"If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives." That is Deuteronomy 22:28. The holy Quran's Surat Al-MÄ'idah 5:38 commands: "As for the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is exalted in Might and Wisdom." These are some of the injunctions which in their days were normal and fair but today, thousands of years later, by general consensus we find them proceeds from a completely bizarre morality. Through rigorous philosophical critique of natural laws, through scientific findings and codification of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the human society have advanced from the dark ethics of yesteryears into a brighter modern society. Unfortunately some horrific concepts and ethics of old are still allowed to persist to date.
It used to be a normal practice to kill twins immediately after birth because they are strange; strange because the society refused to be open-minded. 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. It took Mary Slessor an arduous campaign of enlightenment to turn this practice around in Nigeria. Now it is not baby twins that are seen as evil, it is their murder at birth. For every law of nature there will always be an exception. We are black people, yet we have albinos among us. They are not bad or evil, they are just different. Cat and dogs are meant to be enemies, but we have some that are best of friends. There are some men that have certain features of women and some women have features that traditionally belong to men. Also, there are the hermaphrodites. They are not evil, they are just different. If we have not heard of homosexuality before, meditation on the wonders of nature and how she breaks her own laws supposed to convince us that men who love men and women who love women would exist somewhere. This is neither bad nor evil. It is just nature asserting her rights to break her own rules and enrich the world with differences.
Homosexuality is not evil. Homosexuality is not a western invention. Homosexuality is not a cultural fad. Homosexuality is not a measure of cultural decadence nor is it the sign of end time. Homosexuality is simply a biological fact. You cannot become gay unless you are born one. It is on this note that I find the Senate's ratification of the Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill condemnable. The presidency or the lower House should claim the moral high ground and quash the bizarre bill. Legislation like this should be responsible to modern scientific findings and rooted in ethical reasoning instead of being founded on wilful ignorance or on discredited Arabic or Semitic injunctions of thousands of years ago.
The Senate that supposed to put the pin back into the grenade by educating Nigerians on the normality of homosexuality is allowing homophobia to regain composure, become more virulent and worse, become legal and fashionable. Sen. Baba-Ahmed Yusuf Datti of Kaduna and Dr. Ishaq Akintola have declared with impunity that gays should be murdered.
In 19th century, at a time when homosexuals were executed freely in western societies, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the empire of Japan and the Ottoman empire decriminalized homosexuality. Like many African countries now, Western societies viewed those gay-friendly countries as degenerate societies. A hundred and fifty years after the west too saw the light and embrace it wholeheartedly. Yet the fear of fire and brimstone destruction like Sodom and Gomorrah with which they made themselves hostile to same-sex romance never happened and it is not going to happen. So why are Nigerians still so insular to homosexuality when we have the benefit of other country's experience handy? To criminalise same sex unions, to criminalise their associations and organizations that serve their interests, to criminalise those who defend them, to ban their marriage and to charge anyone that attend the ceremony with committing an offence all go to show that the sponsors and supporters of this bill are fighting a phantom that is beyond the true meaning of homosexuality in itself. They are fighting their own deep-seated insecurities and embattled consciousness. This bill if signed into law would belong in the same category with Protection Against False Accusation Decree No. 4 and the Miscellaneous Offences Decree No. 20 of 1984 as the most notorious pieces of legislations in the country's history.
To discriminate against anyone is to improve one's access to absolute power. To claim equality is to dilute one's claim to this unaccountable power. Going by our history, what the country needs are legislations that rebuke our dark history of dictatorships. When the Senate abused democracy by going so draconian on the rights and liberties of people in same sex relationships, they have set into the motion the process of attacking every other person's rights, they have killed something human in their own souls. For the strength of a democracy, the health of a society or a civilization is determined not by the quality of attention it pays to the strong or the majority's interests but its concern for the weak, the voiceless, the disenfranchised, the vulnerable, the minorities which include our gay brothers and sisters.
While nature offers us lots of lessons in dissimilarities, she also teaches us about harmony. As Chinua Achebe said, when one thing stands, another can stand beside it. Not kneel beside it. Homosexuals should not be at our mercy. They are citizens to whom the provisions of the fourth chapter of the Constitution equally apply. Those provisions alone render the Senate's unnecessary aggro null and void. As we commend the people of Calabar for opening up their minds to Mary Slessor's campaign hundred years ago, we urge all Nigerians to open their minds to voice of reason and enlightenment and stop discrimination and violence against gays. Homosexuals and heterosexuals are both twins from the womb of nature, as contemporary Mary Slessors keep on saying.
Nigeria is a regional and continental power who should be setting good examples of tolerance for other nations. We have an influential UN Security Council seat. But our quest for more influence in international bodies and more say in global affairs will be stymied with draconian bills like this. No person of honour wants to tolerate the intolerant. It is our hope that the lower house or the presidency will put a stop to this national embarrassment.