13th December, 2011
These are some of the injunctions which in their days were normal and fair but today, thousands of years later and by general consensus, we find them proceeds from a completely bizarre morality. Through rigorous philosophical critique of natural laws, through scientific findings and codification of human rights and fundamental freedom, the human society have advanced from the dark ethics of yesteryears into a brighter modern society.
Unfortunately, some horrific concepts and ethics of old are still allowed to persist to date. It used to be a normal practice to kill twins immediately after birth because they were strange; strange because the society refused to be open-minded. Since it was common for women to have a kid at once, the natural law was narrowly interpreted to mean that giving birth to more than one was an abnormal occurrence hence evil. It took Mary Slessor an arduous campaign of enlightenment to turn this practice around in Nigeria. Now, it is not baby twins that are seen as evil, it is their murder at birth. For every law of nature, there will always be an exception. We are black people, yet we have albinos among us.
They are not bad or evil, they are just different. Cat and dogs are meant to be enemies, but we have some that are best of friends. There are some men that have certain features of women and some women having features that traditionally belong to men. Also, there are the hermaphrodites. They are not evil, they are just different.
If we have not heard of homosexuality before, meditation on the wonders of nature and how she breaks her own laws, is supposed to convince us that men who love men and women who love women would exist somewhere. This is neither bad nor evil. It is just nature asserting her rights to break her own rules and enrich the world with differences. Homosexuality is not evil, it not a western invention and not a cultural fad, but a measure of cultural decadence and not the sign of end time.
Homosexuality is simply a biological fact. You cannot become gay unless you are born one. It is on this note that I find the Senateâ€™s ratification of the Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill condemnable.
The Presidency or the upper House should claim the moral high ground and quash the bizarre bill. Legislation like this should be responsible to modern scientific findings and rooted in ethical reasoning instead of being founded on wilful ignorance or on discredited Arabic or Semitic injunctions of thousands of years ago.
The Senate that is supposed to put the pin back into the grenade by educating Nigerians on the normality of homosexuality is allowing homophobia to regain composure, become more virulent and worse, legal and fashionable. Senator Baba-Ahmed Yusuf Datti of Kaduna and Dr. Ishaq Akintola have declared, with impunity, that gays should be murdered.
In the 19th century, at a time when homosexuals were executed freely in Western societies, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the empire of Japan and the Ottoman empire decriminalised homosexuality. Like many African countries now, Western societies viewed those gay-friendly countries as degenerated societies.
A hundred and fifty years after the West too saw the light and embraced it wholeheartedly, yet the fear of fire and brimstone destruction like Sodom and Gomorrah with which they made themselves hostile to same-sex romance never happened and it is not going to happen. So, why are Nigerians still so insular to homosexuality when we have the benefit of other countryâ€™s experience handy?
To criminalise same sex unions, their associations and organisations that serve their interests; to criminalise those who defend them, to ban their marriage and charge anyone that attends the ceremony with committing an offence, all go to show that the sponsors and supporters of this bill are fighting a phantom that is beyond the true meaning of homosexuality in itself. They are fighting their own deep-seated insecurities and embattled consciousness.
This bill, if signed into law, would belong in the same category with Protection Against False Accusation Decree number 4 and the Miscellaneous Offences Decree number 20 of 1984 as the most notorious pieces of legislations in the countryâ€™s history. To discriminate against anyone is to improve oneâ€™s access to absolute power and to claim equality is to dilute oneâ€™s claim to this unaccountable power.
Going by our history, what the country needs are legislations that rebuke our dark history of dictatorship. When the Senate abused democracy by going so draconian on the rights and liberties of people in same sex relationships, it has set into the motion the process of attacking every other personâ€™s rights, while it has killed something human in their own souls.
For the strength of a democracy, the health of a society or a civilisation is determined not by the quality of attention it pays to the strong or the majorityâ€™s interests, but its concern for the weak, the voiceless, the disenfranchised, the vulnerable and the minorities which include our gay brothers and sisters.
While nature offers us lots of lessons in dissimilarities, she also teaches us about harmony. As Chinua Achebe said, when one thing stands, another can stand beside it; not kneel beside it. Homosexuals should not be at our mercy. They are citizens to who the provisions of the fourth chapter of the Constitution equally apply.
Those provisions alone render the Senateâ€™s unnecessary aggro null and void. As we commend the people of Calabar for opening up their minds to Mary Slessorâ€™s campaign hundred years ago, we urge all Nigerians to open their minds to voice of reason and enlightenment and stop discrimination and violence against gays. Homosexuals and heterosexuals are both twins from the womb of nature, as contemporary Mary Slessors keep on saying. Nigeria is a regional and continental power who should be setting good examples of tolerance for other nations. We have an influential UN Security Council seat, but our quest for more influence in international bodies and more, say in global affairs, will be stymied with draconian bills like this.
No person of honour wants to tolerate the intolerant. It is our hope that the upper House or the Presidency will put a stop to this national embarrassment.
â€¢Damola Awoyokun is the former Managing Editor at Farafina and Associate Editor of Glendora Review