A Nigerian man, who is keeping his identity a secret for his own safety, took a leap of faith when he came out to his family as a homosexual. Nigeria passed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act back in 2013. Under the law, same-sex marriage comes with a possible penalty of life in prison. Homosexuality is outright banned across the country. “Homosexual acts” carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Soon after the Nigerian man came out to his family, his sister told him she wanted to meet, but when she arrived, she visited her brother with another man known only as “The Prophet.” The Nigerian man was then kidnapped and forced into conversion therapy where he was flogged and beaten repeatedly.
In a startling BBC video interview, the man describes his experiences in captivity and what it was like to come out as a gay man in Nigeria. Learn more about this astonishing story and what it reveals about LGBTQ discrimination around the world.
A Harrowing Account of Being Forced into Conversion Therapy
Conversion therapy is defined as “the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions.”
The practice may take many forms, depending on the perpetrator and victim. Conversion therapy is banned across much of the U.S. and the Western world, but it remains legal in many countries, including Nigeria. According to a 2007 Gallup Poll, around 97% of Nigeria’s population believes homosexuality is unacceptable. The African nation remains largely religious. It’s evenly split between majority Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.
The Nigerian man appears in the BBC interview with his face blurred out in order to remain anonymous. Homosexuality remains punishable by law in his home country, which shows why he went to such great lengths to keep his identity a secret. The man tells the interview he grew up in a largely Christian family that believes homosexuality is “demonic”. Despite his fears, he decided to come out to his family, hoping they would accept him for who he is.
After the man’s sister and “The Prophet” kidnapped him and forced him into conversion therapy, things quickly spiraled out of control. As the victim told the BBC, “He [The Prophet] would come in at intervals to do some ‘spiritual exercise,’ as he said, which included stripping me naked and flogging me and all that.” During his first day in captivity, “The Prophet” reportedly beat the victim seven times.
The victim goes on to say, “He did the same thing the second day. It became 14 times. Then the third day, out of exhaustion and the pain I was going through, I passed out.”
Interviewers also spoke with a Nigerian woman who voluntarily went to conversion therapy to remove her same-sex urges. She says those running the program forced her to raise her legs. They then poured a “peppery” oil into her vagina.
As she says in the interview, “For me it was intrusive because what has my vagina got to with deliverance? But at that time I didn’t really know much. So, for me I was ready to do just anything to take away the whole feeling of same-sex attraction.”
Where the Medical Community Stands on Conversion Therapy
Conversion therapy is born out of the idea that homosexuality is a problem that needs to be fixed, the effects of which have yet to be scientifically proven. As of today, conversion therapy is banned in 14 states across the U.S. and the District of Columbia. The American Psychiatric Association released a statement back in 1998 that opposed conversion therapy. It reads as follows: “APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the a priori assumption that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation.”
As LGBTQ acceptance rates continue to climb across much of the Western world, the APA went on to revise this statement in 2013, adding:
“The American Psychiatric Association does not believe that same-sex orientation should or needs to be changed, and efforts to do so represent a significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment which have not been scientifically validated and by undermining self-esteem when sexual orientation fails to change. No credible evidence exists that any mental health intervention can reliably and safely change sexual orientation; nor, from a mental health perspective does sexual orientation need to be changed.”
Considering the potential harm imposed by conversion therapy, the APA and other mental health organizations have recently called on lawmakers to outright ban the practice. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder that needs to be treated. It remains unclear as to why certain individuals grow up to identify as straight, gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, queer, or questioning, but researchers believe that one’s sexuality may be, at least partially, influenced by certain biological factors that start before birth.
As a healthcare provider, remember to treat all your patients equally, regardless of their sexual orientation.