by Dani Ajonu
So, what role will criminalization play, in all of this? We can get an idea by observing what happened when homosexual act were decriminalized in most western countries. Homosexual act was a criminal offence punishable by the state until a few decades ago in the west. As we know this has all changed.
A great deal has been made of the “Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2014” (SSMPA) that was recently signed into law by the president. The question of its constitutionality and necessity has been raised. Uriel Okoroma, in my opinion, brilliantly dealt with the question of its constitutionality in his piece on 14th January, 2014 in Today’s Telegraph titled “Analysis: Legal Review of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition act of 2014”.
To address the question of whether the law was necessary, it’s important we consider a few things. For clarification purposes, the law, to all intent and purpose, was passed in order discourage homosexual acts by criminalizing any such action that may encourage, promote and to a large extent incentivize such an act, on the basis that it is immoral and depraved coupled with the fact that it goes against the grains of our culture and tradition. The marriage act, though in invoking the union of a marriage uses the term “a man and his wife”, does not expressly prohibit or otherwise, directly or indirectly, Same Sex Marriage (SSM) or Civil Partnership (CP) in any of its provisions. Other accompanying laws that deal directly with marriage also suffer this challenge of non clarity. Therefore, we cannot fail to recognize the necessity of the NASS addressing that aspect of the law that is a hot and indeed divisive issue, even in the west where such a culture is believed to be already pervasive.
However, to further comprehend why a law is necessary, it is important to understand the anthropological development of the Same Sex movement around the world and the role played by the relationship between law and morality.
Though, the practice was known to have more common in ancient Greece, it only became a prevalent phenomenon in the mid-twentieth century. The reason for this evolution is still being studied, but the role played by the sexual revolution of Sixties cannot be overlooked. As a result, the proportion of people who identify themselves as having Same Sex orientation, though a tiny minority (less than 3% of the population, according to some studies) still constitute a significant portion of the population to disregard. It is against this backdrop that communities and cultures like Nigeria, who regard this practice immoral and depraved and as such an imminent danger to the traditional understanding of the family unit and society at large have decided to act in readiness for the battles ahead if one observes the trend right across the globe today.
So, what role will criminalization play, in all of this? We can get an idea by observing what happened when homosexual act were decriminalized in most western countries. Homosexual act was a criminal offence punishable by the state until a few decades ago in the west. As we know this has all changed. The crucial question here is “did the law push the change of morality or did the morality first change and then the law, to come in line with this change”? Well, using just two of numerous examples will show us that the former was indeed the case in this context. If you can recall, the level for drunk driving was higher in former times before it was reduced, a behaviour that was once legal was made illegal, and most people consequently adapted to this change even if they did not want it. They changed their behaviour. The same can be said about smoking in bars and pubs. Therefore, empirical results show that the law is a strong force to change our behaviour.
Once homosexuality was decriminalized, it was just a matter of time before there was a push for SSM. When the debate to allow for CP was on in the UK, proponents, in order to get support, gave assurances that they would not ask for marriage and that CP was all they wante. Well, fast-forward Nine years and SSM law has just been passed. The danger of this law will manifest itself soon when religious houses are taken to court and closed down for refusing to perform marriage ceremony for gay couples under the pretext of “equal marriage”. In the UK, we have witnessed a Christian counsellor being fired for refusing to counsel a gay couple, Catholic Adoption Agencies closed down for refusing to place children outside a traditional family unit, B&B restaurant owners taken to court for refusing to accommodate gay couples and numerous abuses that have infringed on people’s rights to freedom of belief, religion, expression, et al all in the name of their “equality law” that has only sought to pacify homosexual lobbies. It is against this backdrop that the SSMPA was passed and signed into law almost unanimously.
This article was published with permission from Telegraph NG Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.