By Adedamola Okubanjo
The room was silent and my cousin (much older than I am) asked “What does it feel like to be a lesbian?” and as typical Nigerians, our discussions started as to what the root of homosexuality could be. Obviously none of us had Gay friends but some of us knew of people that had gay tendencies. Some people in the room suggested that it was not normal and could be a psychological problem while some said it was normal and gay people are just people with a different sexual orientation, no more no less. Someone even suggested that today’s media is to be blamed for the profanities that they make seem normal but this point was countered with the question—Was there media in the biblical city of Sodom and Gomorrah when they were practicing this act? Obviously not! One thing I was happy (and shocked at the same time) was that as thoroughbred Nigerians we did not look at this topic from a religious point of view, and this was a room filled with Muslims and Christians alike. Maybe it was because we are highly educated.
Talking about Gay rights and religion, when the former president of our great nation signed the anti-gay rights bill into law (making the participation in a gay marriage punishable with up to 14 years in prison and belonging or involving in a gay association punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment), his then spokesman, Reuben Abati said the law was in line with the people’s cultural and religious inclination. So it is a law that is a reflection of the beliefs and orientation of the Nigerian people and Nigerians were pleased with it. First, I know some Nigerians that are not pleased with it, like GAY NIGERIANS! But it is a law, not everyone is supposed to be pleased with it. One thing I want to point out is if our Nigerian lawmakers and Nigerians at large so much cherish our cultures and religions, why is prostitution not punishable by a death sentence already? I do not know of one culture in Nigeria that supports a woman satisfying the sexual urge of any man with enough money to pay her for it. And why did these same lawmakers try to pass a bill legalizing child marriage not too long ago? Even when they knew very well that according to the Nigerian constitution marriage should be between a consenting man and a consenting woman.
Homosexuality, to some people is just the brain developing and maturing with a different sexual orientation having very little to do with family and environmental circumstances. They said it is a natural occurring variation in nature claiming that even the medical world at first thought it was psychological problems and some procedures known as ‘abreaction’ were painful and nasty attempts to rid the people of their ‘problem’ while some people view homosexuality from the lens of their religion (Christianity in my case) as a sinful act against God and should not be condoned. Before you start pitching your tent with any of the point of views, be it open minded, religion or cultural, remember that everyone is entitled to his or her opinions and beliefs because last I checked no tribe, culture or religion was adopted by the entirety of Nigerians.
Another thing that bugs my mind about this law is that, from the time I understood what prison time was for I knew it was meant to serve as a reform for the mind of the criminal to enable them return to the society changed and add to it. But if a gay man or woman, who has realized their sexual orientation since God knows when, is sent to prison for being gay would they come back after the 14 years changed and straight? Is there a programme in prison that will help ‘rehabilitate’ their minds, permit me to use that language since homosexuality is now illegal in Nigeria? An online commentator, Shima Gyoh, said that outlawing homosexuality is equivalent to passing a law that being shorter than 5 feet is now a crime (as gay people did not just set out to become gay it is just them being themselves), and that it is an unjust discrimination of a different and non-criminal nature which is not far from the truth.
Let us face the reality on ground. Nigerians are homophobic. We may not be openly homophobic but if a gay guy were to make a sexual pass at me (law or no law) I would certainly not take it lightly like a woman whom I’m not interested in making a sexual pass at me. Nigerians could be pretty homophobic and this law is most definitely homophobic. This is part of the reasons why I am confused, as a Christian I know my God is not homophobic. God himself is Love and does not discriminate against any orientation, belief or practice because he makes the sun shine on all of us and keeps us at night to wake us up in the morning. In fact, in his condemnation of using religion to justify anti-gay legislations, Nobel laureate and retired archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No I would say sorry! I mean I would rather go to the other place. I would not worship a God who is homophobic”. Now do you understand why the Pope took that stance when he was asked to comment about gay rights?
Nigeria is just trying to keep up with the times on the passing of the bill but enough care should be taken on criminalizing activities which are known not to have any criminal intent at least we should be happy that our lawmakers did not impose a life sentence as they have been said to have done in Uganda. Ending on a note of the Nigerian Motto – UNITY, FAITH, PEACE AND PROGRESS: We as a people have tried to uphold our unity but we have to get through the phase of unifying our faith before reaching peaceful progress. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
About Adedamola Okubanjo:
He is a 22 year old real Estate broker and a fervent reader and consumer of information on a daily basis. He spends a lot of time on the internet reading articles that can chart the future of thinking of issues in Nigeria and in the world as a whole. He tweets via @Prince_Damoche.
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