Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nigeria to outlaw same sex marriage

The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters recently organised the third public hearing on the same gender marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2011. Sponsored by Domingo Obende, Helen Esuene, Mohammed Magoro, Oluremi Tinubu and 20 other senators, the bill is specifically aimed at the outright prohibition of same sex marriage in Nigeria.

The bill defines marriage as a legal union between persons of the opposite sex in accordance with the Marriage Act, Islamic and Customary laws. The Bill also stipulates that any persons who entered into a same sex marriage contract in Nigeria commits an offence and are jointly liable on conviction to a term of three years imprisonment. Equally those who abet or aid the "solemnisation" of marriage between two persons of the same sex are guilty and liable upon conviction.

Beyond the sodomy laws and the unnatural offences between males stipulated in the criminal code in Nigeria, the bill, if passed into law, would have the effect of specifically banning Nigerian homosexuals and lesbians from entering into a marriage contract and from adopting children. It would also prohibit registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations; prohibition of gay publicity, procession and public displays of such amorous relationship through the electronic media or print media and so forth. Without prejudice to whatever rights and protections citizens may seek under the law, we heartily commend the senators for sponsoring the aforesaid bill. Contrary to some views, the same gender marriage (Prohibition) bill 2011 is crucial to national development because it seeks to protect the traditional family which is the fundamental unit of society, especially in our country.

As many of the participants at the public hearing rightly stated, homosexual and lesbian practices are completely at variance with the Nigerian value system and cultural heritage. And since laws are made in consonant with the values of a people, it will be difficult to import practices and lifestyles which are alien to our country and majority of our people and seek to impose them as laws in the name of observing international obligation.

Pursuant to section 4(1) (2) of the 1999 Constitution, our federal legislators are enjoined to make good laws that conform to the social and religious realities in the country. In fact the only way to avoid chaos in a society is for the legislature to make laws that accord with the values and aspiration of the people. Our people are clearly opposed to a sexual liberation which deconstructs the anthropological (and we add, religious) structure of man and woman.

However, to press home their case at the public hearing, the pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTI) advocates argued that there is a culture of hypocrisy surrounding the practice of homosexuality and lesbianism in Nigeria. According to them, many Nigerian homosexuals and lesbians (in high and low places) are afraid of disclosing their identity in public for fear of persecution and discrimination. They argued further that homosexual and lesbian practices are not unnatural and that Nigerian homosexuals and lesbians should be allowed to freely live their sexual orientation. To therefore punish them for "loving" is to violate their fundamental rights protected under both local and international laws, they said.

While agreeing that opposition to homosexual and lesbian practices in Nigeria sometimes smack of hypocrisy, we would like to state that the so-called "rights" being sought are unfounded under the Nigerian laws and unacceptable in most countries. Sections 37 and 38 of our 1999 Constitution guaranteeing right to privacy and right to freedom of conscience and religion are curtailed by section 45(1) of the same constitution to the effect that nothing in those sections "shall invalidate any laws that are reasonable justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health".

Homosexual and lesbians practices are considered offensive to public morality in Nigeria. Besides, at no time was any agreement reached that homosexual and lesbian "rights" should become international laws binding on all nations.

This Day

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