Go online if you're glad to be gay

Published: February 13, 2010

Go online if you’re glad to be gay

One church’s answer to rampant homophobia

ONCE a fortnight, 50 or so Nigerians furtively log on for an online Bible study class. "This is the only way we can worship because of the stigma," says one of them. The reason for the secrecy is that the participants, ranging from students to marriedmen, are gay. To go to a mainstream church in Nigeria would risk beatings or even a forced exorcism. So hundreds are turning to House of Rainbow, Nigeria’s only gay-friendly church, which is flourishing online after almost meeting a violent end two years ago.

Many Nigerians strongly disapprove of homosexuality. The dominant role of religion is widely seen as the root of the country’s homophobic culture. Punishing gays is one of the few common themes that politicians can promote with equal zest in the mainly Christian south and the largely Muslim north. Under federal law sodomy is punishable by a 14-year jail sentence. An even more stringent bill to ban gay-rights groups and homosexual displays of affection is also under consideration.

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