In October, a video where a man was physically abusing his daughter for being a lesbian went viral. This was just one of the examples of the kinds of violence queer women in Nigeria face. In an inclusive study conducted by The Initiative for Equal Rights on violence against women in Nigeria, it was found that queer women are at a higher risk of experiencing violence in Nigeria without any real chance at legal redress. In this article, six Nigerian women talk about the violence they experienced because they are queer.
When I was in secondary school, senior girls would call other girls that looked like me to their rooms and punish us. . They called us blokes, masculine-presenting girls and we had a rule book that said we had to wear BYC singlets, sag our pants and do other silly things. The seniors would inspect us every week. If we followed the rules, they punished us. If we didn’t, they still punished us.
There were a lot of rumours about me being a lesbian in secondary school which got me in trouble with senior students. I didn’t get suspended like some of the other girls because they never caught doing stuff with girls, but I always got in trouble. When I got older, I realised that this is how the world treats masculine-presenting people.
In February 2021, I posted a video on Tiktok about liking women and a faceless user left a comment saying that they’d rape me. It shook me. I deleted the reply and blocked them, but I haven’t forgotten.
During the EndSARs protest, queer people waved the rainbow flag and that caused a lot of violence targeted against queer people online. One popular Twitter user said we were trying to hijack the protest and many other things. I quoted the tweet telling other queer people to ignore it. She replied to the tweet, and after a couple of back and forth tweets to each other, she called me a nobody whose whole life revolves around being queer. It was a homophobic dog whistle. A lot of people engaged the tweet with homophobic stuff directed at me. I tried to fight back but I was scared that someone would recognise me and out me to my parents. I locked my account the next day and I haven’t unlocked it since then.
In 2014, I wanted to explore my sexuality. I met this girl, Janet, on Badoo. She was nice. We texted for a couple of weeks before we started dating. There were no video calls then so we were always texting. In the third month of our relationship, she said she was travelling to Dubai for work and wasn’t sure when she’d be back;she wanted to see me before she left. I told her I didn’t have money and she said she would sponsor the trip.
I left Warri for Lagos the next day. She told me she would pick me up from the park at Ikotun. When I got to the park and called her, she said she couldn’t come to meet me because she was packing but she would send her brothers. Although I felt something was wrong, I wanted to see it through. I followed her brothers to a house somewhere in Lagos. It was dark inside. I was talking to Janet on the phone. She asked me to sit outside and wait for her.
Around 9 o’ clock , I called her; I heard the phone ringing in the compound and when she picked, I realised it was one of the guys mimicking a girl’s voice. Everything changed instantly. All the boys started beating me. They showed me my nudes and said they were going to report me to the police. They said as big as my bum bum is, it’s women I like. They collected all the money I had with me.
They wanted to rape me, but I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I could tell that they didn’t want me to bring attention to them. Then they threatened to kill me, but I stood my ground.
I noticed the door was open, and at some point, I ran out of the house. They pursued me, but they couldn’t chase after me because they were afraid they would draw attention. I escaped to a provision store and asked the woman there for a phone. The guys felt like I was reporting them, so they ran away. I called my friend who came to pick me up. I didn’t tell him what happened. The next day, I went to my grandma’s place. My grandma gave me money to go back to school. I didn’t talk about it for four years. Till now, when I meet women that like me online, I am skeptical about them.
A year after I got into the university, I met Halima. She lived in the same estate as I did. We liked each other and spent a lot of time together. In 2018, before I went back to school, on one of the days she kissed me and that’s how we started dating. She liked to touch and kiss me while we took our evening walks. I was always worried that someone would see us.
One day, after she kissed me, a man walked past us. I hadn’t realized that he was following us but I knew he saw us. Two weeks later, my mum sent me to the house behind ours to buy pap. The compound was empty when I walked in. As I was figuring out what to do, the man from that night walked in through the gate and locked it. He walked past me into the building and locked the door behind him. I was afraid and I wanted to leave immediately. I knocked on the door of his apartment but he didn’t answer. I could hear him shuffling inside the house. I kept knocking for a few minutes before he opened the door and pulled me inside. I screamed as loud as I could when he started hitting me but we both knew no one would hear me over the sound of generators. At some point, I stopped trying to fight back. When he realised I was too weak to move, he raped me.
I don’t know how long I was out for but I know when I woke up, he was out of sight. Outside, I could hear someone moving around. My crying must have been loud because the woman I came to see opened the door. She rushed to my side and took me to her apartment where she cleaned me up before taking me home. Tosin came over later that day to check on me as usual but I couldn’t talk to her. She kept pushing, asking me what was wrong and I snapped at her. I told her I didn’t want to be with her anymore and I hated what we were doing. I could see the confusion on her face as she walked out of my room. I was so scared that man would rape her too. I blocked her everywhere and deleted everything that would remind me of her. Till today, I hate that I did that to us but in my head, it was the only way to prevent anything from happening to her.
In 2016, a friend I considered a big brother invited me to a bachelor’s eve party. It was a weird party. There were a lot of naked women and men touching them. There was also cake, and I had some. I didn’t know there was weed in the cake, so when I started feeling high I was surprised because I didn’t drink. When the party dispersed around 3 am, I tried to sleep off my high on the couch. My friend woke me up and said I could stay in one of the rooms.
One of the strippers had just finished having sex with the groom-to-be in the room my friend led me to. They were laying on the bed. I was too high to think too much about anything so I lay down. My friend lay behind me. The groom moved closer to us and kissed me. I pulled away but he started to touch me. I took his hands off and he told my friend I don’t want to play with him. My friend held me while the groom took off my jumpsuit. None of my pleas was heard. My friend told the groom I am bisexual, so they asked the stripper to touch me. I can’t count how many times I said no but no one listened. The stripper held my hands and my friend held my legs so the groom could have sex with me. When he noticed I wasn’t interested, he stopped. My friend tried his luck too. I said no and curled up in a foetal position till the day was bright. I still went to the wedding the next day but my friend and I haven’t spoken since then.
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