you are and cannot change and be brutalized for it.
Not only are west African lesbians and non-binaries aware of the danger they face each day, the fear of unnecessary publicity is growing by the day as more and more people get access to social networks. The activism that is ongoing in the region covers a lot of ground and still needs to cover more ground for real change to be affected.
The way forward
In Francophone nations, LGBTQ activism is aimed at strengthening the civil community. This way, members of the LGBTQ community can have a safe place to run to whenever they face hostility and brutality from the community.
There is also the issue of intimidation by the government. There is still a long way to go for the LGBTQ community where legislation is concerned. To curtail intimidation, Lesbian and Non-binary women have come forward and taken a stand to be more vocal.
Their goal is to be seen. To be seen simply translates to the creation of awareness that they are here and they are everywhere and the world should get used to it. Acceptance is the first step to change and African Lesbians and non-binary women are at the frontline in LGBTQ activism for change.