|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
Nigeria’s newspaper readers have reacted angrily to debates on the floor of the Nigerian Senate about a proposed law prohibiting same-sex marriages.
The controversial bill has 25 sponsors from the 109 member Senate which has so far seemed to unanimously back the bill.
The National Mirror newspaper reported last week that, “The Senate has not recently spoken with such a united voice on any particular bill. All the lawmakers who contributed to the debate spoke in one voice – no to same sex marriage.”
The report continued, “ When the senators had sufficiently ventilated their anger and opposition to the issue of same sex marriage, Senator David Mark put the question to vote, the ayes unanimously had it and subsequently, the bill passed its second reading and it was committed to the committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Health and Interior.”
The bill’s lead sponsor, Senator Domingo Obende said, “Even the Muslim religion forbids it [same-sex marriage], Christianity forbids it and the African traditional religion forbids it.”
The newspaper carried verbatim excerpts of the debate in the Senate and these attracted the ire of readers.
Angry members of the public and supporters of the LGBTI community made their feelings about the proposed law and the debate known via their comments on the newspaper’s website.
One commentator signed herself Emily Caston and said, “The sad fact is, this is very much a vicious cycle. These politicians (like our parents, family members and neighbours) have no reference point. When they look around they do not see role models of same gender loving people, they do not hear stories of how the gay people in their own backyard are simply trying to navigate life – no different from anyone else.”
She added, “They only see stereotypes and one dimensional images of what being gay/lesbian means. Yes, and we too are caught up in the vicious cycle, yearning to come out, but fearful (and shamed) that we will be persecuted, excluded and rejected by the people we hold dear.”
Caston said, “I am a believer that if we want to see change we need to tackle the ’cause’ and not the ‘effect’ – this debate is all about the effect. Tackling the cause means us having the courage to show our parents, families, neighbours that being gay/lesbian is simply being human.”
Caston pointed out, “The fact is when we collude with our culture through silence and blindly signing petitions then we are no different from the politicians. They hurt us on the outside, we hurt ourselves from the inside. The politicians are simply saying out loud, what so many gay/lesbians silently/passively say to themselves through their behaviour. Only our courage can liberate us.”
Another commentator Johnson Chuks backed Caston saying, “I’m with Emily Caston on this. We are the only ones that can prove to our world that being gay is not a disease because we are the only ones that know better. No one can feel the rain on our skin for us.”
Yet another commentator Adebola Emmanuel, “I have to agree that it would be extremely difficult for anyone who isn’t homosexual to understand homosexual behaviour and without understanding, there can never be much acceptance. Most people feel it’s a learned behaviour or even a choice we made, that’s where the problem starts.”