It’s no secret that homophobia has been a long standing issue in various if not all parts of the world, but more so in Nigeria apparently, because it seems like being homophobic is almost a part of our culture.
Many developed countries have legalized same sex marriages, though at some point in their histories this was taboo. Where once Families and friends, avoided issues like Homosexuality and in fact considered it abhorrent, they now not only address it openly but warmly welcome kin who come out as gay.
Of course not all countries or communities have been this accepting. In Nigeria for example, not long after developed countries like the USA legalized same sex marriage and sparked an international conversation about it, our government passed a bill prohibiting same sex marriage that also criminalizes homosexual clubs, associations and organizations of homosexuals with an attached penalty of up to 14 years in jail.
The law states that;
Any person who
(1) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or
(2) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
(3) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature,
is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.
The Criminal Code then goes further in Section 215 to provide that any attempt to do any of the acts in Section 214, is punishable upon conviction by 7 years imprisonment.
Even though the Nigerian law isn’t as draconian as the Ugandan bill that punishes aggravated homosexual acts with life in prison, still, the Nigerian law seems motivated by a highly religious and conservative society that considers homosexuality abominable, rather than a space that is truly concerned with the humanity, rights or growth of its citizens.
A local religious authority the Primate Of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh said, “homosexuality is veritably poisoning” and went further to say that the unlawful act is being encouraged by “disintegration of social values and culture” a stance that is shared by a majority of the nations leaders, both religious, cultural and political. But so is corruption, adultery, stealing, extortion (which many religious men & Women have been accused of) and other societal evils, but we don’t see you being equally as passionate about them.
In a Racism ravaged and post Hitler world, where humans have discovered the hard way the aggravated and non-reparable effects of segregating, persecuting or annihilation of a group of people because of the personal or religious beliefs of another, this doesn’t seem very bright. Not one bit.
The lack of acceptance of homosexuals has caused a great deal of harm already, so much so, that individuals with this sexual orientation would take their own lives because they were shamed and/or bullied for their choices or dreading the effect/reaction of “coming out” to their families. There have been news of children, taking their own lives because they were not accepted or too afraid to come out or bullied for liking the same sex.
These are issues faced in nations that legalize same sex marriage now, imagine the effect of out rightly criminalizing it. Oh, we don’t have to do that, we already witness it with the rise of violence against both homosexual individuals and persons inherently believed to ‘act gay’ by security operatives and lay homophobic individuals alike, the efflux of talented and value adding individuals who would rather not live in a community that persecutes them for their sexual choices and a friction with gay-friendly countries who would prefer working with nations who cared about the lives of her citizens.
Since the establishment of this law, there have been calls by both international and local bodies for the Nigerian government to drop such laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ community or any community at all, since they put the lives of said community at risk and violate the human rights which the government by duty should uphold. From police raids and arrests, or even members of the community taking the laws into their own hands, a law like this does nothing to protect the human rights of its homosexual citizens. But these, like many other pleas have fallen on deaf ears, as for the nation’s government, it would seem protecting the human rights of it’s citizens isn’t a priority.
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status (which includes sexual orientation, argue with the rights you have regardless of race). Though no right to sexuality exists explicitly in international human rights law; rather, it is found in a number of international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
By right, the LGBTQ community and any other minority are owed at the very least protection against violators of this right even if their lifestyle is not endorsed or legalized, but what happens when the violators of this right are the very ones who should protect you.
Call me crazy, but I believe protecting the rights of the citizen trumps the personal, religious or cultural feelings of anyone in authority.