In Nigeria, the celebration of LGBTIQ+ identities on TikTok has sparked a disturbing response from the police, who have issued threats of arrest for participants.
The “Of Course” challenge, a viral trend on TikTok, witnessed LGBTIQ+ Nigerians sharing aspects of their queer identities alongside associated stereotypes.
In one video, an individual says, “I’m bisexual. Of course, everyone thinks I’m a prostitute,” while another asserts, “I’m a lesbian masculine-presenting woman. And, of course, people always ask me if I’m a footballer.”
Backlash and Homophobic Responses
The video, however, triggered strong reactions from homophobes, who questioned the audacity of Nigerians to publicly disclose their sexual orientation on social media.
One tweet expressing disdain read, “It was disgusting to see Nigerians coming out without fear to support LGBTQ, this is highly condemned and unacceptable.” The negative sentiments escalated when individuals questioned the legality of LGBTIQ+ existence in Nigeria.
In response to the controversy, Nigeria Police Force Public Relations Officer Prince Olumuyiwa Adejobi issued a direct threat on X against those featured in the videos, asserting that “they are criminal and punishable under the law.”
He went on to state: “We are on this clip to take necessary action according to the provisions of the law in Nigeria. These are unnatural offences and are totally condemned. Thanks.”
Police Threats and Ongoing Legal Challenges
While some argued that merely identifying as LGBTIQ+ is not illegal in Nigeria, the reality is that those involved could be under threat. The country has a history of arresting members of the queer community based solely on suspicion of homosexuality, perpetuating a climate of fear and discrimination.
In October 2023, police arrested 76 individuals in a raid on a “homosexual birthday party” in Gombe State, while in August, dozens were arrested for participating in what the authorities described as a “gay marriage ceremony” in Delta state.
Nigeria enforces some of the world’s most severe anti-LGBTIQ+ laws. These laws, rooted in colonial-era legislation, stipulate a 14-year prison sentence for anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts.
Additionally, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, passed into law in 2014, further criminalises same-sex marriages and relationships, carrying potential penalties of up to 14 years in prison.
The law also mandates a 10-year jail term for public displays of same-sex affection and individuals involved with or supporting LGBTIQ+ groups.