Opinion: Let’s kill all the gays

 by Olatoye Akinbode

History is replete with examples of majorities who have imposed their honestly and dearly held cultural or religious beliefs on an unwilling minority, very often with terrible consequences.

 On Tuesday, 29th November 2011, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, took an unprecedented step in the Federal Government’s quest to protect all right thinking and godly Nigerians from the scourge of homosexuality which apparently threatens to overwhelm the Nation. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill (‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’) has now been passed by the Senate. The House of Representatives is yet to pass the Bill, but it will likely do so in record time. Presidential assent is also very likely, so soon all Nigerians will be liberated from the menace of homosexuality and same sex marriage. Sounds like the perfect pitch.

In his remarks after the passage of the Bill, Senator David Mark, president of the Senate, said that “same sex marriage is against our own culture and tradition and against our beliefs.” I doubt that a great many Nigerians would disagree with him. Islam and Christianity both leave absolutely no room for ambiguity with regards to homosexuality. The Bible expressly condemns homosexuality as an abomination before God. It is denounced as detestable in Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27. In Leviticus 20:13, the penalty for homosexuality is death by stoning. Homosexuality is also strongly condemned in the Qu’ran at 7:80-1; and 29.28.29, as well as in several Hadiths of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

The (‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’) attacks homosexuality on multiple fronts, the first of which is same sex marriage and civil unions. The Marriage Act fails to clearly define marriage as being between a man and a woman. The (‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’) corrects this apparent omission and unequivocally declares a valid marriage to be between a man and a woman. The (‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’) also prescribes stiff penalties for contracting or celebrating same-sex marriages. Any person who purports to contract a same sex marriage will liable to imprisonment for a term of 14 years. Anyone who aids or abets the celebration of such a marriage, such as presiding over or witnessing it, will be liable to imprisonment for 10 years. The (‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’) goes even further to prohibit and criminalize the registration of gay clubs, societies and associations, processions and meetings, public displays of same sex amorous relationships all of which are now punishable, upon conviction, by imprisonment for a term of ten years.

The passage of the ‘(‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’) by the Senate has so far proved to be wildly popular. Nigeria is ostensibly a very religious country and the vast majority of Nigerians, being ‘decent and morally upright’ Christians and Muslims, are in support of the Senate’s attempt to defend our beliefs and culture from homosexuals and the western powers who seek to impose their values upon us.

Despite the wave of approving comments that have followed the ‘Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill’, anti-homosexual legislation is not new to Nigeria. Section 214(1) of the Criminal Code Act has long prohibited ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’, which is punishable by imprisonment for seven years. Section 217 of the Criminal Code Act prohibits acts of gross indecency between males, punishable by imprisonment for a term of 3 years. These provisions have been a part of our penal code since 1st June 1916.

The (‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’) is a curious legislation. It attempts to cure a mischief that does not exist. Same-sex marriage is not a problem that keeps the average Nigerian up at night tossing and turning, worrying about the rising number of gay clubs, and non-existent gay weddings. The average Nigerian homosexual is too busy trying to avoid being victimized or discriminated against to even begin to contemplate the possibility of gay marriage. In fact, the vast majority of homosexual Nigerians do not live openly gay lifestyles. They blend in, they pretend, they are discreet, they get married, they have children, they hide.

The rationale for the (‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’) is even more peculiar; to protect our beliefs and culture. Protecting culture and religious belief is not a proper basis for exercising legislative power, which according to the constitution is to be exercised in order to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the country. Furthermore, culture and cultural practices are neither universal nor are they binding. Cultural practices are in fact not always salutary. There are many cultural practices in Nigeria which are repugnant to good conscience and natural justice, many of which have been discontinued and many of which continue to exist.

The Osu caste system and trial by ordeal are a just two examples of morally repugnant cultural practices. There are numerous others. The idea that the culture or the cultural practices of the majority is inherently good and desirable or that the views of the majority can be imposed on dissenters is factually inaccurate and quite nonsensical. History is replete with examples of majorities who have imposed their honestly and dearly held cultural or religious beliefs on an unwilling minority, very often with terrible consequences.

Slavery was once almost universally considered to be morally permissible, except of course, by the poor unfortunates who found themselves enslaved and held as chattels. So strong was the consensus on the morality of slavery that the Bible was frequently used to justify the continuance of this practice even by people who considered themselves good, upright, moral Christians. Slavery apologists may have been in the majority, but they were wrong.

Racial discrimination against blacks was morally justifiable in many societies and was sometimes institutionalized through legislation but is now acknowledged to be morally wrong. Inter-racial marriage or sexual relations between blacks and whites were once illegal in the United States and South Africa, on the basis of religion or culture. The moral zeitgeist has since moved forward, as it invariably does, and what the majority once considered perfectly morally upright is now universally despised and condemned as evil.

It is commonly and confidently asserted that homosexuality and same sex marriage are alien to African culture. This is a willfully false assertion and is completely and rather easily rebutted by available facts and anecdotal evidence.

The issue, however, is not whether one religious belief or cultural practice is right and another wrong. The issue is simply that the majority has no right to impose its religious and cultural views on the minority, no matter how dearly the majority of people may hold these views. The idea that the moral, religious or cultural views of the majority is some sort of barometer for what our collective morality must be is simply erroneous, chauvinistic and based on the inability to tolerate and respect the right of other people to freely make their own choices.

It is commonly and confidently asserted that homosexuality and same sex marriage are alien to African culture. This is a willfully false assertion and is completely and rather easily rebutted by available facts and anecdotal evidence. Homosexuality has always existed in various parts of Nigeria and pre-dates colonialism. A simple Google search will convince any of the people who ignorantly make this assertion and there are quite a few scholarly articles which have studied this phenomenon. See ‘The Politics of Homosexuality in Africa’ by Ben Anderson, for example. Granted, homosexuality in Africa is a complex issue and is not necessarily synonymous with Western concepts of homosexuality. Despite the fact that Northern Nigeria is heavily influenced by Islam, homosexuality exists there and is not at all a function of any western influence. However, the Yan Daudu subculture in the North is perhaps an example of homosexual acts in an African cultural setting, even if these acts are largely ritualistic or influenced by pecuniary considerations.

Igbo culture also recognizes, in some instances, same sex unions even if these are not homosexual in nature. This is generally where a woman who is already married but unable to bear children marries another woman with a view to raising children for her husband via proxy.  My point is not that homosexuality exists in Nigeria in the same way that it is permissible in the West, but that to say it is alien to our culture is untrue and an oversimplification of a complex issue.

Anyone who doubts that homosexuality exists should consider the large number of convictions of men for engaging in homosexual acts under Sharia in the North and face the simple fact that this practice exists and is not at all related to any Western or imported influence.

“None of us has a right to impose our religious or cultural views on others, even if we earnestly believe it is for our or their benefit.”

The most unfortunate problem with the ‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’ is that it appears to have been passed in gross ignorance of even the most elementary and basic guaranteed constitutional freedoms.

Religion is another unfortunate argument that has been used to justify the ‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’. Nigeria is a secular state, irrespective of whether the vast majority of its people profess to be religious. Religious beliefs are personal and everyone has a right to profess whatever religion they choose, or even no religion at all. Personal religious beliefs, no matter how strongly held, bind the individual alone. No matter how dearly I may choose to believe that homosexuality is a disgusting, evil, unnatural practice, it does not give me a right to impose this view on others who may disagree or who may even agree but nonetheless decide to indulge in it. Christians and Moslem cannot decide to legislate their morals for everyone else, no matter how strongly and dearly they hold these morals and beliefs. No matter how deeply you care for the souls and salvation of homosexuals they have the God given right to choose how they want to live and the sexual practices they want to indulge in, even if the majority of us frown upon these choices.

As far as I am aware, everyone is free to make their own moral choices, whether good or bad, so long as they are prepared to accept the consequences. Religious chauvinism simply cannot be a basis for enacting legislation. If this were the case we wouldn’t need the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; we could simply adopt the Bible and the Qu’ran as our constitution. If religion is a valid basis for enacting legislation then the Senate really ought to comply with Leviticus 20:13 and amended the sentencing provisions in the ‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’ to condemn any person convicted under any of the offences in the Bill to death by stoning.

The most unfortunate problem with the ‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’ is that it appears to have been passed in gross ignorance of even the most elementary and basic guaranteed constitutional freedoms.

None of us has a right to impose our religious or cultural views on others, even if we earnestly believe it is for our or their benefit. Discrimination against homosexuals is popular, it is morally righteous but, like all other forms of discrimination, it is wrong.

Either the Senate is woefully uninformed of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or it has decided that religion and culture are now superior to the Constitution. The Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in Chapter II of the Constitution are not justiciable but they are nonetheless an obligation of the Federal Government to the people of Nigeria, irrespective of their sexual orientation and religious or cultural beliefs. Section 14(1) clearly states that Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice.

Apparently, homosexuals are not entitled to social justice. Section 15(2) states that national integration is to be actively encouraged and discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties, is to be prohibited. This apparently also does not apply to homosexuals.

Section 15(3)(d) states that it is the duty of the Nigerian State to promote or encourage the formation of associations that cut across ethnic, linguistic, religious or other sectional barriers. This provision apparently does not extend to homosexuals. Section 15(4) obliges the State to foster a feeling of belonging among the various people of the country. This also apparently does not apply to homosexuals. Section 17(10) states that the social order in Nigeria is to be founded on the ideals of freedom, equality and justice. Homosexuals are apparently not deserving of any of these things.

The ‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’ impressively tramples upon even more constitutional guaranteed freedoms in its relentless march to liberate us all from the scourge of homosexuality. Section 38 of the Constitution grants every person in Nigeria the fundamental and inviolable right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (or to abstain from religion), including freedom to change his religion or belief and to manifest and propagate this belief.

Section 39 guarantees the right of every person to freedom of expression, including to hold opinions (yes, even immoral ones!) and to receive and impart ideas (yes, even homosexual ideas) and information without interference. Section 40 guarantees the right to assemble freely and associate with other persons or belong to any association for the protection of his interests (including gay clubs, if they so choose).

Section 42 guarantees the right to freedom from discrimination, either expressly or impliedly, on the basis of origin, sex, religion or political opinion. Granted, these rights can be clawed back in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health, but as I have tried to establish earlier, ‘public morality’ is neither objective nor are the moral views of the majority binding on the minority. There are nonetheless many who will argue that private consensual sexual relations are offensive to whatever their personal concept of what public morality ought to be.  My response to this is simply that homosexuals are a part of the public and their personal morality cannot be discountenanced when deciding what amounts to public morality.

The ‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’ also violates numerous provisions of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights but in the final analysis this Bill is simply a blatant expression of discrimination against a minority on the basis of a sexual orientation that the majority find morally or culturally objectionable. Human beings have a visceral need to discriminate against those who are different from them. We discriminate on basis of gender, race, religion, religious denomination, ethnicity, class, age, educational background, skin complexion, appearance. It never ends. Justification is never lacking for discrimination, irrespective of the basis or specie of discrimination.

None of us has a right to impose our religious or cultural views on others, even if we earnestly believe it is for our or their benefit. Discrimination against homosexuals is popular, it is morally righteous but, like all other forms of discrimination, it is wrong.

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Olatoye Akinbode is head of Dispute Resolution at Aboyade & Co. He specialises in commercial arbitration and litigation and supervises the firm’s practice in the fields of litigation, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution in various commercial disputes and claims. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, UK and is a member of the steering committee of the Young Members Group of the Nigeria Branch of the Institute.  Olatoye is a writer and contributor to ‘Lawyer’, Thisday Newspaper’s weekly legal pages.

 

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 (12)

  1. I think this is the best article I have ever read from a Nigerian. Great piece. Great thinking. Great analysis. Great references. Great examples. Great writer

  2. well said. pls tell those hypocrites the truths. those guys are uncivilized.

  3. Now that what we saying! Stereotyping… I suggest to folk like u to go back to school and gain some knowledge more. You just don't read, you read critically and try to have an understanding of different point of view. What do you even understand by Human Rights or Right to Privacy?

  4. Thank you Miss Ajayi… for those of you whom disagree, pls let us know why instead of being childish. You cannot judge people by your own standards and religious views. leave people to choose how they want to live their lives as long as they are not hurting anyone. We have pressing matters that the govt needs to address instead of wasting time and resources to bring about this bill. My problems are no power, lack of adequate health care, treatment of women, the state of our educational system… the list goes on. i for one couldn't care less about gay clubs springing up or what people did behind close doors. Lets get our priorities straight!

    1. Thanks you oooo! But then again, u can see the effect of bad education in those who think the article is rubbish. When people lack education, they say rubbish and can guide rubbish with any point of knowledge. This lawyer sure understand what human right and right to privacy is and that we should appreciate. Government should get busy and do what is really needed

  5. It's funny how no one that is against this article can come up with a sensible argument. I can only pray that people will learn to think critically

  6. Mr Lawyer, what's your point? As in, you wasted your time writing this lengthy nonsense? don't you have work in your office or clients? mschweeeeew

  7. YES THEY ARE GRADUALLY COMING OUT FROM THEIR HOLES AND CLOSETS. I READ THE FIRST PARAGRAPH AND COULDN'T BE BOTHERED PROCEEDING. POINTLESS RUBBISH.

  8. I believe this completely. Have copied on both nairaland and facebook. I hope people can open their eyes and ears.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail