Morality and Legality: Lessons for Awoyokun

Cornelius Ewuoso

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Awoyokun is right. Here I refer you to his article which appeared in the Guardian Newspaper of 14 December 2011. It is not the duty of the Senate to legislate on our moral life. This task requires a conscious, critical and sober reflection. A form of reflection which the Senate, considering its present orientation, is incapable of undertaking. But it is equally not totally out of place for the Senate to legislate morality, if, first, they were themselves morally upright; secondly, if other more urgent state affairs had been taken care off.

There are several dangers involved in allowing the Senate take over our moral life. The most prominent is the danger of collapsing legality and morality. Legal law should be at the service of moral law. Morality considers the rightness or wrongness of action in relation to the proportionate good contained therein. In other words, the primary aim of morality is the good which is to be achieved. It belongs to legal law, on the other hand, to provide a conducive environment for the pursuit of that good. For this reason, Aristotle argues in his Politics, "We term 'just' those legal acts which produce and preserve happiness and its components within the political community. There are many things which inhibit the pursuit of the good in the present day Nigeria. There is the Boko Haram menace, high level of insecurity, poverty, unemployement, corruption, banditocracy, collapse of the healthcare system, basic social amenities etc. Overcoming these social ills should be the focus of our National assembly. Thus, there are many other things in urgent need of an attention. Same sex marriage is not just, FOR NOW, one of those things.

Additionally, the Nigerian State lacks the wherewithal to enforce laws. Bigamy was criminalized months, yet many Nigerians still acquire wives like properties. It is baseless to say, ‘my culture permits it'. The point is, it is illegal. But again, who cares? The Senators, themselves marry wives and acquire concubines out of proportion. The Police too is not interested. Who can blame them since they have their livelihood to consider, and their numerous girl-friends to take care of.

Moreover, it is a slippery slope, allowing the Senate to dictate morality. The reason why there is so much celebration in the pages of the Newspapers by top Nigerian pastors and his highnesses, is because, the Senate unreflectively passed what many considered immoral. I wonder if it would still have been the case if they had legitimize it and in addition, abortion, bestiality, incest, necrophilia, paedophilia, voyeurism etc.. There are some countries of the world where such sexual practices are just a way of life. Hence, I strongly recommend that Senate should dispense with legislating morality for us and to bequeath this task to those divinely commissioned to do so. That is, those who have been commissioned to guide people in matters of faith and morals', the magisterium. The Senate would also do well to ensure that an atmosphere, conducive for the faithful pursuit of morally praiseworthy acts, is put in place. These points provide the reasons why Awoyokun's eruditeness must be acknowledged. Sir, you are an oasis; a repertoire of knowledge. I salute your courage and insight.

However, there are many other things in your useful article, which were uncousciously lumped together and undifferentiated. I find it very interesting, Sir, that you could assert the following without critical reflection: ‘For every law of nature there will always be an exception', ‘Since it was common for women to have a kid at once, the natural law was narrowly interpreted to mean that giving birth to more than one is an abnormal occurrence hence evil'. ‘You cannot become gay unless you are born one', ‘Homosexuality is not evil' etc.

Such expressions sadden honest students like my humble self. I shall proceed immediately to put things in their proper perspective, and this is for the sake of the respect I have for you. To begin, I shall take my point of departure from what I believe is the basic trust of your article which is, ‘homosexuality is normal biological condition, hence, should be legitimized'.

This statement needs to be properly refined. You may be correct to assert that homosexuality is a biological condition. But it could be misguiding to stop at that. This is because, homosexuality is not solely biological. It is a well known fact that there are other factors which may influence homosexuality. Some are biological, others environmental, still others psychological and social ranging from childhood sexual abuse to peer pressure. Thus it is possible to become gay even if one were not born gay, and the statement ‘You cannot become gay unless you are born one' is not entirely true. This is an acclaimed fact which a five minute discomfort would reveal. In this technological age, two minutes would be sufficient. I need not dwell so much on the factors which may influence homosexuality. I consider this particularly inappropriate for this level of discussion.

Even if one were to accept the fact that homosexuality is a biological condition, does that make it normal? Is there any necessary link between a biological condition and its normality? I find it very instructive to assert here that ‘the fact that a child is born with a hole in his or her heart, does not make having a hole in the heart normal'. Thus, in this particular case, as is it with being born homosexual, this exception does not make having a hole in the heart or being born gay normal. We may want to add that some children are born with medical defects, but we do not say that being born with medical defects children are normal. On the contrary, the parents and guardians would immediately seek medical solutions for such defects. Similarly, it is not appropriate to say being born gay, makes ‘gayness' normal. In other words, it is not true to claim that ‘homosexuality is a normal biological condition'.

Furthermore, the term ‘homosexuality' needs clarification. There is a distinction to be made between the ‘orientation' and ‘actual sexual act'. It is possible for one to have homosexual proclivity and not engage in the actual sexual act. What we consider morally inappropriate is not the orientation but the actual sexual act. In other words, what we condemn is not the orientation but the actual sexual act. And the fact that the actual homosexual act or what I choose to call ‘homoerotism' is condemned, does not mean the rights of these persons should be forfeited. Every homosexual, like every heterosexual should be respected and his or her rights protected. This is a universal norm from which we are not free to depart.

Equally, the fact that homoerotism is morally inappropriate does not mean that the State should make it her business to criminalize it. Neither is the case that since homosexuality has been legalized in other countries, thus it is morally appropriate or normal. The freedom of morality must be safeguarded. Morality seeks to make the good available to all. It is the duty of the State to make it possible for individuals to freely pursue this good. Many factors, as stated above make it difficult for us to pursue the good in this country. It is in fact, these factors which make morally inappropriate acts such as homosexuality handy. Hence, the State should make it her business to seek measures and laws that would reduce poverty, ensure better healthcare system, standard education system etc.

More importantly, when we condemn homoerotism, we do not ‘only' condemn this action in itself alone, we also seek by this means to protect the dignity of the marriage. Marriage properly understood in this context is not one man and several wives, or one woman several husbands, or one man one wife and several concubines but one man and one woman. It is a well known fact that marriage is no longer taken seriously in the society. Young couples get engaged and let go of each other at will. The atmosphere is rife with fornication, adultery and other forms of extra marital affairs. These are the very acts recklessly pursued under the guise of freedom, like homoerotism, which destroy our moral health. But freedom properly understood is not freedom to do ‘what one likes' but the freedom ‘to pursue the good'. The fundamental principle of Natural law says ‘seek the good and avoid evil'. This knowledge is known to all and knowable by all. It is a universal principle which needs particular application. This implicit knowledge is made explicit, amongst other things, in the propagation of species. And it is only within marriage, rightly understood, that the propagation of species is morally appropriate. Above all, for the proper application of this principle, one needs prudence, that is right reasoning applied to action.