Last week, a study produced by Asher & Lyric, an Australian travel website, created an LGBTQ+ Danger index from a ranking of 150 countries with the most international tourists.
The study is titled “The Worst (& Safest) Countries For LGBTQ+ Travel In 2019”. It states that it took a deep and careful look at the listed countries rather than from hearsay and anecdotes and arrived at the results of their study using eight factors including legalized same-sex marriage, protection against discrimination, illegal same-sex relationships, worker protections, criminalization of violence, adoption recognition.
Nigeria scores -142 on the danger index, making it the most dangerous place to visit as a queer person, with Qatar and Yemen following right behind.
The well-known reality of LGBTQ+ persons living in Nigeria, makes this study highly plausible. Despite the slowly changing perceptions and the growing acceptance, in both virtual and physical spaces, Nigerian queer people still face large amounts of abuse, discrimination, segregation, social isolation. Many are still unable to get proper justice when violated, and many others liable to lose their jobs if their sexual orientation is known in their place of work, so it makes sense that this study has turned up.
Right after this study got out though, opinions around its viability and how it portrays Nigeria to whoever cares, held sway with barely any condemnation of the results of homophobia from those same people. This is sad, as what should be a point of reflection, an opportunity to begin to reconsider how homophobia; baseless, unnecessary, but extremely dangerous, is affecting not just our moral structures but also the country’s economic potential. Instead, it has been skewed out as some sort of blemish on our ‘spotless’ national image. The clamour to preserve a scrupulous image rather than actively working towards achieving one, seems to be tied into the Nigerian genetics.
The study isn’t trying to make us look worse than we already are, but simply reflects the consequences of homophobia. And if this is in any way bothersome, then it is time to challenge homophobia, the reason we are in this situation in the first place, to consider the physical extents to which our hate for the valid and harmless existence of other people who simply don’t love like us, can manifest into long-lasting destructions.
The media has played a huge role in influencing hatred, by ascribing mockery and unseriousness to queer identities. With more healthy Nigerian queer content creators and contents springing up steadily, through books, movies, podcasts and talk shows aimed at educating and questioning queerphobia and highlighting nuanced and accurate portrayal of Nigerian queer lives, one can only hope that these sentiments will be changed and allow everyone to be seen first as human before anything else.