NIGERIA & the west: culture, morals AND GAY RIGHTS
The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2014 became a law in Nigeria following its signing by President Goodluck Jonathan on seventh January this year. The proposal of the National Assembly had by then been on the desk of the president for two years. Even at the National Assembly the bill was proposed, amended and set aside several times over a number of years.
Voice of the South-South agrees with the common view that the government must not decide for individual citizens on their personal preferences. Individuals have a right to decide for themselves how they want to live their personal lives. Yes, individual citizens must be free to exercise freedom on who to love or marry. Yet all acts in the exercise of personal freedoms must be within the bounds of the laws of the country. It is so in most countries.
Now consider that these rights of the individual to live the way he/she deems personally satisfactory and feels happy with had no boundaries – customary, moral or legal. We would then consider it perfectly within the rights of individuals, if it is their preference, to enjoy rape, paedophilia, necrophilia, zoophilia, pyromania, murder, kidnap, enslavement, living off the proceeds of armed robbery instead of honest labour, wanton destruction of other people's properties, etc.
Nobody in Britain, Canada or the United States of America would want his child kidnapped and enslaved because someone enjoys kidnapping and enslaving other people; no one would want a paedophile to defile their eight year old daughter or a necrophiliac having sex with their dead relation. They have laws against all these things. They have laws because such behaviour offends the morals and customs of the society. It is also for the same reason, while the British and the Americans do not mind men having sex with men, or women having sex with women, we in Nigeria do mind because it offends our culture and morals.
As homosexuality, which offends our culture and collective moral is becoming fashionable in our society due to Western influence, beamed to us through mass media and via interaction with the West, the country has decided to enact a law to check it. The law does not prohibit homosexuality; that would be impossible. It prohibits public display of homosexuality and marriage between persons of the same sex. In the same way that a man cannot exercise personal freedom to the extent that he can rape women or have sex with children or animals at will; in the same way that laws limit the freedom of a citizen from deliberately setting fire to other people's properties because it pleases the individual; in the same way the society has outlawed necrophilia and bestiality, it has deemed it fit to outlaw homosexual marriage. While they criticise and threaten, even in the USA most of the states do not allow gay marriages, and in Britain gays are allowed only 'civil union'. Many states of the USA disallow abortion, whereas carrying a pregnancy to term and having a baby should be the personal choice of a woman. Yet young women's human rights are denied there.
That gay people should not marry in Nigerian society does not impugn on the rights of any gay person to have a homosexual life. The issue is not about right. It is about definition, the definition of what Nigeria accepts as marriage. Thus what the issue is about is that in Nigeria marriage is the solemn union of a man and a woman, not a man and another man or a woman and another woman.
There is no country on earth in which there is no limit to the freedoms of individuals. For instance, the USA and Britain that preach 'freedom of speech' to others routinely listen in on the telephone conversations of tens of millions of their citizens daily, to gather information that the authorities might use against individual citizens. There is no subject under the sun in relation to which an individual may behave exactly as he wants without any societal boundaries. None.
That homosexuality does not offend the culture and morals of Westerners does not mean it does not offend the sensibilities of Nigerians. Indeed one must search hard, in vain too, to find another law enacted in Nigeria that is as popular as this law against homosexual matrimony. Nigeria's morals and social culture cannot be dictated by people who are not Nigerians, who do not know Nigerian customs, who fail to understand Nigerian sensibilities, and who will not be negatively impacted by moral decadence and cultural decay in Nigeria.
The country's lawmakers rose up to the challenge of collating and sanctifying the feelings of Nigerians on the issue and the president has shown courage in signing the bill into law. A good citizen lives within the confines of the law. That is what we should all do.
Engr. Mike Ogiasa Dr (Capt) Sowaribi Tolofari
Chairman Publicity Secretary