This Gay Thing: Engaging the Homophobia Label


       Nigeria is reputed to have a population near 170 million and I strain to imagine that we will all ever think the same way on any issue. Even when we agree on basic principles, it is inevitable that some of us will question a few yarn of the thread that runs through those principles. We can’t all sleep in the same direction, is a common adage from South-Western Nigeria, and as an individual, I hardly take it to heart that people do not see things as I see them. Our perspectives on issues are often shaped by our exposure to facts, knowledge base, environment and even other factors that I may not immediately recall. Homosexuality is far from one of those simple issues I will ever expect any society to totally agree on in entirety, be it a monk enclave or a den of bohemians.

            Our rules of engagement come to play when we address thorny issues. In an effort to point out a malady, many fall into the pit of talking down on anyone and everyone who as much as disagrees with them and in the end, the battle for supremacy outshines the needed correction. Needless to say, the malady stays.

            In a country where 80% of the people live on less than a dollar every day and over 100million of the population are internationally regarded as being chronically disadvantaged in terms of financial endowment, it is expected that such matters like gay rights will sound strange and far disconnected from their basic needs.

A people who have always known the family structure or relationships that pave the path to it, to consist of a man and woman are bound to find a suggestion of the possibility of two individuals of the same gender in an amorous relationship, exotic and unsettling. The Holy Books that guide the most popular religions in Nigeria prescribe monogamy and even necessitous polygamy but still among opposing genders. Even non-adherents of scripted religion will hardly claim to be less familiar of traditional arrangements of marriage as being between man and woman, or otherwise man and women in polygamous arrangements. In essence, the people are more used to heterosexual relations and if there perhaps were to be a referendum, they will more likely vote against homosexual unions. That decision may be faulted on other grounds but per democracy where the will of the majority prevails, you can hardly question it further.

            The above notwithstanding, change is constant, particularly when we seek development which comes with imported technology, governance models and more. We have benefitted from foreign culture in many ways than we can count, often overcoming initial skepticism to enjoy the new introductions. In the same way, it is expected that people will scoff at the growing trend of homosexual preferences and those who talk down on citizens who express this natural human reaction are far from being honest. Such fundamental challenge to well-ingrained culture cannot but meet with resistance in varied forms, the latest legal prohibition being perhaps the most assertive.

            Many commentators have labeled fellow citizens who find homosexual relations unacceptable as being homophobic, and even threatened to block them from their social media pages. However, a man can disagree with such exotic sexual orientation and still act as a responsible citizen when he comes across a gay or lesbian. It is those who act violently against such people that we must condemn. Now, there lies our problem as a society. Alleged thieves, liars and fornicators are constantly being mobbed, stripped naked, sodomized and burnt in different communities not because of the presence or absence of laws prohibiting such acts but because too many people are un-enlightened amidst us. More definitely needs to be done to teach people to disagree without being disagreeable, and to stop taking laws into their own hands.

            The exponents of gay rights among us must first accept that this is not a lifestyle we are used to and/or must accept like smiling children at the sight of a returning generous father. We all must realize that just as America did not adjust to freedom of sexual orientations in one fell swoop, it may take some time for a people who are faced with more serious economic and political debacles to accept the reality of gay/living couples being their jolly-good neighbors. There is no need to fan the embers of hate on either side. We must respect contrary opinions even if we think them laden with idiocy.

            Now to the prohibition Act which I think is intended to preserve the traditional notion of sexual relations which the majority of the people still uphold. The sociological school may excuse this Act as laws are expected to reflect prevailing societal beliefs though other schools of thought may disagree. I however accept that the law, just like any other provision in our criminal law, can be susceptible to the extortion predilection of a corrupt Police force. It is also a grim possibility that sections loosely banning open display of affection may jeopardize the interest of every other citizen whose values the law purports to protect. Steps therefore need to be taken to engage the Laws through the Court and other appropriate quarters to review the whole enactment. On the other hand, the solution to homosexual relations, if it is perceived as a societal problem, cannot be through the laws alone, much more has to do with psychological and health factors that this prohibition Act cannot deal with.

I am @tobisammyjay on Twitter.



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