However, fellow humanists around the world have been concerned for his safety.
Igwe – who wrote an article for our sister publication Gay & Lesbian Humanist in December 2009 – and members of his family have been the victims of a sustained campaign by police in Nigeria, and our parent charity, the Pink Triangle Trust, has issued its own news release on the issue, after Igwe and his father, Oliver, were arrested on 5 January.
The PTT says:
The latest campaign of harassment against the Igwe family is a consequence of Mr Igwe’s attempt to bring to justice a powerful man in the area who allegedly raped a ten-year-old girl. Leo Igwe’s father, who is a 77-year-old diabetic in failing health, has been arrested six times on false charges since 2007. Two of Leo’s brothers have been detained three times each in connection with the same case.
Mr Igwe is the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and has made a staunch public defence of LGBT rights. In 2006 he made an impassioned appeal to members of the Nigerian National Assembly not to pass a Bill that would not only criminalise gay marriage, but also impose a five-year jail sentence on anyone who has a gay relationship or anyone who aids or supports a gay marriage or relationship. The Bill had the blessing of the Nigerian Anglican Church and its leader Archbishop Peter Akinola, as well as the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who declared that homosexual practice “is clearly un-Biblical, unnatural and definitely un-African”.
In 2008 Mr Igwe and his humanist colleagues were awarded the Rainbow Humanist Award by Nordic Rainbow Humanists “for their courageous defence of LGBT rights and dignity in the face of ferocious attacks from homophobic Nigerian politicians, parliamentarians and religious leaders calling for the imprisonment of those having homosexual relations and those who dare to support such relations, and for reminding fellow countrymen and -women in Nigeria of the need to safeguard the spirit of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the need for reason, common sense, thoughtfulness, knowledge, love, tolerance, solidarity and empathy, instead of hate and homophobia”.
Pink Triangle Trust secretary George Broadhead commented [before the reported release on bail], “We are very concerned about Leo. He is fearless and selfless in fighting for justice for LGBT people. Like the UK’s Peter Tatchell, he is never afraid to challenge the powerful even when he is a lone voice and knows that the powerful may hurt him. It is up to his fellow Humanists and others concerned with human rights to show that he does not stand alone and work together to ensure justice for him.”
The PTT has sent a letter of protest to the Nigerian High Commissioner in the UK Dr Dalhatu Sarki Tafida.