Nigeria’s Twitter ban affects LGBT+ Nigerians worse than other Nigerians

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A lot has been said about the consequences of the Twitter ban in Nigeria with regards to its impact on businesses that are heavily dependent on the microblogging site for marketing and sales. Very little has been said about the consequence of a ban on perhaps the only online platform used by sexual and gender minority groups to educate an obstinately wifully ignorant Nigerian population.

An increasing number of LGBT+ Nigerians have found Twitter to speak of their state-sanctioned and often state-perpetuated abuse over the years. Many more have used the platform to agitate – protesting and documenting their protests – against the Nigerian state’s oppressive anti-gay laws.

The chances are beyond sky-high that the eventually-shelved hunger strike by Nigerian YouTube, Victor Emmanuel, would have gone unnoticed without Twitter.

The now-viral video of human rights activist, Mathew Blaise, walking down a Lagos Street while chanting “Queer lives matter,” at the peak of the #EndSARS protests won’t have made the round of the internet as much as it did without Twitter.

The plight of sexual and gender minorities will continue to be dust under the carpet of this nation’s cultural landscape without a platform like Twitter that concertedly holds space for everyone to be seen. Every issue to be heard and no picture however ugly hidden from the view of society.

I wondered while reading the story of a team woman based in Kano who was forced to be on the run after the Sharia police arrested her boyfriend if her story would ever see the light of day were it not for Twitter. Where will a story like Laila’s find platform outside Twitter?

While listening to a friend recount his ordeal at the hands of the Nigeria Police Force (NFP) last week – he was stopped for an unlawful search of his phone that turned up a raunchy GIF of two men – I wondered if the story would have found an audience on Twitter and shine a new light on the extent of abuse of power the NPF is capable of.

I wonder still how far-reaching his story will be, had it been shared at a time when the Nigerian government – unbothered about the dangers of hindering a free flow of information – is not blocking Twitter from the 30+ m people dependent on it for everything from finding community to hearing about broad daylight robbery perpetrated by the police.

It is an established fact that every governance policy decision affects minority groups manifolds more than it does the larger population. It is why framing policy so it benefits the most vulnerable among us is always the best way to make policy decisions.

The work of documenting the plight of the LGBT+ will continue as it was before – with human rights non-profits and media houses that hold space for that kind of documentation. It is bound however to lack as much depth as we have seen with the explosion of LGBT+ persons telling their stories, defending their human dignity, and defying the odds to live loud and proud on Twitter.

Until the ban is lifted, we will do well to keep an eye out for a likely increase in the human rights violation of LGBT+ Nigerians so nothing gets swept under the carpet.

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