Shelter City programme
Her life is at risk in Nigeria, because Judith (whose surname will be withheld for privacy reasons) is quite open about her sexual orientation in her home country. She is a lesbian, living and working as a human rights activist and who is now in Maastricht for three months. The Faculty of Law will take care of her as part of the Shelter City Programme.
In Nigeria, same-sex conduct is criminalized, among others by Islamic Sharia law. There’s even an act (2013) that prohibits same-sex marriages.
Tuesday 23 May, Judith gave a short lecture at Maastricht University about her life as an activist. Talking quite softly, she shows a group of interested students one sheet after another, with a lot of information about her work as a programme officer for Women’s Health and Equal Rights (WHER) in Nigeria. She explains how the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexed) community has to deal with social injustice, violations, poverty, and abuse. “It begins within families, harassments in workplaces, education, health care, and religious institutions. They are stigmatized,” she says.
After twenty minutes, when the audience asks questions, she talks more about her own experiences. How she often feels depressed, that she can’t feel completely safe and how she has kept moving the last three months, from hotel to hotel. Judith is threatened most by her father, who wants her to be outed to society.
An open discussion about sexuality is taboo in Nigeria, but she still hopes that policies will change. In the meantime, she is busy raising consciousness and organizing empowering activities to build self-awareness and acceptance among lesbians.
The Shelter City programme is an initiative of Justice and Peace Netherlands and enables foreign human rights defenders to recover for a period of three months, to work and study in a Dutch city. At the moment, eight cities are participating. Maastricht has already taken care of a guest four times (at University College).