The gay community is celebrating US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s blunt speech in Geneva on Human Rights Day on December 6. “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” she declared. The speech marks a major new initiative by the US to promote gay rights around the world. President Obama has directed American agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status and conduct. A fund has been established to support gay and lesbian lobby groups overseas. “We must go further and work here and in every region of the world to galvanize more support for the human rights of the LGBT community,” Mrs Clinton said sternly.
She compared opposition to gay and lesbian rights to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. “Let us be on the right side of history, for our people, our nations, and future generations, whose lives will be shaped by the work we do today,” she declared.
Some of her words sounded downright ominous for countries which oppose “expanding the circle of human rights”. “When we see denials and abuses of human rights and fail to act, that sends the message to those deniers and abusers that they won’t suffer any consequences for their actions, and so they carry on,” she said. “But when we do act, we send a powerful moral message.”
Message received – and Nigerians are outraged at her arrogance. Mrs Clinton’s announcement came at a sensitive time – right when Nigeria is considering legislation banning same-sex marriage. A Prohibition of Same-Sex Marriage Bill provides that gay couples entering into either marriage or cohabitation can be jailed for up to 14 years. Those "witnessing" or "abetting" such relationships could also be jailed. Groups that advocate for gay and lesbian rights could be penalised.
Opposition to homosexuality is one issue on which Muslims and Christians are showing a united front in Africa’s most populous nation. "We are protecting humanity and family values, in fact, we are protecting civilization in its entirety," Senator Ahmed Lawan, a sponsor of the legislation, told the BBC. "Should we allow for indiscriminate same-sex marriage, very soon the population of this world would diminish."
The truth is that the West – read most of Europe and America – is totally clueless about the ‘country’ of Africa. Homosexual acts are illegal in many African nations, including Senegal, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt and Botswana. The reaction of a presidential advisor in Uganda to Mrs Clinton’s speech might be typical: "If the Americans think they can tell us what to do, they can go to hell."
The African worldview is deeply pro-children. That’s why polygamy will remain fashionable around here for quite a while. Opposition to same sex unions stems from the simple logic that society views childbearing as the ultimate aim of marriage. How this fits into gay marriage needs further explanation from their proponents. Of course, some would argue that they can adopt children. Really? From the offspring of the “conservative” man and woman family?
Allowing two men or women to not only have sex but to “marry” has now turned into a human right? What about the majority of Nigerians who hold – and rightly so – that marriage is an exclusive union between a man and a woman? Don’t they have a human right to democratic self-determination?
"If there is any country that does not want to give us aid on account of this anti-gay law, it should keep its aid," Senate President David Mark has repeatedly said in light of the foreign criticism of the law. Information Minister Labaran Maku was blunter: "Let me make the point clear, our country is an independent country; we reserve the right to make our laws without apologies to other countries".
Nigerians have made it clear that they would neither be stampeded nor bullied. The United States and Mother England can rant from now till eternity but gay marriage will never be accepted in Nigeria. The Union Jack was lowered at midnight on October 1, 1960 in Lagos. Which also struck midnight for the master-slave relationship.
By the way, who needs foreign aid? Are we dogs salivating at the crumbs from its master’s table? Nigerians living abroad have remitted US$11 billion back home, the highest for any African country, says a recent World Bank report.
To construe this as an “elitist” law is wrong. The average Nigerian man or woman has more pressing needs, like electric power, security, and investment capital. You can gauge the disgust that most Nigerians feel from their reaction to Sir Richard Branson. The Virgin boss, who is still suffering the bruises of being kicked out of the Nigerian airline industry, described the law as “sad, repressive and cruel”.
The comments that followed on Nigerian blogs were scathing: “He claims to support gays yet he's married with kids. As much as I love your person I think you've crossed the line here. Mind your own business.” “Richard, you got it wrong this time. It’s a clear mandate from the Nigerians -- meaning they don't want gay. If you really care about Nigeria, there are various issues in the country that you and the so-called educated Nigerians attend to, not the gay law.”
Has President Obama forgotten what he told Africans in Ghana in a major speech in 2009? “Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not… Africa's future is up to Africans.” Amen. So why not let us govern ourselves without interference from Hillary Clinton?
The global agenda of eliminating any form of discrimination against gays has flung open a vast sphere of public life to the totalitarian might of the state. Most Western governments now seek to regulate the policies of schools, the practice of businesses, private conviction of individuals and even the preaching and teachings of religious bodies. While Europe has succeeded in this dictatorship of intolerance and America is moving close to it, Africa will not succumb.
Let the ranting against African’s perceived rigidity about the true meaning of marriage as between a man and woman beep from now till eternity. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We may be the last frontier of humanity, just as the first human being is said to have originated from Africa. And no matter the threats from Washington to London, Vancouver to Paris, Mama Africa will stand her grounds and resist this abomination.
Nwachukwu Egbunike lives in Ibadan, Nigeria. He blogs at Feathers Project.