I read with disbelief the arrest of 40 gay men in Lagos recently. Gay people are not the problem with Nigeria. The people destroying this country are walking free. We know who they are - thieving politicians, conniving clergy, unscrupulous businessmen, paedophiles, rapists, corporate tax evaders, multinationals that pollute the ecosystem and collude with regulatory bodies to avoid paying compensations to the communities they are destroying - but no one is arresting them. Gay people are low hanging fruits. It is easy to arrest them and distract the public.
Homosexuality is as old as human history and it occurs in all human societies, cultures and races. It is mentioned in both Christian and Islamic scriptures, which indicates it is not a new phenomenon or something that white people are trying to sneak into Africa. The irony is that pre-colonial African societies were tolerant of homosexuality and it is homophobia that is a relatively new phenomenon in Africa. Homophobia was imported into Africa by Islam and Christianity. The British colonial government introduced a ban on homosexuality in 1901 and the Jonathan administration outlawed gay marriage in 2013. Human rights organisations report that this law has emboldened homophobes to attack and lynch gay people.
Homophobia is an irrational fear. Gay people are not wanting our money, spouses, houses or other possessions. They just want to be left alone to be who they are. Homosexuality is not the reason our country is plagued by all sorts of problems such as high crime rates, youth unemployment, poor infrastructures, high infant and maternal mortality rates. Human extinction would have occurred a long time ago if homosexuality could cause extinction. Gay people make up a small percentage of the human population and are not a threat to human survival. Overpopulation and climate change are a more immediate threat to humans (especially in poverty stricken parts of Africa) than homosexuality could ever be. And it is obvious that sexual orientation is something we are born with and not something we choose. When people say that homosexuality is a choice, I always ask them: At what point did you choose your sexual orientation - at preconception, in your mother's womb, at birth or when you were a toddler? What factors did you consider before making that choice?
The only cause of homophobia I know of is religion. Religious morality is arbitrary and it is not decided by reason, evidence, empathy, or consideration of harm to others. For instance, slavery, rape and paedophilia are not regarded as immoral in Christian and Islamic scriptures but homosexuality is. In the Old Testament, you could violate and rape a woman and go unpunished as long as you marry her. But if you had sex with another consenting adult (without hurting a third party) you got stoned to death.
I feel sad to observe Nigerian Christians and Muslims all jubilant about the arrest and unfair treatment of people who have caused them no harm. Yet, these are the same people who say their religions teach tolerance and love. I could never get my head around that. This country is so religious yet it sits at the top of the list of the most corrupt nations in the world. Considering that practically every Nigerian is a devout Christian or Muslim, who are these people giving and receiving bribes? Who are the people looting government funds and making it impossible for us to build hospitals, schools, roads etc? It seems to me that religion does not make a society moral.
Let us be honest - gay people's only offence is being different. Their sexual orientation and sex life are not hurting anybody. But being different is not a good reason to discriminate against a group of people. And just because something is lawful doesn't mean it is just. Human history is filled with examples of stupid and unjust laws. There used to be a time when women and black people were denied the right to vote in America. Apartheid was once lawful in South Africa. Black people used to be slaves with zero human rights. Arresting and humiliating gay people for no other reason than being gay is not a good way for the society to treat difference. It diminishes us. We must give up this idle preoccupation with the sex lives of other people.
Ijabla is a humanist. He writes from the U.K.
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