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GAYS, LESBIANS AND THE REST OF US, by Olusegun Adeniyi

By News Express on 23/01/2014

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In the course of my stay in the United States during the 2010/2011 academic session, a Nigerian woman (resident in Boston) could not find her son with whom she came to the Galleria Mall in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and had to call in the police. It took about three hours before the woman and the police eventually found the boy playing games inside the “Best Buy” shop. So incensed was the woman that when she grabbed the boy she wanted to beat him but she was restrained by the head of the police team, who however told her: “Don’t do that here, when you get home, lock your doors and give him some good spanking.”

Whenever I reflect on that episode, what it tells me is the recognition by the policeman and possibly many other people in the United States, of the wisdom in the Biblical injunction, “spare the rod, spoil the child”, which we imbibe in Africa. But they are constrained from applying such principles based on the laws governing their own society.

It is within that context that I want to situate the controversy that has greeted the signing into law by President Goodluck Jonathan, of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 which forbids “a marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex, and provides penalties for the solemnization and witnessing of same thereof.”

Ordinarily, what consenting adults do behind closed doors should be their business. Interestingly, that is the way it was until gay people brought the discussion about “how they do it” into the open in their attempt to force the world to accept, and probably embrace, their way. And because many of their promoters (even though small in number) are rich, famous and influential, this rather vocal minority is bent on imposing its values on the rest of us without making allowances even for neutrality. They have gone this far because they have a powerful ally in Mr. Barack Obama who can be considered the first American “gay” president in the manner in which Mr. Bill Clinton is considered the first American “black” president.

So supportive of their cause has President Obama been that last year, he directed officials of his administration to provide asylum support to homosexuals from anywhere in the world who are seeking protection. According to Obama’s memo, “the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security shall ensure appropriate training is in place so that relevant Federal Government personnel and key partners can effectively address the protection of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) refugees and asylum seekers, including by providing to them adequate assistance and ensuring that the federal government has the ability to identify and expedite resettlement of highly vulnerable persons with urgent protection needs.”

To the extent that the issue has become a projection of American foreign policy, I do not see why my country should be criminalised because we refuse to toe their line. There is a Yoruba saying that “this is the way we behave in my community” could be a taboo in another. So to that extent, Nigeria should not succumb to the blackmail of countries that would want to tie their imaginary aids and assistance to the recognition of same-sex marriage in our country. However, there are also critical issues with the current anti-gay law which require deep reflection on the part of all fair-minded Nigerians.

While our people are known to be very religious, the fact also remains that Nigeria is not a theocratic state. Yes, many would argue that Sodomy or Lesbianism is an abomination before God. But so are other sins many of us commit on a daily basis. Incidentally, one of the Biblical passages in the “Open Heavens” (the Redeemed Christian Church of God daily devotional) for last Tuesday, January 21, is Proverbs 6: 16 to 19. It reads: “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; an heart that deviseth wicked imagination, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among the brethren.”

That homosexuality is not listed among the abominations does not imply that God sanctions it. But it also demonstrates that even if some of us don’t indulge in such practices, it still would not make us any better than those who do. So the self-righteousness that is driving the campaign of hate against gays and lesbians within our society is misplaced. Now, if being a homosexual is a sin against God, as most people agree it is, the question then remains: If God were to mark iniquity who really can stand?

While not making any case for gays and lesbians, we have to weigh the incidental issues relating to the Law in question, as passed. Sodomy, Homosexuality and Lesbianism have always been criminal acts in Nigeria, yet there have also always been rumours about some prominent Nigerian men who in the past have engaged in such practices. In fact, there was a Senior Advocate of Nigeria from Yorubaland, whose sexual orientation was known by many people. It was never an issue, even when the law was there, apparently because he was a big man. This new law would also only be applicable to the poor, as we are beginning to see from stories of the rounding up of transvestites in one state in the North, and a number of ‘homosexuals’ in some states in the South.

Notwithstanding my misgivings, if it comes to taking a stand, I am not a supporter of LGBT rights; because I pray that the day never comes when either of my two daughters would come home with a lady as their marriage partner or my son with a man. Nevertheless, I worry at the culture of intolerance and hypocrisy that has given birth to the law and the abuse to which it can be subjected.

It is so very easy to stigmatise and condemn others, especially in a country where compassion is in short supply. But since our legal jurisprudence already defines marriage as a union between man and woman, then the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 is on its face value a redundant law. However, the latent discrimination in its provisions and the draconian nature of the punitive measures for those who are different from us provides the source of danger in a society where jungle justice and impunity remain the order of the day. Surely, each human being (regardless of his/her sexual orientation) is deserving of respect and dignity, as a creature of the Almighty, and under the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

•This piece by Adeniyi (shown in photo) originally appeared in his column “The Verdict” in today’s edition of ThisDay. He can be reached via olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

Source News Express

Posted 23/01/2014 5:50:41 PM

 

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