Transgender People In Nigeria And Gay People In Iran Live In Fear Due To The Risk Of Retaliation Because Of Their Sexual Identities

Veso Golden Oke. Photo Source: Facebook Nigerian model becomes the first trans contestant in a beauty pageant

Writer Timinepre Cole of the site Al Jazeera wrote a gripping story that sheds light on the struggles of transgender people living in Nigeria.   Transgenders are often known worldwide as non-binary or genderqueer, and like homosexuality, transgender people live in secrecy, fear of retaliation, and emotional pain when they are unable to express their identities openly without ridicule. 

The belief of this site is that outside of rape, murder, child abuse, taking advantage of the disabled, and animal cruelty (all of which we feel the convicted should face harsh penalties including death), an individual has the right to live their lives how they see fit if their beliefs do not cause harm to another person of sound mind, and have the freedom to make sensible choices.

But like many African continents, Nigeria has strict and unforgiven laws regarding Same-Sex Marriage. As pointed out in Cole’s article, the Nigeria government put into Act Section 405 of the Penal Code/The Sharia Penal Code, “which applies in northern Nigeria, provides that a male who dresses like a woman in a public place is a vagabond, and section 407 prescribes that the punishment for being a vagabond is one-year imprisonment and/or a fine,” noted Cole.

Also, depending on how often the gay person is caught revealing their sexual origin in public, they face two years imprisonment and/or a fine under section 408 of the code.  Nigeria views homosexuals as criminals, although they have not engaged in true criminal activities from a broader perspective.  

Many transgender people are often thrown into the category of gay when that might not be the case.   “This hinders the process of social transitioning, where trans people “come out” by making others aware of their gender identity – usually through changing their name and way of dressing, asserting their pronouns, and making other physical or behavioral changes,” writes Cole.

Tom, for apparent reasons, did not use his real name, told Cole, “Social transitioning is such a dangerous experience in Nigeria. I know they are merely words, but it has very real consequences for people like me because those violent words quickly turn into action if left unchallenged.”  

Cole mentioned how transgender people in Nigeria struggle to find proper medical care to undergo the process of changing their physical bodies.   

“I realized from a very young age that there was no light at the end of the tunnel for someone like me that hopes to someday medically transition,” Tom said. “When I was in Nigeria, I felt hopeless about a happy, healthy future … I knew if I stayed … I would never be able to transition in the ways I desired.”

Cole added, “Healthcare practitioners may not be familiar with the existence of trans folk or may choose to ignore the possibility of their existence. Research studies carried out by healthcare practitioners in Nigeria do not include trans people or address health concerns relevant to them, and practitioners receive no training in how to work with trans patients.”

Section 17(3)(d) of the Nigerian constitution says every individual has the right to medical and health facilities, but transgender people are at a disadvantage under the law because there are no procedures such as orchiectomy, penectomy, phalloplasty, and metoidioplasty, which are all or some moving parts of the transgender relies on to make their official/physical transformation into their new identity.  

Suppose the Nigeran transgender person desperately wants the procedure done. In that case, they have to seek donations or find other ways to gather enough money to travel to the US, United Kingdom, or the Philippines, places that are more accepting. 

The article mentions a person named Bobby.   Although he was born a girl, Bobby (not his real name) views himself as having the traits of a male, but he’s left to suffer internally knowing that he’s living a lie, unable to proudly tell his community to accept and embrace him or move on.   

“Is there a doctor in Nigeria that would not look at me like some strange animal? If I go to see an OB/GYN looking the way I do, will I be asked to get out, or will they treat me with respect?” he said. “I am due for a check-up, but I cannot go to the hospital because I am scared, and I do not want to expose myself to violence and dehumanization. The last time I went, the doctor was fixated on my genitals. In fact, when I am filling the forms, what do I fill in for gender?”

Cole profiled a woman named Chizoba Okosa, 27, and echoed the same thoughts as Bobby.   “Medical transition is expensive, and many trans women cannot afford the procedures.” “I have started transitioning medically – taking hormones, and I love the fact that my body is changing, but every day I wake up anxious about how I am going to get the money for my next hormone shots.”

Nigerians can apply for a national identification number (NIN), documentation that allows them to validate who they are.  However, for transgender people, this still doesn’t offer them total satisfaction, but it’s the best they have.  “Because it was her first time going through the biometric process, and there was no record of what she previously looked like, Chizoba was not challenged on this.”

Rights activist Xeenarh Mohammed told Cole, “In Nigeria, there is an obsession with policing bodies, and consequently, people who do not fit neatly into socially constructed categories are made to feel othered.” 

Clinical psychologist Aanu Jide-Ojo told Cole, “Trans people are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime, compared to cis people,” explains. “They are more susceptible to mental illnesses, due to a myriad of barriers to physical and social transition, even more so in Nigeria.”

In Iran, Hassan Afshar was killed because of his sexuality

In 2016, Hassan Afshar was only 19 when he was killed via hanging in Arak Prison in Iran’s Markazi, after a court ruled, he violated the Islamic law application of lethal homophobia/Islamic Republic law 2016 that prohibits same-sex marriage.   At the time of his death, Afshar was Iran’s first gay adolescent to be killed.  

Law enforcement learned about the same-sex act between Afshar and the other peer after someone said he was supposedly forcing a boy to have sex with him. But when Afshar was arrested in 2014, he said the other boy consented. 

Hassan Afshar

At the time of his death, Afshar’s death, Stefan Schaden, an LGBT rights activist and spokesman for the European ‘STOP THE BOMB’ campaign, told The Jerusalem Post, “Consensual homosexual conduct remains illegal under Iran’s Sharia law and is punished with public flogging or even execution. While the Islamic State throws gays from rooftops, the Islamic Republic [of Iran] hangs them.”

Iran has been notorious for killing same-sex relations.  According to a 2008 British Wikileaks dispatch, Iran executed between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians between the start of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 to 2008.

Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, to the news post, “In a cruel stroke of irony, officials did not inform Hassan Afshar of his death sentence for around seven months while he was held in a juvenile detention facility because they did not want to cause him distress – and yet astonishingly were still prepared to execute him.” With this execution, Iranian authorities have demonstrated once again their callous disregard for human rights.”  

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