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Issues I (top) and II (below) of Enkare Review.

Twenty-six hours ago, Enkare Review magazine released its first issue of 2019, styled the Inclusivity Issue. Within minutes, backlash brewed on social media. A short story in the issue by Jekwu Anyaegbuna—a short story which we have decided not to name or link—is told by an unapologetic paedophile and contains graphic description of children’s bodies and of sexual encounters between an adult and children. Throughout the story, which is filled with morally compromising sentences, the paedophile insists on the similarity of their affliction to queerness, even asking for an acronym in LGBTQ+.

Anyaegbuna, who shared the link on Facebook, stating that is “very offensive,” is clearly aiming for provocation. On Twitter, he called Enkare Review “fearless” and then “the boldest, most intelligent and the most resilient literary journal in the whole of Africa,” because they published the story.

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Members of the literary community have challenged the ethics and politics behind publishing a story that is child pornography, calling out Enkare Review, questioning their editorial decision.

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Some have accused Enkare Review of using controversy as a marketing strategy.

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You see what Enkare review did? I think it’s not about the art. It’s about publicity. It’s about marketing. I think they know controversy sells, that is why they’d accept that thing Jekwu Anyaegbuna wrote and publish it.

There is this claim about inclusion but this is not inclusion. You don’t equate paedophilia to homosexuality and call it inclusion. This is Nigeria, a country where members of the LGBTQ community are experiencing life threatening discrimination still and you now go to publish a story that drags paedophilia into the mix. No, it’s not inclusion. It’s adverse activism. It’s not art. It’s selfish marketing masquerading as meaningful art.

One more thing, the story is actually a non-spectacular disgusting over-reliance on the whole “sex sells” theory to make people interested in the work. Even if the idea was erotica, it was poorly delivered.

Romeo Oriogun has demanded that his poems be taken down from Enkare Review‘s website.

Even in the use of controversy for publicity, there is a clear line between intellectual provocation and the promotion of ethically ambiguous content, and it is saddening that Enkare Review has knowingly crossed this line. In using the words “Here at Enkare Review, we take sides” to introduce an issue themed Inclusivity, in using those words not as an allegiance to the plight of the oppressed but to inflammatorily include a short story in which not only the bodies of children but the moral struggles of LGBTQ+ people are battered for attention, a short story whose very title objectifies children, a short story in which every section is an inference that paedophilia is similar to queerness, editorial integrity has been compromised.

This short story and the efforts made to promote it—by Enkare Review and Jekwu Anyaegbuna—constitute both an active endangering of children and an emotional oppression of LGBTQ+ people. Its insistent equation of a crime with human nature, its non-logic that if paedophilia could be queerness and queerness happens with children then paedophilia should happen to children, its deletion of the probabilities of consent, the editors’ sensationalist Lolita-esque” comparison—a stretched comparison that cannot redeem fiction that is poorly conceived and poorly executed. Its narrator is not unreliable; its narrator is unapologetic.

It isn’t an act of fearlessness that widely-disproven, brazenly false premises with real-life repercussions, premises employed by advocates of homophobia, are being cheaply used to cause provocation. It isn’t an act of boldness that an intellectual institution has done this. It is a curious act of violence, a lack of understanding of cultural responsibility. Art can be used to stir up debate without morally compromising its creator and ethically compromising the publishing platform. We are greatly, greatly disappointed at the side that the editors of Enkare Review have taken.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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