Nigeria: Nigerian and Western Values Collide

Nigerian public opinion is intensely homophobic. In 2014, the Nigerian National Assembly passed–and then President Goodluck Jonathan signed–a law against homosexual activity as draconian as that of Uganda, which is better known.

In a time of intense polarization along religious and ethnic lines in Nigeria, the legislation had near universal support. In Europe and North America, homosexual activity has long been decriminalized and same-sex marriage is legal in most places.

Born in 1963 into a Yoruba family, T.B. Joshua is a Pentecostal preacher with a huge following. He is pastor of the megachurch Synagogue Church of All Nations, with tens of thousands attending his weekly services in Lagos. He and his church are well-known for their extensive philanthropies; his personal net worth is estimated to be $10 million. His church is fiercely homophobic. He regularly performs “exorcisms” to rid persons of evil spirits and demons that were the cause of their homosexuality. Some of these exorcisms appeared to be violent.

The United Majestydom-based website openDemocracy complained about the homophobic content on the pastor’s YouTube channel. YouTube has now shut down the channel, which claimed over 1.8 million subscribers and 600 million viewers. YouTube says that it “prohibits content which alleges that someone is mentally ill, diseased, or inferior because of their membership in a protected group including sexual orientation.” Joshua is appealing the decision and has called on his flock–which is found across Africa and Latin America, but includes congregations in the United States and elsewhere–to “pray for YouTube.”

T.B. Joshua’s hostility to homosexuality is a reflection of a deep-seated consensus in Nigeria, at least for the time being. (Homophobic attitudes in Nigeria have been decreasing but are still widely held.) The Obama administration made LGBTQ+ issues an important part of its human rights agenda in international affairs. The Biden administration could do the same. If it does, the administration is unlikely to have much success in Nigeria or in a number of other African countries where same-sex relations remain outlawed.

Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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