Opinion: The wider implications of Nigeria’s anti-gay law

by Jaye Gaskia

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But there are even much wider implications for this law. It means that dissidents, who are involved in legitimate opposition to corruption, impunity in governance, reckless killing of people by VIP convoys etc, can simply be criminalised, discredited, and jailed, not because they have committed any crimes, but because they are gay or accused of being gay.

I will start by restating and reaffirming my position, earlier aired, that gay rights are human rights; that to be guy is to be human, and that there is nothing immoral or criminal about just simply being gay.

I have been quite shocked to say the least by the nature of the of the responses to the signing into law by the president of the anti-gay bill passed by the NASS; as well as the overzealous enforcement of the same law by the Nigeria Police Force; a force not known for either its speed or its efficiency in the past.

Take for instance, many murders and political assassinations remain unsolved, with the investigations marred in controversies. Armed robbers and kidnappers now operate with the same level of impunity with which treasury looters operate. Yet this same law enforcement agency has been very quick, and has demonstrated uncanny clinical efficiency in not only identifying, but also effecting the arrests of hundreds of gays, almost before the ink from the pen with which the president signed the bill into law has finished drying on the paper on which it was signed.

Let us return to my shock. I have been shocked not by the response of majority of ordinary citizens, much of which was expected, but by the responses of supposed activists, and veteran human rights activists. It does seem to me now that the human, in the human rights activism is quite a very limited one; one whose boundaries are now defined with respect to exclusion or inclusion, by the sexual orientation only of the specific human person.

So some have pointedly asked why i should not encourage my daughter to be a lesbian? And my response to that? Regardless of what i encourage her to be or not to be, her sexual orientation will be determined and discovered by her and not by me, nor by her mother for that matter. So what if she eventually discovers herself to be lesbian? And without killing another human being, without stealing from another human being, without vandalising property, without turning out to be a kidnapper, armed robber, assassin, political thug, or just the run of the mill treasury looter; without any of these, solely because she is lesbian, she becomes a criminal? And i am supposed to turn her in, so she can be tried and jailed for 14 years? And these while treasury looters continue to lord it over us, and rapists, child molesters, paedophiles, and those forcefully having continuous canal knowledge of 13 year olds in the name of marriage continue to walk the streets free? And continue to make laws for us? And govern us as Presidents, governors, ministers and commissioners?

Or take another response; if the adult son of a woman and her mother decides to have consensual sex; or a father and his adult daughter decides to have consensual sex, are we to accept this as part of their human rights? Really? without being prejudiced and biased, anyone of us can truly justifiably equate consensual sex, consensual intimate relationships between adult gays and lesbians who are not related with consensual sex between adult children and their parents? And to pose the question is this way is to agree that gay sex is not necessarily criminal, but only perhaps ‘immoral’. And to go down this lane is to shift the discourse from the realm of rights and legality to the realm of morality. And the real question to ask is what makes gay sex immoral? Because two consenting adults of the same sex are involved in a romantic relationship? The same way it is deemed immoral for instance by racists for an adult white and an adult black of opposite sex to be involved in a romantic and intimate relationship?

For those who are hacking back to radical conservatism and culture, let us remind them that the pogrom of Jews by the Nazis was based in large measure on the same radical conservative activism of the Nazis. Let us remind them that blacks were lynched in the segregated south of the US, as well as in apartheid South Africa on the basis of such radical conservative racism; while whites were banished from public life because they brought shame to their families.

So if it is not legality or morality, then it must be because it is an abnormality? And as such something not human or sub human? Well let us also remind our would be guardians of the human order that in order to justify and rationalise the uncommon brutality of modern slavery; several [pseudo] scientific and theological theories were evolved and propounded to ‘prove’ that the black person, the negro, was subhuman, and as such was neither entitled to human rights, nor to the grace of God. Eminent scientists and clerics were involved in these pseudo-theorising enterprise.

The responses from ordinary citizens on the other hand, their sense of shock derived from a religious and cultural upbringing which makes them to unconsciously recoil from accepting variation from what is considered the norm; this response has only served to convince me further that the purpose of the law at this time is to distract attention from the problems associated with the collective failure of the ruling elites, and to refocus our anger away from their rabid treasury looting and governance ineptitude, towards segments of the society, who are in a minority because of their sexual orientation, and who are now being demonised and criminalised in order to make it easier to scapegoat as the reasons for the congenital failure and incompetence of this light fingered ruling class.

Just across the Mediterranean sea, across the straits of Gilbratal, in far away UK, politicians are competing with themselves to scapegoat immigrants, and to limit their rights as human beings. One rabid politician, a leader of a major political party, with presence in both the Commons and in the European parliament, the leader of the UK Independence Party [UKIP] has even gone as far as to state publicly, that the recent floods and unusual weather phenomena being experienced in the UK, has not been due to climate change, not been due to the polar vortex, but that it is instead God’s punishment for the wave of uncontrolled immigration into the UK!

How dangerously silly can we get? Every failed and or failing regime and ruling class everywhere in the world always look for some segment of society to criminalise and scapegoat in order to push the blame for their failure not unto themselves and their greed and incompetence, but unto hapless, powerless minorities.

So yes i have been shocked at veteran Human Rights Activists applauding the regime for enacting the anti-gay law and the police for zealously enforcing it? All because homosexualism is alien to our culture? Or a threat to human survival? Alien to our culture? Which culture? If it is true that it is a taboo in our culture, then it simply means that it is not alien to our culture, but on the contrary as a form of sexual orientation, it has been historically repressed in our culture; simply! For you cannot make a taboo out of what does not exist; nor could the prophets have been interpreted to have pronounced against it in the various scriptures of the major religions, if it was not in existence. The only conclusions we can draw from all of these cultural and religious references are that homosexualism has been an integral part of humanity since the emergence of the human species; and that it has been historically repressed in the Human society since it dawn. What is more, if it has been an integral part of the human sexual experience for all these while, then it cannot in anyway be true that it has or now poses a threat to human existence. This is simply because the dominant and predominant sexual orientation in human society as well as among other creatures who procreate through sex, has been heterosexualism.

But there are even much wider implications for this law. It means that dissidents, who are involved in legitimate opposition to corruption, impunity in governance, reckless killing of people by VIP convoys etc, can simply be criminalised, discredited, and jailed, not because they have committed any crimes, but because they are gay or accused of being gay.

Or  take the conventions organised by mass based organisations; or the large workshops organised by CSOs; where because of the share impossibility of covering the cost of individual accommodation, participants and delegates are paired or put in multiples in rooms. It means that sitting government can simply use the fact of paired participants, since they are in same sex pairs, as a motive to disorganise, and orchestrate the mass arrest and criminalisation of opponents. What would it take for a ruling party that can raise the spectre of religious bigotry by labelling the opposition party an Islamic party; what would it take for such parties, and such ruling elites to label a protest movement and its leadership gays, and thus proceed to use its police force to harass the movement, arrest and try its activists and leaders as gays?

So let us be clear, to permit and allow this inhuman criminalisation of the sexual orientation of a minority, is to open the way for the wider criminalisation of dissent through the abuse of the law enacted to criminalise gays.

The point being made and that needs to be re-emphasised is that while it is true that just like every other human being, a gay can be a thief, an armed robber, a kidnapper, a crude oil thief, a treasury looter, an assassin, a rapists [not only of minors, but also of adults and even spouses], etc; in which case such a guy, like every other human engaged in such, would be a criminal; nevertheless a guy is not a criminal simply because of their gayness.

 

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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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