On November 29, the Nigerian senate, with overwhelming by-partisan support, passed a bill which makes it a crime for same-sex couples to marry, or caused to be entered into marriage, among other provisions. While the bill has been greeted with euphoria across the Nigerian religious and secular divide, the international community –especially western nations – has been equally vocal in their condemnation. Some have even gone as far as threatening to cut off certain assistance to Nigeria.
The most controversial portions of the bill include a prescription of fourteen years imprisonment for same-sex marriages, and ten year of the same for any Pastor, Imam, Rabbi, Reverend, or any other person who officiates in such a union. Others, but less publicized provisions of this bill include various jail terms and/or fines for same-sex couples who “engage in public display of affection”. This, in effect, implicitly makes it illegal for sisters, brothers, and long lost friends of the same sex to embrace or exchange friendly kisses on the cheek in public. It prohibits, particularly, Arab diplomats and orthodox Jews who traditionally embrace and kiss each other on the cheeks or foreheads from doing so. Also, same-sex people caught dancing together at parties, as many African women frequently do, will be falling foul of this bill.
The reason for the passage of this bill, according to the senate, is to “preserve the moral values of African society and culture”; a very legitimate reason, except for some glaring inconsistencies. For a nation that preaches preservation of African moral values, Nigeria is ranked the most corrupt nation on earth. Child trafficking, political assassinations, kidnapping, advanced fee fraud, terrorism, and the age-old prostitution is endemic. Nigeria boasts of the largest number of ex-government officials under investigation, or indicted for one crime or the other, while in office. It becomes very difficult to convince outside nations that while homosexuality is immoral and un-African, these other crime listed above are not.
Just as with teen prostitution which has reached epidemic proportions in Nigeria, homosexuals in are nothing more than poor jobless graduates who would do anything to put food in their stomachs and roof over their heads. The Nigerian senate should have concerned themselves with ensuring the eradication of massive corruption, which is the root cause of the high rate of crime, insecurity and unemployment in the country, and the genesis of the so-called “immoral and un-African” acts of prostitution and homosexuality in the society. As long as the national assembly turns a blind eye to the nation’s true ailment, this bill, like all the Sharia laws that were passed by some northern Muslim states, will be another waste of valuable time and effort.
Arlington, TX 76096
This opinion was written in December 2011.