Human rights defender
Judith is young women rights defender standing up for the rights of the LGBT community in Nigeria. She works as a program officer and a paralegal at an organization that is focused on promoting the rights and wellbeing of sexual minority women in Nigeria. Part of her work is to develop the relationship with the members of the lesbian and bisexual community, and to promote peaceful relations with the non-community members. She further supervises the paralegals and is one herself, providing free legal support, mediation, psychosocial support and counselling to the LGBT community. It is the only lesbian-focused Nigerian organization that participates in the bi-annual sessions of the African Commission for Human Rights in Banjul, where they bring light on the issues faced by the LGBT community. Last year, Judith shared her personal and professional experiences about the impact of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act on LGBT peoples’ lives in Nigeria for a report published by Human Rights Watch.
Human rights violations in Nigeria
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face unique legal and social challenges in Nigeria. LGBT rights are denied and there is no legal protection against discrimination. Few LGBT Nigerians are open about their sexual orientation, and those who are often face violence and threats. Sexual relations between people of the same sex are illegal in Nigeria: the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act criminalises all forms of same-sex unions throughout the country. According to the law, the punishment for same-sex activity is up to 14 years of imprisonment. In the Northern states that have adopted Sharia law, the punishment for same-sex relations is death by stoning. These laws and abuses of human rights have been widely criticized by local civil society organisation and the international community.
Threats and harassment
Due to the work she does and constant pressure she gets, Judith is mentally and physically drained. Since she became an LGBT activist, she has been facing harassments, threats, verbal assault, marginalization and double stigmatization for being a woman and possessing a sexual orientation that is contrary to societal norms. Recently, she also faced rejection and threats from her own family after she announced her engagement to her partner.