by Collins Uma

Black gay couple

Two reasons put forward by supporters of the bill are that homosexuality is not part of our culture and that it is a sin against God. No sillier reasons have been given for the passage of a an unnecessary bill which, technically, isn’t different from attempting to legislate on anal sex.

A lot of thoughts have been on my mind since Nigeria’s National Assembly officially criminalised homosexuality in Nigeria and prescribed up to 14-year jail terms for gay and lesbian couples and up to 10 years jail term for those who support them, including those who advocate gay rights. I say ‘officially’ because we have always passed homophobic sentences on people we suspect to be gay or lesbian.

In my university days, two girls got the embarrassment of their lives because someone entered their room and found them naked on the bed. The one who got into the room called out to others within the hostel to ‘come and see lesbians’ in their hostel. No question was asked and, before the two ‘lesbians’ knew it, the news was all over the campus. In their defence they denied involvement in any act of lesbianism and said they only stayed that way and didn’t shut the door because there was no electricity in the hostel and the room was hot (boys were not allowed into female hostels). How many people heard their defence? How many who heard believed? The damage had been done. They became pariah until we left school.

A lecturer also became pariah because he was suspected to be gay. My friend wouldn’t let the man supervise his final year project. I don’t know how he convinced the Head of Department to assign another supervisor to him. The homophobia was that serious.

Two reasons put forward by supporters of the bill are that homosexuality is not part of our culture and that it is a sin against God. No sillier reasons have been given for the passage of a an unnecessary bill which, technically, isn’t different from attempting to legislate on anal sex.

 

Culture

My wife is Tiv. Before our traditional marriage a list was given to me which included items I must provide. One item was particularly interesting to me. A wheel-barrow. Yes, I was told it is part of the tradition and culture of the people for a man who seeks a girl’s hand in marriage to give a wheel-barrow, among other things, to the girl’s parents. I wondered when that culture came into being. And when did wheel-barrows get to these shores that it has become a part of cultural obligations that must be fulfilled before marriage. I did not buy the wheel-barrow but when we got to the village they insisted that I pay for it and I did. It started one day but the practice has become part of the culture. The National Assembly will do well to note that they cannot decide on what is or will become a part of “our culture”. There are over 300 ethnic groups in Nigeria, each with its culture or way of life and these cultures are dynamic. This leaves one wondering which culture the legislators are referring to. A Google search of the term ‘Yan Daudu’ will show that homosexuality in Nigeria is really not a recent phenomenon. The yan daudus are homosexuals in Northern Nigeria and they have lived among the people for over 100 hundred years. Infact, since before the advent of colonialism.

There are individual ways of life that cannot be put under the cultural umbrella. When a crime is committed the criminal is not prosecuted because he has done something which is against “our culture” but because of the injury his action has caused to the complainant. Who is the injured party when there is sex between two consenting adults? If a homosexual has sex with a minor or with a grown-up without the latter’s consent then let the offender be prosecuted just like any other heterosexual who engages in such an act. Equality under the law demands this. If Adam and Steve will be imprisoned because they choose to have sex with each other instead of conforming to societal norms by having sex with Eve then one day we could have the legislators debating whether or not to imprison people like me who wear our wrist watches on the right instead of on the left hand and who prefer Pepsi to Coke. Its that ludicrous.

 

God

This is one excuse nobody should mention, in a secular state. In Nigeria, however, we are like the Nollywood producer/screenwriter who invokes the supernatural to resolve the conflicts in a story whenever he writes himself into a cul de sac.

When you say homosexuality should be criminalised because it is a sin against God, which God are you referring to? Nigeria is not a theocracy. We do not have a ‘national God’. If it is a sin against the Christian God and/or the Muslim God, what happens to the citizen who does not worship the God the National Assembly referred to and who’s prophets they have suddenly become? What happens to those who do not believe in the concept of God at all? What happens to the adherents of a ‘godless religion’ like Buddhism? Are we now going to compel them to live according to the dictates of Judeo-Christianity or Islam? In a secular state? Using ‘God’ as an excuse to bring this law into being is akin to removing all the regular courts from states that practice the Shari’a legal system and forcing everybody to be judged by the strict Shari’a codes, irrespective of each man’s religious persuasion. Besides, how are we any different from the Boko Haram terrorists if we remove or cause to be removed from society those we do not like, in the name of fighting for God. Let’s not even talk about the irony of a Nigerian legislator doing something for God. By the way, Leviticus 18:22 prescribes a death penalty for homosexuals. How dare these legislators reduce it to 14 years? If they’re fighting for God shouldn’t they be following the instruction to the letter?

If the Nigerian legislature want homosexuality criminalised it should be for better reasons and not something as hare-brained as ‘culture’ or ‘sin against God’. Such debates and legislation will however persist as long as we sit back and hand over law-making to the incompetent ones among us because we are too posh and too elite to contest elections or register as members of political parties or stand in the sun to vote in the right candidates.

I am a born-again Christian and an ordained Minister of the Gospel, licensed to conduct marriages. I do not encourage homosexuality and I will not wed Adam and Steve or Ada and Eve but I will not send them to prison either.

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Collins Uma tweets from @CollinsUma

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.