Friday, September 30, 2011

Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill 2011: Homosexuals to Nigeria at 51

In spite of the fact that the constitution of Nigeria guarantees each citizens its basic human rights, the Nigerian Senate just last week again re-introduced the Same Sex Marriage Bill which if passed into law would criminalize person with same sex orientation and other activities connected with them. Is this a Greek gift to the gay at community at independence by the Nigeria Senate as we begin the second leg of journey as a nation into a century? It occurs to us as homosexuals that as a nation, the second phase of our nationhood is to begin by criminalizing our own citizens and denying their basic fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

As citizens of this great country and as sexual minorities, we strongly condemn the re-introduction of Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill and urge the Senate to shelve the bill.  It is a totally unnecessary
Bill that will further exacerbate the hardships of homosexual Nigerians. This bill is a waste of parliamentary time and a disgrace to our democratic society.

The Criminal Code of Nigeria, Section 214 and 217 already criminalize people with same sex orientation. Why then criminalize something that is already criminal by the statue books of the country?
Nigeria remains signatories to various International Covenants and Treaties that protect from discrimination even on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Notable among this is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Our signatories to these covenants and treaties mean and suggest that we do know that persons with same sex orientation exist in the country. The mere fact that we still hold on to colonial laws that discriminate and criminalize persons with these orientations means that the second phase of our existence as a nation should be a time in which we make the country non-discriminatory by repealing discriminatory and repressive laws.
We as homosexuals’ citizens of Nigeria are amazed at the ignorance of the Senate in wanting to pass a law on Same Sex Marriage when there is no tolerance, acceptance and freedom for persons with a same sex orientation. There is no place in Nigeria with evidence of same sex cohabitation. This therefore makes this bill totally unnecessary and waste of tax payers’ money in organizing public hearing and call for memorandums. This is total confusion.
The current laws in the criminal code of Nigeria have made it largely possible for all sorts of violence to be committed on homosexuals in the name of purging Nigeria of homosexuality. Just recently in Abia State University in South Eastern Nigeria, a gang of 5 men raped a female student and these people have not been brought to justice. Edge in 2010 reported the rape of lesbians in Port Harcourt by a gang, saying they were curing the ladies of their homosexuality. Where is the evidence that rape cures one of his /her homosexuality? Edge also reports in 2010, the killing of a man in a suburb in Lagos because of his homosexuality with Lagosians and the perpetrators of this heinous crime claiming they were curing Lagos of homosexuals. Where is the evidence that outright killing of homosexuals would make Lagos and Nigeria an overtly heterosexual society?
In the spate of the recent violence and insecurity that our nation is engulf now is time the Nigerian Parliament should rise and enact laws criminalizing and prosecuting violence accordingly and not criminalizing the ordinary Nigerian citizens who has a dilemma he or she cannot overcome; the dilemma of human sexuality.
As a country we must come to the realization that a particular percentage of our population is sexual minorities and  certainly this is not the time to criminalize people with these orientations, but a time to begin working with these people, understanding their sexuality and why they are who they are. Criminalizing persons with same sex orientation will not curb our society of homosexuals neither will it make Nigeria overtly a heterosexual community. It rather will slow back the development and growth we all yearn for as a nation. As a country that is serious about raising its tainted reputation abroad, this is the time to begin the re-branding; it should start with the respect of human rights, tolerance and acceptance of the diversity found in the human race.
The consequences of criminalizing people with same sex orientation and matters connected with them have serious consequences on the growth and development of the country. It will be felt in all areas of the country’s life, notably in health, judicial matters and tourism. Criminalizing people with a same sex orientation would further contribute to the spread of HIV and make it possible for other forms of violence and vices to be perpetrated against sexual minorities as a result of how they express their sexualities. Bills such as this if passed into law give room for unnecessary violence and evil in the society.
Davis Mac-Iyalla, the former Director of Changing Attitudes Nigeria reiterates and we as homosexuals citizens of Nigeria supports this: the only independence worth celebrating as  country is the Freedom to Love and Equality for all Nigerians Anything short of this is oppression.  The Nigeria government should focus on the more pressing issues affecting the country and stop using homosexuals as their escape goat for their failures. We should not be celebrating independence while trying to adopt a law that was given to us by our colonial master and which they (colonial masters) have long time rejected. As homosexuals’ citizens of Nigeria, we are not asking for a homosexual Nigeria, what we are asking for is a non discriminatory Nigeria society in which everyone can express their sexuality without a fear of societal demand and violence. As we celebrate the 51st anniversary of our existence as a nation, we call on all well meaning Nigerians, home and abroad to reject the bill and help in protecting the lives of the very vulnerable in the society.
Long Live Nigeria

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