About two weeks ago, The Initiative For Equal Rights kick-started a campaign geared at raising awareness around the 57 young men who were arrested at a party in Egbeda, Lagos, and put up on media trial by the Nigerian Police two years ago.
Despite the lack of evidence by the Nigerian Police who accused these men of doing drugs and participating in a homosexuality initiation process and the unimaginable havoc, this event has wrecked on the lives of these young men, flipping their lives upside down and leaving them exposed to Nigeria’s ruthless homophobia, they still haven’t been acquitted. For two years now.
The #AcquitThe57 campaign organized by TIERs entirely hosted on social media gained traction, with many social media users joining the campaign, retweeting the hashtag and condemning this deplorable act both on the part of the Nigerian police and the justice system that has allowed this case to drag on without direction for this long.
It is, however, truly exciting to learn that the court presiding over this case has set a new date to hear the case, giving these young men a chance to get the justice they deserve. This announcement is indeed a victory and another reason not to underestimate the power of social media. And for queer people in Nigeria, it wouldn’t be a reach to consider social media our strongest ally.
This year alone has seen the birth of wide reaching campaigns like #EndhomophobiainNigeria and conversations around institutionalized homophobia, transphobia, gay men marrying straight women as protective blankets and many others.
Nigerian queer folks aren’t afraid to talk about what bothers them on social media. There is safety in anonymity, but there is also the certainty that amidst the unchecked homophobia expressed online, homophobes are aware that queer people will not back down from getting equality and fair treatment.
As we wait to see what result this trial brings, we hope the law judges fairly and that queer people are inspired to continue to raise their voices online until seismic change begins to happen.
Nelson C.J is a culture writer with works in The New York Times, Xtra Magazine, OkayAfrica, Black Youth Project, AfroPunk, and a few other spaces. You can find him saving dog pictures on Twitter.