June 30, 2015 at 9:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Poll: 87 percent of Nigerians back anti-marriage law

Gay News, Washington Blade, Nigeria

A new poll indicates 87 percent of Nigerians support their country’s law that criminalizes same-sex marriages. (Photo by Darwinek via Wikimedia)

A new poll released on Tuesday indicates the vast majority of Nigerians support their country’s draconian law that punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage.

The survey conducted by NOI Polls, the Bisi Alimi Foundation and the Initiative for Equal Rights in Nigeria with the support of GLAAD notes that 87 percent of the 1,000 adult Nigerians surveyed earlier this year support the “Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Law” that then-President Goodluck Jonathan signed in January 2014.

The poll notes that 90 percent of Nigerians feel that people are not born gay, lesbian or bisexual. Only 11 percent of respondents said they would accept a family member who identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

“This survey reflects a massive gap in knowledge about sexuality and human rights,” said Olumide Makanjuola, executive director of the Initiative for Equal Rights in Nigeria, in a press release that announced the survey results. “This lack of knowledge explains why LGBT people continue to experiences human rights violations.”

The poll notes that support for the controversial law fell from 96 percent of Nigerians in 2010 to 87 percent this year.

More than half of the respondents who indicated they feel people are born lesbian, gay or bisexual said they know someone — a family member, friend or someone in their community — who identifies as LGB. Thirty percent of respondents say they feel lesbian, gay and bisexual Nigerians should have access to education, health care and other public services.

The survey did not ask respondents about transgender-specific issues because it focused on the “Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Law.”

Bisi Alimi, who became the first openly gay man to appear on Nigerian television, said the survey results are a sign of progress in his homeland from which he later fled. The founder of the foundation that bares his name received asylum in the U.K. in 2008.

“This poll tells us that Nigerians are not inherently homophobic, but that in the absence of accurate information around gender and sexuality, people are left to believe myths and misinformation,” said Alimi. “The trend in this survey has shown that with a conducive environment to provide unrestrictive and unbiased information about gender and sexuality in Nigeria, we will be able to create a platform for discussion and dialogue where views can be shared and opinions expressed without fear.”

Secretary of State John Kerry is among those who criticized Jonathan after he signed his country’s anti-marriage law.

Religious forces in January arrested a dozen people outside the city of Kano who were reportedly attending a same-sex wedding. Those found guilty of homosexuality in the northern part of the country that is under Sharia law face the death penalty.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator, in April defeated Jonathan in the country’s presidential election.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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