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Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Otosirieze Obi-Young
Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People
A #QueerNigerianLivesMatter protester.

As the #EndSARS movement continues in Nigerian cities, another protest, the LGBTQ-themed #QueerNigerianLivesMatter, has gained traction within it. #QueerNigerianLivesMatter is calling for exactly the same thing that #EndSARS is: the end of police brutality in Nigeria—only highlighting an underreported demographic. Over the years, criticism of SARS brutality focused mostly on male victims and survivors, and increasingly, with the start of the protests, on female survivors of rape and sexual assault. But the assault on LGBTQ Nigerians was largely overlooked and became normalized.

For years, all police units—not just SARS—have targeted people they believe to be gay and lesbian. Some police officers have tracked them on social media, lured them to secret places, and blackmailed, beaten, and extorted money from them. Many officers have used the road searches as opportunities to check people’s phones for sexual material and then use that to assault and extort. Still, the greater number of officers simply presumed people’s sexuality by what they wore, how they walked, leading to many unreported cases of assault on even people who are not LGBTQ.

Because of the wildly homophobic climate of the country, aided by the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA), signed into law by then president Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, LGBTQ Nigerians have mostly borne their suffering in silence, occasionally sharing accounts on social media. Until #EndSARS presented an opportunity to, for the first time, publicly protest on the streets.

However, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter protesters quickly ran into trouble: at Berger, Abuja, they were attacked by fellow protesters. It is a shameful situation: protesters against police brutality turning around to brutalize fellow protesters.

On social media, a few people have suggested that the #QueerNigerianLivesMatter is “hijacking” the #EndSARS movement. That, of course, is false: only a fraction of the #EndSARS protesters are also #QueerNigerianLivesMatter protesters, so they cannot possibly “hijack” Nigeria’s biggest movement since we became a democracy. Some other anti-#QueerNigerianLivesMatter social media users have called for the protest to wait until after #EndSARS. That logic—if you understand homophobia and Nigeria—is simply unrealistic. Police and civilian brutality on LGBTQ Nigerians is also brutality on Nigerians, and we must protest all forms of brutality.

The #EndSARS movement will not be complete until the #QueerNigerianLivesMatter protest achieves its aim: an end to the Nigerian police—and army and every other security operatives—attacking LGBTQ Nigerians.

Here are photos from the #QueerNigerianLivesMatter protests. (Please reach out to us for the credits.)

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

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, Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People
Burna Boy, pictured here at the 2019 Coachella, is nominated for an MTV EMA 2020. Photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella.

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

Within #EndSARS Movement, #QueerNigerianLivesMatter Highlights Assault on LGBTQ People

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