Opinion: Why you should be worried about Nigeria’s anti-gay law

by Ayo Sogunro

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The words of Jesus are more logical: he whom has no sin, let him cast the first stone.

Before You Proceed

Two guiding premises underlie this article. The first is this: this article does not support or reject homosexuality as a sexual orientation. The purpose of this article is not to plead the cause of homosexuality as a lifestyle—there are many who have done that, and this is no place to rehash the argument. This article instead recognises the existence of homosexuals as a distinct sub-culture—a minority, if you prefer—within a larger culture, and is concerned, instead, about a philosophy of hate and prejudice against this minority which is about to be set in motion in the guise of legislation.

The second premise is this: that you, the reader, are not entrenched in some belief system that supersedes any attempt at reason. And so, this article is not for those who rely on prejudice, and by “prejudice”, I mean the bigots, the fanatics, the fundamentalists and all those who will support the stoning of a woman to death in the belief that she is a witch. It’s a waste of time and ideas to attempt a rational discussion with a person whose fundamental philosophy precludes being reasonable. If you see yourself as one of these:  Dear Sir or Madam, the following paragraphs are probably a waste of your time, and the insults you intend to hurl in the comments are assuredly a waste of your talents. You would derive more satisfaction by exiting this page now. The button is quite easy to locate.

However, on the assumption that you are the sort of person who resolves a dilemma through a sequence of rational principles; the sort of person who weighs consequences against actions, understanding the relationship of cause and effect, and has the ability to separate between similar but distinct ideas, then let us reason together on the superficial logic of targeting homosexuals in Nigeria through the following arguments.

The Legal Argument

An average student of law will eagerly tell you that there is a clear difference between civil law and criminal law: he will explain to you that civil law “punishes” one person for his irresponsibility towards some other person while criminal law punishes the person for his irresponsibility to the state. If you have some time on your hands, a student of jurisprudence will inform you that there is a clear difference between law and morals, and while it is the role of the state to prescribe laws for the protection of the individuals and the state, it is the role of the society to prescribe morals for acceptance in that society. He could also tell you, if you care to listen, that there are situations where the goal of morals and law overlap in the same activity and that there are situations where the law says one thing and morals state another. If our imaginary student also has ample time, he could give you this example: if you are standing by a pool and you see a child drowning, you have no obligation to save the child, and you will not go to jail for murder—except of course, you pushed the child in. Society may call you a scumbag and you may forfeit your dinner invitations, but you are not a criminal as far as the law is concerned.

In case you are puzzled, the jurist will further tell you that basic role of law is—should be—the protection of the state and other individuals from the acts of other individuals or other states, and every other function of law derives from that basic premise. He will explain that as long as an individual has not threatened the welfare of other individuals, the law has no—should have no—problem with that individual. You see, jurists generally concede that the role of law (with the exception of canon or religious law as agreed to by the adherents of that religion) is not to dictate private action, but to ensure the safety of all persons and property under general parameters. Our jurist friend could give you another example: you can decide to jump off a mountain ledge in the name of sport—that is a private action. But when, in the name of sport, you push someone else off the ledge without his consent, it becomes a crime, punishable according to the gravity of the consequence of your push. Law, therefore, prevents harm to people who have not consented to an action, either directly or indirectly. Law does not—should not—decide on what your private action should be—that’s for a Big Brother reality show. Public opinion should be left for the public, and a legal system should never, compulsorily, substitute a person’s private opinion with that of the public.

But, celebrating a gay marriage is public, you may say. Let us not digress on the issue of whether a marriage celebration—gay or not—is necessarily public. In fact, let us assume that the marriage in question is celebrated just as loudly as church marriages are celebrated. But the law in Nigeria already takes care of that by declaring such a marriage invalid. If you are naturally antagonistic to homosexual marriages—if you think the troubles of a married life are the natural reserve of a heterosexual couple, then fine, the Nigerian law already invalidates homosexual marriage. But this issue is about criminalizing what is already invalidity. An invalid action is far different from a criminal action. Entering a wrong password to your account is an invalid action, hacking into another person’s account is a criminal action. The gravity is determined by the damage it does to other people. A marriage conducted by a pastor in a Nollywood movie does not harm anybody, yet it is invalid—the law does not recognize it as a marriage, because it does not meet the legal requirements for a marriage. That’s enough. Going further to imprison actors in a Nollywood marriage ceremony is just as petty as it is absurd. And this is exactly what the Nigerian legislators propose to do.

The Moral Argument 

Maybe you are worried about your sexuality being doubted. If that is a worrisome issue for you, then let me reassure you: No, you do not need to be in support of or approve homosexuality itself in order to disapprove of a law that sets out to make life difficult for homosexuals. Your heterosexuality is intact. You may relax.

This is a basic principle of conscience: just as you do not have to be black to fight slavery, or Jewish to be repulsed at Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Justice defines circumstances—your stand against an injustice should be irrespective of the nature of the person against whom the injustice is committed. Opposing the Nigerian government on its prejudicial law does not automatically commit you to a life of homosexuality.

What you are opposing is simply the use of the law to target a group of people who pose no threat to the life or property of Nigerians. You may find a homosexual person intolerable, you may forget to invite them to your dinner parties and thanksgiving services. But when you target them for jail—or keep silent while this is being done—makes you no different from the Nazis of Germany and their hatred of Jews or the Apartheid whites of South Africa and their repulsion at blacks. You see, it’s easier to sit down and criticize other bigots in history—but do nothing when faced with a similar situation.

But even worse is the criminalization of associations that support or advocate gay rights. Any student of human rights will tell you that an attempt to ban people from discussing gay marriage or promoting it is just as bad as an attempt to lock up Arsenal Football club fans. The Nigerian situation is not a joke, however, and I am confident that a court of law in no distant time will adjudge that aspect of the law as unconstitutional. It is bad enough to put homosexuals in jail—it is repugnant to natural justice to then try to muzzle any support for them. And your individual silence in the face of such an injustice is a tacit approval of its execution.

The Cultural Argument 

A common argument in support of the prejudicial legislation—and one infamously and misguidedly utilized by Mr. David Mark, the Senate President, states that homosexuality is not part of our “culture”. Let us ignore the obvious fact that Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups with diversified cultures out of which at least one involves a woman “marrying” another woman, another involves a husband “gifting” his wife to a male guest, another approves raiding a neighboring nomadic camp to kidnap a wife, and several involve a brother or son taking the surviving wives of a deceased as inheritance—let’s ignore all of these disparate sexual and marital cultural phenomena and focus instead on the nature of culture. What we call “our culture” is not a set of fixed, written rules handed down by our forefathers in a leather bound book. Instead, “our culture”, like any other culture, is an interwoven set of constantly changing practices. Culture, a student of sociology will tell you, is constantly in a state of flux: it grows new ideas, it borrows from other cultures, it ceases some long-held beliefs, and it is forever changing. You see, the only permanent culture is a dead culture. Jackets and fast cars are not the African culture, but I am yet to see a black man going to jail for perfectly stringing a Windsor knot.

The Religious Argument

Arguably, the two major religions in Nigeria are against homosexuality—but what about those who are not adherents of the major religions? On the absurd assumption that every Nigerian is either a Muslim or a Christian, then why not let’s adopt the full canon of the Old Testament and Sharia? You see, as an average bible student will tell you: every head will roll. From the Christians who enjoy pork and bush meat—despite the clear injunctions of Leviticus 11—to the Muslims who have a fondness for beer. The only people left alive will be the fundamentalists, and they will soon kill each other from sheer intolerance. We might as well speed up this process and hand over the reins of government toBoko Haram. After all, what these terrorists want is the criminalization of sins and the banning of ideas from the “West”. And if we now start deciding to criminalize our sins, then we are all convicts waiting to be sentenced. The words of Jesus are more logical: he whom has no sin, let him cast the first stone.

The Political Argument 

The Nigerian democratic setup—in the words of Byron—is an aristocracy of blackguards. Like the Greek gift, the goal of the legislature is to secure the affections of the unthinking Nigerians through a diversionary illusion while plundering us through other orifices. Let us not be ashamed to call a farce a farce. The threat of Boko Haram—and now Hezbollah, the devaluation of the currency, the escalating corruption in the public service, the rising price of goods, the unavailability of electric power—and several more—are far more real and dangerous threats to the welfare of the average Nigerian than the marital issues of homosexuals.

Whatever your inclinations about homosexuality, your bank account has not diminished through the sexuality of a gay person—unless, of course, you set out to spend money on some deliverance mission, which then is your own fault, but let us not digress. The point can be shown to you by any keen student of political science: as a political goal, banning homosexual marriage is at the bottom of the list of resolutions for Nigeria’s 2013. It takes a smug legislator, self-assured in the gullible nature of the average Nigerian, to hurriedly push through a law dealing with a non-issue to score cheap popularity while ignoring pressing matters.

In Conclusion

And now, here’s the worst part: if this law is allowed to sail through, it could be your affairs that will be considered criminal tomorrow. You use your left hand to write? Criminal. You squeeze your paste from the bottom of the tube? Criminal.  You wear your wristwatch on the right hand. You criminal! The facts may be different, but the principle is the same. This law is a test by the legislature, a measurement of how much nonsense can be dumped on the public. Of course, it is general public opinion that there is a number of clowns seated in the legislature—some whom attained their claim to lawmaking solely by affiliation with their political party and not through a personal resume—and there is a tendency to just ignore them. However,  when clowns begin to create dangerous precedents, then it is time for the audience to get serious and put them in place.

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Read this article in  Ayo Sogunro’s Chaise

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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Comments

  • God bless you. I hope Nigerians will be able to read this and see reason

    Miss Sanusi June 3, 2013 10:42 am
  • Sorry this is nonsence and a complete waste of time. We have serious problems to solve in this country of which homosexualism, lessbienism etc does not figure among them.

    mike obot June 3, 2013 11:04 am
  • Look, I for one have had to bear over insistent passes from homosexuals since I was nine so forgive me being a little biased. They are an unnatural phenomenom and your opening line suggesting a christ like approach “he without sin cast not the first stone” is a fraud cause your twisting it to suit your purposes. Sodom and gomorah was burnt to the ground for the act which you neither support nor reject.
    But I understand what you mean and see how letting the goverment do this could affect us(me) later. I honestly do not care for them(gays) and would be near suicidal to be cursed with a gay child. Its pure peversion like paedophilia or necrophilia. Maybe prison is extreme , maybe some kinda of rehabilitation program like “alcohol anonymous” for drunkards but instead you have goverment paid “sex workers” tease and shag them back to normal (joking) but u get my point. :) forget religion stare at the obvious, if we were meant to be gays we woulda evolved to being just one specie.

    wesley nwafor June 3, 2013 11:16 am
  • What a thot provoking piece? Let me add this to it, how can people who are morally bankrupt make such law and sleep soundly at nite? Is homosexuality the most pressing issue in dis country? We are chasing after irrelevant matters, when issues like no light, bad roads, no jobs, proverty, boko haram and the mother of it all corruption ( most especially in govt.) Abound. The other day the head of pension board stole money and was he sent to jail for 14years? What I say is this, the legislators should leave homosexuality to society to deal wit and dey should face the more important issues affecting dis country

    wale June 3, 2013 11:19 am
  • As far as I’m concerned, in a DEMOCRATIC setting; majority has the FINAL say. If the majority say they do NOT certain practices to exist within their society, such unwanted practices have to go ! In Nigeria, MAjORITY say NO to GAY, so, GAY has to go ! If GOD had supported GAY, HE wouldn’t have created both sexes in the first place !

    segun June 3, 2013 11:21 am
  • Mr Ayo, it is a pity you took your time , energy and will power to write this beautiful nonsense. Though I must commend your line of reasoning but your arguments are just baseless and unthinkable. Gays and homosexuals pose a serious threat to our youths and the society at large, i have been a victim of a serious assaults by gay men, i was able to resist because of the value i have in myself. So many will fall for so many reasons like money, affluence, connections and power. These guys can promise you heaven on earth just to get you in their corner. Open your eyes and see the danger ahead if this action is not taken to curb this ill called homosexuality.

    kelly June 3, 2013 11:22 am
    • God bless you Ireke Amoji! God bless you real good for that comment.

      Mr Ayo, I pray that the light of Christ will be illuminated upon you.

      Nucreed June 4, 2013 12:57 am
  • The same laws that see robbery has crime is seeing being gay as crime… that itself is not infringing on people’s right. Rather it’s saying if you want to be in this society, comply to the rules of this society. Just like you must use a scarf if you are visiting the Emirate as a lady.

    allenjay June 3, 2013 11:37 am
  • Why Consent should hold shallow meaning and understanding, when I read these article a news report pop in my mind about an incident that happened where two people who met on social networking site consent to an agreement that one should kill and eat the other, another is when a student consent to sleep with her lectural, then it leaves much to desire when it comes to consent and moral

    gozie james June 3, 2013 12:26 pm
  • Wish we cud see and have a lil chat..expository but u missed a whole lot thus,unconvincing..jus2pick on 1..on ur religious argument,its amazing how u feel we shud hold on to Jesus’ words on ‘he being witout is..’, Yet,you don’t seem to believe in His theology that homosexuality is sin? Why not be objective instead of picking and choosing and being relative?dialectically,u r totally incorrect and wrong.if we shud hold dat doctrine as valid,then we shud hold each oda teaching he gives as valid too.

    jeroski! June 3, 2013 12:42 pm
  • Let me just pick to lines from your write-up. You mentioned the need for us to be reasonable and the fact that a law can be promulgated to protect people in a society. Now if you believe those two lines of thoughts then the case is simple. Is it reasonable to accept something that is unnatural as a natural behavior? I think the answer is a simple No! No matter the argument to the contrary. If we let go at anytime in being guided by Nature then we lose our basis for sane judgements-we simply lose order and control in society. Secondly, how best can government protect its citizens especially the young vulnerable population from absurdity, its by doing exactly what they have done, make a law against it. So that we all can have a frame of reference for judgement based on the natural order.

    Oluwaseun June 3, 2013 1:15 pm
  • When we just look at a logical argiument from the realistic point of view, then this piece has a comment, but for the others i think i need to clarify some things, claiming that majority said no, pls, where is the opinion poll to show that, or did the legislatutors had feedback from their constituency on the bill? further, if we only look at the bill as an anti-gay bill is really a joke, the bill is against ay person that values his/her privacy, bcos when you hold your brother’s hand if you are a male it could be miscontrue ha public display of same sex amorous relationship, you can live wit a your friend in the same room if both of you are of the same sex and the landlord does not like you or wants to eject you, he can claim you both are homosexuals.equality is all about everyone being free and equal before the law.

    Akanji Michael June 3, 2013 1:59 pm
  • Its funny how this writer tried as much as possible to make us see how unbiased he is, however, he wrote all the points that pointed us to why allowing gay laws stand is the ideal way our society will ‘advance’ and make all the wrongs become right once the anti gay law is reverted. Its funny how he even quotes Jesus’ speech so as to have a religious cover to show that being gay is the right thing to be. So he admits being gay is a sin and since we are all sinners, we are not right to cast the first stone. However, he forgets that after the people left magdalene and didn’t stone her, she was forgiven by Jesus and bible recorded that she didn’t commit the sin any longer, infact she became one of the most ardent follower of Christ.
    So if as a society we can’t claim to be holier than gays, atleast they should be ready to change their sinful ways after Jesus steps in. Or what do you think?

    atoloye fola June 3, 2013 2:12 pm
  • I dnt blame the writer. I blame ur parents dat did nt teach you well! Hw can u tel me dat gay dnt affect the society. Imagine a gay trainin a child, what would they teach d child? Dat ladies are bad or dat guys are bad. They shuld increase the jail term to 30 years in prison.

    Pepstar June 3, 2013 3:19 pm
    • Did u even listen to urself before u typed that. WT do u know abt gay pple n how they raise their kids ? Afterall some heterosexual parents are closet fags n they still raise their kids well. And some straight couples don’t even no jack abt raising kids . And suddenly because someone is sexually attracted to d same sex doesn’t make him/her hate d opposite sex. Most gay guys are even more friendly to d opposite sex than straight guys I don’t see them telling their kids to hate girls!

      pep. June 3, 2013 10:57 pm
  • Homosexual is a taboo, a sin that God will even shout from heaven on the persons commiting it & also curse the land the act was commited. Tufia kwa to anyone that support gay.

    sunday Alechenu June 3, 2013 3:44 pm
    • 1st of everyone is not gay so procreation would still take place wt or wtout this law being passed . So what’s ur point exactly ?

      skit. June 3, 2013 11:02 pm
  • Mr writer,
    In the words of Jesus, He gave the woman opportunity of repentance and passing the law has no connection with the word of Jesus.

    On your legal argument, law & Morals are not the same but law is a moral backed with sanction. Law is made to protect the society, maintain order and sanity in the society. The law forbids you coming public, if u like do it in private but as soon as you are public about it, the law will take its course.

    Your moral position is not acceptable.

    Yes culture is dynamic but Nigeria as one cultural group, ethnicity aside but Nigeria as one body now, does not have lesbianism & homosexuality as her culture.
    It was the culture & practice of some group of people in Nigeria to kill human and eat their flesh, cannibalism, but the law intervened for public interest and to perform its function as law.
    All those cultures highlighted in the cultural argument are not general but particular to some group of persons who never agitated to be protected by the law. However, the law does not recognise those cultural practices.

    On your religious argument, if you study the Bible very well, you will understand that somethings in the old testament have been outlawed by the new testament. A muslim who drinks beer In a sharia or core Muslim state knows his fate. Like I said, your use of the word of Jesus in your argument is baseless. You can not live in sin and grace will abound!

    On your political argument, you can not fight evil with evil. And sanity can not come as magic but step by step. We know a lot has gone wrong bit we should not allow same sex marriage to be part of the things that have gone wrong. Good can only fight evil. Everything is important including law against same sex marriage. It is non-issue in anyway.

    In conclusion, I understand some much has gone wrong in Nigeria but we can not sit and watch things go wrong the more. People do a lot of wrong things but we won’t allow them if they want public recognition. We won’t allow them to defile the sanity, order or interest of the general public.
    The Legislators were on their own when a bill came for them to legalize same sex marriage but the opposite is now the case. So, the last paragraph of your political argument is baseless.

    People who propagate same sex marriage should allow the law be and practice their acts in the privacy of their individual lives but DON’T BE CAUGHT!
    Please send my comment to the writer of this article.

    Vivian June 3, 2013 5:43 pm
  • Moreso, are u a product of same sex marriage? What is the fate of children yet unborn?

    Vivian June 3, 2013 5:50 pm
  • Nice article. Good job. Y’all should read d article wt a plain unbiased mind.

    Emy. June 3, 2013 10:40 pm
  • A good bible student wouldn’t be suprised…infact s\he should expect more of similar write-ups. And it will still get worse. Why? Cos the Word of God said so. I have no apologies, GOD is against immoral relations and all forms of sin. If you repent (i.e forsake sin and commit to godly living relying on His grace), He’s merciful and gracious to cleanse you wholly and help you live godly. If you remain in sin however, you’ll have only yourself to blame, ETERNALLY. He cometh soon. The End is nigh! Pitch your tent in the Saviour’s camp!, Who is he? The Lord Jesus Christ!!

    Nucreed June 4, 2013 1:02 am
  • God help us all!! If ur of d opinion dat dis bill should stand get ready to sentence ur brothers and relatives to the 14 year jail term..cos its rare lately to find a family in Nigeria without one or even two Gay children or persons,no matter how straight they may look..truth be told,nowadays gays walk and act more straight than d straight guys even….wat we need is God’s intervention,d govt should face more critical issues…

    Noliz June 6, 2013 11:38 am
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