PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan’s assent to the bill banning same sex-marriage and same-sex partnerships in Nigeria, in spite of pressures from certain quarters of the international community, is a bold and praise-worthy gesture. Ordinarily, the law was unnecessary since there are enough codes in the nation’s statute books to deal with such tendencies. But by this law, the President has demonstrably re-affirmed Nigeria’s sovereignty and right to protect the nation and its people from imposed practices that are inimical to its cultures.
As affirmed by the Presidency, signing the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2013 was consistent with the attitude of many Nigerians, who had been critical of homosexuality in all its ramifications.
The new law prescribes a 14-year jail term for anyone engaging in same sex marriage or civil union. It also stipulates a 10-year jail term for any person who directly or indirectly makes a public show of same-sex amorous relationships. All persons, clubs, societies or organisations and those who register, aid and abet such unions, would be liable on conviction to 10 years imprisonment. The bill further specifies that where same sex marriage or unions had been contracted abroad, such contracts will not be recognized in Nigeria.
But this sentiment has not been well-taken by western nations especially the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. In their reaction to the new law, they have accused President Jonathan of signing a law which they claim discriminates against a negligible minority on the basis of sexual orientation and preference.
The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, reportedly said the United Kingdom was disappointed that President Jonathan has given his assent to a bill which further criminalises same sex relationships in Nigeria. The bill, Hague said, also directly infringes on fundamental rights of expression and association, which are guaranteed by Nigerian Constitution and by the obligations of treaties to which Nigeria is signatory. Similar sentiments have been expressed by the European Union and the United States. Canada allegedly reacted by suspending a scheduled state visit by President Jonathan to that country.
True, the right to whatever sexual preference an individual chooses is a matter of individual choice. Similarly, too, it is plausible to argue that sexual preferences may not be unnatural, when viewed from the psycho-medical standpoint of brain hemispheric dissonance that leads to seemingly deviant behaviours. Notwithstanding, the naturalness or otherwise of the homosexual relations is difficult to sustain logically with engaging in fruitless hair-splitting. If this is the case, it follows too that the outlandish sartorial preference, termed nudity or indecency, which the law of public decency frowns at, in many western countries, is an infringement of personal liberty.
But that has not been the mechanics of social engineering. The highest unit of society, the state, has often been somewhat paternalistic in its protection of the social contract with it. The freedom, with which all are endowed, is not one that gives one the liberty to do whatever one likes. Within the social context, liberty, as an index of freedom, is not the absence of any form of restraint, rather it is a redirection of human action and relationship with others by the imposition of imperatives that seek to protect the individual and the collective against injurious authorities, customs and opinions. Thus, liberty is the limit of freedom set on society over individuals.
It follows from the foregoing that, by the assent granted the bill, the President was invoking the Harm Principle, a liberty gauge articulated by the socio-political philosopher John Stuart Mill. According to this principle, “the actions of individuals should only be limited to prevent harm to other individuals”. In compliance with this principle, the President was enacting the powers of the state to legitimately interfere with the liberty of same sex defenders for the purpose of preventing harm to others, including the collective.
As basic jurisprudence teaches, beyond its value as a penal mechanism to control behaviour and conduct in society, law exists to preserve the ethos, norms, and values of a cultural milieu. It orders and regulates the conduct of individuals in a given society, their mutual interactions and their relationships with other units of society in the course of their historical evolution, in so far as these affect the social equilibrium of that society. In this regard, just as laws exist in certain Western cultures of Europe to preserve cherished Anglo-Saxon tribal customs, in the same manner do they exist in African cultures to entrench ethos, norms and values that positively portray that which is authentically and originally African. The West has laws against polygamy and bigamy which the African culture permits; yet, no one has forced the countries of the West to embrace polygamy against their culture. Also, in many countries of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the sentence for same sex conducts is summary execution. Yet the West has been condoning of the Arab cultural sensibility.
As it is, the attempt to systematically impose the culture of individualism, as demonstrated by the western countries’ outcry against same sex relationship in Nigeria, is, it seems, a ploy to capture the soul of Africa and to destroy the bastion of African civility. If these countries consider the gay culture good, they should keep it to themselves. Why force other countries to embrace it? Is it a case that the West is afraid of Africans’ freedom of choice to say no? Is it also a case of a deliberate attempt to subvert the African or Nigerian culture?
It is not out of the ordinary to assume that the criticism against the Same Sex Prohibition Law, and the threat of aid withdrawal, is a strategy to foist a supervening value on Nigeria and Africa , one that is so culturally upsetting and ill-timed given the nation’s state of cultural evolution. For many critically minded Africans and pro-life enthusiasts, this suggests a hidden agenda that is inimical to Africa’s interest. Some have argued that this hyped alien culture, which includes anti-reproduction campaigns, is targeted at a transvaluation of Africa’s youthful population, a situation whose damaging effects are being witnessed in today’s Africa.
The African culture, by its ethos, worldviews, and communalist moral consciousness, advances the contrariness of homosexuality to natural tendencies, in the same manner the western culture denounces polygamous associations on the basis of the contestable Judeo-Christian western notion of equality. While the African culture retains the idea of man’s ontological basis of freedom as given, it sees in homosexuality a potential danger to the optimum realization of this freedom, in the same way other abuse of freedom offends society’s sensibilities. Besides, it is also wary of how the logic of freedom could be employed in future to justify some forms of weird practices such as bestiality or necromenia.
In a nutshell, what the African voice, represented by Nigeria’s Same Sex Prohibition Law of 2014, is saying is this: if for the sake of tolerance or the subservience to the moral anarchism of the western nations, individual freedom and its concomitant ambiguities triumph (as it has in many areas of life), it must not be allowed to “reach a degree from which they threaten the Nigerian or African cultural identity, that uniquely African age-old conviction of what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil, what is properly human and what is contrary to man’s very nature.”
Under the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789, “Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights”.
The attempt to force Nigeria or Africans to accept the gay culture is akin to slavery. And slavery is the biggest evil against human rights for which Western nations have been repeatedly guilty. Colonisation and outright slavery are crimes for which these western countries still owe an apology to Africans.
The time has indeed come for Africa to seek reparation from the West for the serious human rights abuses perpetrated through slavery and colonisation. But while such penitence is still being awaited, slavery, in cultural, political, attitudinal or any guise, is a crime to which Africans are saying: Never again!
CULLED FROM THE GUARDIAN