A recently released poll shows that almost 90 percent of Nigerians are in favor of the
country’s law banning same-gender marriage.
To gauge nationwide perceptions of both LGBTQ individuals and Nigeria’s recently instated
law criminalizing same-gender marriage, NOI Polls, the Bisi Alimi Foundation and the Initiative
for Equal Rights in Nigeria sponsored a poll of 1,000 Nigerian adults. Released June 30, the
results of that survey indicate that 87 percent of Nigerians support the Same-Sex Marriage
Prohibition Law. In addition, 90 percent of those surveyed reported that they do not believe
people are born with same gender attractions.
The survey’s focus on the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Law is timely. Passed by then
President Goodluck Jonathan, the legislation not only penalizes same-gender relationships with
up to 14 years in prison, it also criminalizes any clubs, societies, and organizations that
“promote or encourage” LGBTQ rights. In a country that was already hostile toward LGBTQ
individuals, this law only exacerbated anti-LGBTQ sentiments, leading to increased arrests and
attacks on LGBTQ identified (or suspected) Nigerians.
While many of the poll’s outcomes were disheartening, it also confirmed what many social
justice advocates have been saying for years: that knowing a member of a marginalized group
personally often helps break down some of the misconceptions that the dominant group holds.
For instance, most respondents who indicated that they believe a person can be born LGB also
said that they knew someone who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
In the press release where the survey’s findings were announced, Olumide Makanjoula,
executive director of the Initiative for Equal Rights in Nigeria, expressed his belief that the
survey revealed a grave and rampant misunderstanding of LGBTQ people. “This survey
reflects a massive gap in knowledge about sexuality and human rights,” said Makanjuola. “This
lack of knowledge explains why LGBT people continue to experiences human rights
Bisi Alimi, the first out gay man to appear on Nigerian television and founder of the Bisi Alimi
Foundation, explained that he felt the survey results signify progress in his homeland. To Alimi,
the survey simply demonstrates the effects of anti-LGBTQ propaganda, which can be
counteracted with proper information.
“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,” explained Alimi. “The trend in this survey has shown that with a conducive
environment to provide unrestricted 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.”
Finally, the poll did have one undeniable positive outcome: support for the Same-Sex
Marriage Prohibition law fell 9 percentage points from its high of 96 percent in 2010.
Adreanna Nattiel is a writer, activist, and queer feminist based in Atlanta, GA. Her primary interest is media and pop culture studies and how they intersect with body politics for people of color. She is a real-life witch, aspiring cat lady, and horror junkie. Her plan is to take over the world, one flawless brow at a time.