Safe spaces for LGBTQ+ Nigerians are being hijacked by homophobic users.
The LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria have been experiencing rampant abuse on the popular social media app Clubhouse.
In a report from Time magazine, the invitation-only app has been used as an escape for queer Nigerians, who use the app to discuss LGBTQ+ issues and topics.
One user described Clubhouse as a “safe haven” and a “holding space for each other [the LGBTQ+ community].”
Nigeria is one of the most dangerous countries for the LGBTQ+ community and has been ranked as the worst place for LGBTQ+ safety, due to the prospect of 14 years in prison or the death penalty for homosexuality, as well as the criminalisation of LGBTQ+ rights discussions.
Although Clubhouse has been a safe haven for most, abuse and anti-LGBTQ+ behaviour has become more common since its introduction.
Some homophobic chatrooms have even disguised themselves as LGBTQ+ friendly, luring in unsuspecting people before unleashing horrible verbal attacks.
The hijacking of queer spaces on social media has become more common in Nigeria, with some homophobes even tricking gay individuals on Grindr.
In a recent attack on the app, a moderator proudly admitted his homophobic nature, stating: “I am telling you that you, do you hear, you are not coming up, and it is going to pain you as I am saying that I am homophobic.”
One user told Time it was “exhausting” that these rooms are being created without anyone being held responsible for spreading hate.
In the apps community guidelines, it states “You may not discriminate against, engage in hateful conduct directed at, or threaten violence or harm against any person or groups of people.”
The community guidelines also state that temporary audio recordings of chatrooms occur in case someone were to submit an incident report.
But even with heavy precautions, some users have stated that nothing has been done for reports of abuse.
Homophobia is rife throughout the country, back in 2019 an influential police chief, Dolapo Badmos, told LGBTQ+ people to leave the country or face prosecution.
“If you are homosexually inclined, Nigeria is not a place for you. There is a law (Same-Sex Prohibition Act) here that criminalises homosexual clubs, associations and organisations with penalties of up to 15 years in jail,” she posted on Instagram.
“So, if you are a homosexual in nature, leave the country or face prosecution. But before you say, ‘does this matter?’ Kindly note that anything against the law of the land is criminal and all crimes will be punished accordingly no matter how small you think it is.”
Although main Nigerian law only criminalises homosexuality, certain areas in the country have adopted the Islamic Sharia law, which punishes homosexuality with death. Nigeria is one of 11 countries where a death penalty is in place for homosexuality.