Monday 26 January 2009

Nigeria: The false debates on same sex marriage

A bill to kill

This blog has been edited and parts of it have been rewritten to offer more clarity.

I have decided to tackle this issue head-on because I am fed up of our democratic representatives debating with fallacies and untruths fed by bigotry, ignorance, stupidity and religious fundamentalism.

It is just completely out of order to have seemingly educated and enlightened people engage in subjective discourse on serious matters that need most clear-mindedness and fair-mindedness to arrive at objective conclusions.

I wrote in my last blog [Blog-City] that the bill providing an outright ban on same sex marriage had passed in the Nigerian legislature [Sun News Online] when in fact it had just scaled though the 2nd reading in the House of Representatives unanimously [HRW].

The seriousness of the issue prompted the Human Rights Watch to write to the President about their concerns for basic human rights. [HRW]

Busybody representatives in full flow

Note: I would be quoting liberally from the Sun article [Sun News Online].

It is interesting to note that the bill was sponsored by the deputy chairman of the House Committee on Steel [Afrol News], at a time that Nigeria is vying to become leader in steel production in Africa after having lost the premier oil producer position in Africa to Angola [Reuters].

His bill was supported by the chairman of the House Committee on Diaspora [IGLHRC] which probably indicates that lady is completely oblivious of the many Nigerian homosexuals who live abroad away from this despicable persecution mob.

Then another chairman of the House Committee on Gas Resources [NPR] in the midst of the gas flaring environmental disasters and that of Steel added their views before deputy chairman of the House Committee on Human Rights [HRW] added her tuppence to the debate.

The links beside each House Committee would suggest to me that they should be very busy doing other productive things more aligned to their briefs rather than to engage in this idle banter promoting prejudice and religious fundamentalism.

The reality is this kind of topic does not require the exacting thoroughness of producing dossiers, interpreting hard facts as contained in statistical data or burning the midnight oil seeking to knock out policy documents for serious legislative debate and progressive politics.

Anyone can engage in this debate as an expert, drawing from their wealth of bigotry, their resources of prejudice having been schooled in unfounded generalisations and grounded in religious fundamentalism – you might well throw a rabid dog into the pack and get a vote of confidence.

This is easy work for legislators who get paid so much and produce so little as it offers the opportunity for people to say the most dastardly and repulsive things and still garner applause from the floor – we are being short-changed big time.

The debate or the prejudices

And so the debate with the context that, “all condemned such marriage, saying that it was immoral, against African tradition and God designs for human being.” It would make you wonder if you were in a debating chamber of democratic discourse or in a seminary.

But what is striking about this is that the House was about to legislate on an issue of morality, not criminality, policy nor point of law but some deep seated prejudice that has no particular basis in fact.

As one representative goes on to say, he “noted that the act depicts moral decadence in any given society and a digress from God’s purpose of creating marriage institution, stressing that such act as stated in both Islam and Christian religions remain ungodly act.”

The bad faith of the House

Whatever happened to other religions including indigenous home growth animist faiths where they might not be so particular about who is sleeping with whom?

Besides, would Christians who eat pork then be more unclean than Muslims? It just goes to show that we cannot have legislative debates so heavily tinged with religious sentiments not expressed by the clergy but by nominal adherents with a fanatical bent.

An elected representative then says, “It is against my faith to have same sex marriage. It is against our penal code to even engage in activities that are as quarrelsome as this between man and man, as well as women and women.”

I do sympathise that it is against his faith but is he there to represent his faith, the collective Nigerian faiths or ensure that there is a clear separation between the accepted religious systems and the State?

The issue might well be a matter of conscience but democratic representation does not confer the right to impose personal prejudices on a national debate; in matters like this the representative should abstain because expressing such a contextual prejudice at jury selection would definitely lead to disqualification.

As for the penal code, it is in need of repeal, it arrived in our statute books by reason of colonisation and those who colonised us have already repealed those intemperate laws in their home countries.

This gets my rag

Then the nuclear option; get emotive and do not let the truth get in the way of the sensational as one representative says, “It is time for us at this point in time to think back and look at the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The greatest means of transmitting this disease is through the act of ‘sodomy’. Young children are already victims of been lured into this cruel and unimaginable act. It is an act of perversion.”

The part about young children being lured into sexual acts be those homosexual or heterosexual needs to be in a children’s rights bill and should not be conflated with one that talks about marriage which would essentially be amongst adults.

The scourge of HIV/AIDS in Africa is very evident but its prevalence and demography in the West is completely different from that in Africa – the legislator here is incorrectly asserting circumstances in another location, it is both dishonest and unconscionable whilst falsely labelling victims in Africa who have inadvertently been infected by other means.

Especially, in the case of victim wives, mothers [Isiugo-Abanihe(PDF)], children and those infected through blood transfusion, [NIHGOV] the people deserve a better voice clamouring for good and affordable health services available in the cities and the rural areas.

As Nigeria accounts for 10% of the global HIV/AIDS burden coming to about 4 million inhabitants that are sero-positive with the possibility of that creating 3 million orphans by the end of the decade. [USAID]

We can safely conclude that orphans are not offspring of homosexual intercourse but are products of heterosexual consummation where as another reference suggests prevalent extra-marital relationships increase the risk profile [Isiugo-Abanihe(PDF)].

The numbers are a sad story

Sadly, it is women who carry the greater burden of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria accounting for more than 50% of those infected, with children accounting for 8% [HIV InSite] and it is quite unlikely that this is by reason of the immoral behaviour that so excites the legislators.

Basically, we have a health emergency in Nigeria because of HIV/AIDS [AVERT] [Wikipedia] and malaria [HIV InSite] but those are topics out of the reach of the humanity and compassion of our politicians to tackle; their religious myopia compels them to chase after shadows, giving the appearance of doing something positive for the country.

Dropping the word sodomy into the debate is the red-rag to the bull of completely dispensing with any objectivity, but the truth is that many studies have noted the increase in anal sex amongst heterosexuals [NATAP] [Wikipedia].

As contraception or something else

With reason, where Female Genital Mutilation [WHO] is prevalent, there is a tendency for more heterosexual anal sex than virginal sex [LibChrist].

It then makes interesting debate if the light of the Vatican’s aversion to family planning through the use of contraception [Time] [IPSNews], sexually active but considerate partners indulge in contraceptive anal sex which just happens to be against our penal code.

It does make one conclude that the legislators are just wasting time on useless laws that are legislated in the hypocritical denial of facts that depict a clear national emergency in need of serious attention.

Ditch the hypocritical God talk

The problems in Nigeria today are definitely not as a result of the activities of a handful of practising perverts, too many voices call on God in Nigeria that he dare not blink – to blame moral decadence on those few rather than on the lasciviousness of the majority is hypocritical and dishonest.

Nigeria is not a homogenous religious community like the Old Testament Jews under the leadership of a pseudo-theocracy; we are a democracy in the 21st Century of 140 million people, for crying out loud.

Get doing the work that matters

This bill would now be referred to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Justice and Women Affairs and I hope the human rights element of living in a global community gains ascendancy, that the sense of justice prevails over the idea of legislating on religious and supposedly moral issues and that they begin to concentrate on the plight of women by working to fully ratify the CEDAW protocol. [Blog-City]

If there is a need to ban same sex relationships, the argument has yet to be made objectively and not on moral and religious grounds – these matters should be able to stand the scrutiny of objective jurisprudence and legal challenge, the hysteria of mass prejudice to foment tyranny is not for democracies and that is what should be discouraged in Nigeria.

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