It is with deep concern that we stand before you today as Nigerian Lesbians, gays , bisexuals , Transsexuals and Intersex living in Diaspora to express our concerns about the bill before the house and bring to the attention of honourable senators how this bill affects us as Nigerian citizens. It is indeed sad that sexual orientation is not a topic of research taught in Nigerian schools; in fact sex education is hardly a comfortable topic in schools and a taboo topic in many Nigerian homes. Sexual orientation is something we are all born with, many researchers, doctors, psychologists and scientists have done enough research on the topic and have come to the conclusion backed by indisputable evidence that sexual orientation is not a choice, it is not a disease, it is not a disorder but just like skin colour, left handedness, eye colour, we are born with our sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality. The current consensus among scholars is that sexual orientation is not a choice. Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the opposite sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex.
It is therefore important to note that this bill aims to punish people for what is essentially not their making. It is like punishing a black person for being black, punishing a left-handed child because he or she cannot write with the right hand or punishing a baby girl for being born a girl. This you will all agree with me is unfair and inhuman.
Nigerian LGBTI in Diaspora Against Anti Same Sex Laws stands before you today to highlight how this bill affects us as citizens.
1-Criminalizing same sex relationships makes us refugees; it turns us into asylum seekers in other countries. This also affects our beloved country as emigration causes brain drain. Many talented Nigerians are living in diaspora openly as gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals. We contribute positively to the development of our country of residence but we are afraid to come live and contribute to the development of our motherland because of fear of victimization. We visit home with trepidation because at home we have to live a life full of lies and deny who we are for us to be accepted. Why do we want to keep subjecting our citizens to such psychological and emotional torture?
2-Some Nigerian Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transsexuals and Intersex living in diaspora are married to same sex partners or planning to do so. Section 1(3) of this bill states that a valid same sex marriage entered into abroad would not be valid in Nigeria. This is indeed unfair because consensual adult relationship should not be punished, love is tender, a beautiful thing that should be celebrated, not condemned or criminalized.
3-We as Nigerian LGBTIs living in diaspora do not want to be isolated from our family members and childhood friends. Many of us grew up in Nigeria and are happy to call Nigeria our motherland. However, because of the misconception surrounding our sexual orientation, and the criminalization of thereof, we are estranged from our loved ones. Families have been broken, friendship links cut off, and hate fostered; all because of ignorance and misunderstanding. Let us love not hate.
4- Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, transsexuals and Intersex are normal people and are an integral part of any society. We are your family members, neighbors, community members, church members, mosques members, leaders of your religious affiliations and yes honorable members and senators of the national assembly. Be careful who you hate because it could be someone you love.
5-Also Sexual repression breeds marital infidelity. Many lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexual and intersex live in the closets. They live double lives, pretending to be heterosexual at home and at work while slowly dying inside and meeting in the dark with same sex partners to have a minute of peace with their real self. Many have been forced to marry opposite sex partners to keep up appearances while engaging in same sex extra marital affairs. This double life is dangerous and unfair to all concerned and the society at large. Lesbians, gays, Bisexuals, Transsexuals and Intersex needs to live their lives without fear of being stoned to death or portrayed as criminals. Why punish us for loving? Love is tender, harmless and knows no gender.
It is indeed sad that some people still compare violent crimes like Rape and Pedophilia with homosexuality. How can we compare a harmful action with consenting, non harmful relationship between two same sex adults? Rape is the act of forcing someone into having sex without consent; it is a sexual assault, in most cases a violent act. Pedophilia is the act of having sexual intercourse with a child. An underage cannot legally consent to sex. What possible similarity do two consenting adults who want to share their life together have with a pedophile that entraps a child into an underage sexual relationship? Same Sex relationships are emotional sexual relationships between consenting adults of the same sex. How does such make the consenting adults rapist or pedophile? How does who I love harm anyone?
LGBT rights are Human Rights. Fundamental human rights of sexual minorities are violated daily because of criminalization of same sex relationship and societal prejudice. The proposed bill violates fundamental human rights that are guaranteed under the Nigerian constitution and various human rights regional and international laws and agreements that Nigeria has ratified. Thus this Bill would nullify some parts of the Constitution. Also, the bill would lead to political and social harassment of people for their actual or imputed sexual orientation. It would also stifle freedom of expression and association through the proposed ban on organizations that support Lesbians and gay rights. The bill would further affect Nigeria’s Human rights records. Individuals, general society and institutions including the police would use it as a license to intimidate and harass citizens based on their actual or suspected sexual orientation. The passing of the bill would give official validation to the harassment of sexual minorities and many homophobic persons would use it as a license to discriminate against lesbians and gays.
Nigeria Constitution- Section 42 prohibits discrimination against any person on the basis of sex or membership of a group. Also, Section 34 guarantees the right to the dignity of the human person; it states “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;”
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights – This regional law affirms the equality of all people. Article 2 of the law states: “Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.” Article 26 of the law prescribes that “Every individual shall have the duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance.”
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – Article 2 and 26 affirm the equality of all people before the law and the right to freedom from discrimination. Articles 18 and 19 protect the rights to freedom of expression and Conscience. Also Articles 21 and 22 protect Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Association.
United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders – Article 5 of this declaration affirms that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: a) to meet or assemble peacefully; b) to form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups.” Article 7 also states that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance.”
It is indeed sad that many senators in their support for this bill stated that same sex relationship is unafrican. This is a misconception because anthropologists have found evidence that homosexuality was widely tolerated in many parts of pre-colonial Africa. For example, EE Evans-Pritchard reported that until the practice died out in the early 20th century, male Azande warriors in the northern Congo routinely married male youths who functioned as temporary wives. Also, in Uganda, some members of the Buganda royal family suggest that homosexuality was existent and tolerated before colonial rule. To this day, it is said that many members of the Buganda royal family are gay. And of course within Nigeria itself, some of the cultures that make it up have practiced same sex relationships from long before colonization to very recent times; in the Calabar area, women are famous lesbians and bisexuals. In fact, Matriarchy was/is strong in Calabar and the eldest daughter in a family is culturally allowed to marry another woman who would give birth to a child from a chosen man, to keep the family name of the woman who acts as the husband and gets to keep the child and her wife, who knows what goes on behind closed doors! Sango in Yoruba history was a beautiful man; actually a Transsexual and his male priests dress in women clothes and accessories. In the Northern part of the country like in Kano and Kaduna Yan-daudu is a commonly known act of male to male sex and gender identification.
Sodomy law is a relic from British colonization. The British parliament and many of its former colonies e.g. Canada, Australia, South Africa and India have since repealed the law. Why is Nigeria clinging and seeking to strengthen this antiquated and erroneous law through the proposed Anti-same sex relationship bill? The argument that any sexual act or relationship that deviates from the standard heterosexual norm is against African culture is using “culture” to sanction the erasure of dialogue about alternative sexualities and to condone homophobia, therefore constituting a form of cultural violence. A society that stifles sexual and gender identities discourages the recognition of human dignity. LGBTI rights are human rights.
Signed on behalf of Nigerian LGBTI in Diaspora Against Anti Same Sex Laws
Yemisi Ilesanmi- email@example.com
Davis Mac-Iyalla – firstname.lastname@example.org
John Adewoye- email@example.com
Mojisola Adebayo- firstname.lastname@example.org