Tag Archives: Nigeria

The human security implications of anti-gay law on sexual minority in Nigeria

The human security implications of anti-gay law on sexual minority in Nigeria by Toyin Ajao

Introduction

On 7th January 2014, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed an anti-gay bill into law, with punishments including 14 years imprisonment for anyone that enters into same-sex marriage, 10 years for any organization or people that support gay rights as well as any individual who displays same-sex affection in public. This invasive law made Nigeria the 36th country in Africa to prosecute gays. Following suit, Uganda passed its own anti-gay law on the 24th of February 2014. This development is perturbing as it empowered the population and provided a common ground on which to unite and persecute sexual minority. What the law has validated is the homophobic stances of religious and cultural beliefs that homosexuality is ‘unnatural’, ‘unAfrican’ and ‘immoral’, without a critical engagement with its human rights and human security implications.

It is very germane to reflect on the Nigerian anti-gay law in the context of peace and conflict, particularly through the lens of human security. This is because the current discourse has largely captured the human rights paradigm, rather than its human security element.

The emerging paradigm of human security was promulgated in the ‘Human Rights Report’ by the UNDP in 1994.[i] The imperative components of Human Security as encapsulated by Abass are: freedom from fear and want, and the guaranteed fulfilment of individuals. ‘Human security’ has similar components to the human rights concepts, but human security has more far-reaching practical implications from the perspective of peace and conflict. The difference however is in the approaches of these two concepts. This is a shift in the traditional state-based approach to security where the rights of one group can be placed above the other to protect their political interest at the expense of the other group. Human security focuses on human crises that need practical interventions without which there will continue to be obstacles to human development. The practical components of human security include the individual protection from internal and external threats, access to food security, health care, education, environmental security, personal safety, human rights, effective governance and absence of violent conflicts.[ii] This makes it pertinent to look at the anti-gay law in the contemporary discourse from the human security perspective.

 The case of homosexuality in Africa

Many scholars have squashed claims that homosexuality is ‘unAfrican’. As Tamale argues, colonization came with draconian rules and laws that categorized many practices including homosexuality in Africa as horrendous and ‘barbaric’.[iii] Tamale further challenged the claim that homosexuality is not part of African culture with ‘culture’ in contemporary Africa being an interpretation and construction of the colonialists and patriarchs.[iv] This dilemma within African communities essentially states the white ‘other’ construction of their reality. Ilesanmi also debunks the myths of the ‘UnAfricanness’ outcry in her reflection that homosexuality existed in African society before the advent of imperialism and colonialism.[v] She argues that the multi-cultural nature of African society embraced diversity and tolerance in its practices before the importation of foreign religions, which has subsequently dominated the discourse and rhetoric of African identity and society.[vi] Furthermore, in the Amnesty International report on criminalization of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa, it was highlighted that African colonizers brought the laws that criminalize homosexual practices in Africa with a determination to expunge what is considered ‘unnatural’. [vii]

Dlamini also argues the ‘compatibility of homosexuality with African culture, cosmology and spirituality’ by reviewing selected critical texts of ‘homosexuality in Africa’.[viii] Dlamini states that western colonization imported homophobia, and not homosexuality, to Africa.[ix] This he justified by citing homosexual practices in Africa before the spread of ‘civilization’ by the West. Some of the examples are: Sango the effeminate Yoruba deity in the pre-modern history of Africa revered and worshiped with his affinity for cross dressing and ‘feminine’ hairdo; the Azande warriors in Congo, known to marry other warriors and serve as temporary wives; and lastly, the Hausa ‘Yan Daudu’ men in Northern Nigeria recognized as individuals whose gender expressions are very effeminate and displayed strong affinity for cross-dressing. These aforementioned practices were not frowned upon or criticized until Africa’s colonization.

The new waves of western missionaries have built on the homophobic rhetoric and strengthened it. This is due to the proselytization of Africans during and after colonization: a classic enabling factor for the promotion of the anti-gay agenda in Africa. With the contemporary understanding of ‘culture’ and the less well-understood pre-colonial history of Africa, many Africans’ believed that homosexuality was a ‘Western invention’. The international community, witnessing the impediment of gay rights in Africa, has been making attempts to prove that homosexuality is not their invention but a human reality. Nevertheless, Western evangelicals are influencing anti-gay campaigns in Africa as homophobic funding trickles in from Western Christian Organizations.[x]

Furthermore, the religious fundamentalist’s alignment with state power has intensified homophobia in Africa.[xi]Nigeria is a case in point. Apart from losing the rich historical culture on sexual diversity, the incessant conflict of interests between the African leadership and the West is a key area of interest influencing decisions on gay rights. Syed argues that, ‘pressure from the West only emboldens the religious fundamentalists and their political allies’[xii] to victimize the already marginalized group. Another very central reason is the leadership of patronage and the institutionalization of religious belief in Nigeria.[xiii] Consequently, the growth of Christian and Islamic fundamentalism in Nigeria has a strong impact in the criminalization of the Nigerian sexual minorities.

What then are the threats to this human security?

By passing the anti-gay law in Nigeria, the Nigerian government has strengthened the penal codes that exist in Northern Nigeria to execute, jail or punish anyone considered homosexual. This has helped widen the scourge of discrimination that Nigerian sexual minorities already endure.

 There has been a known culture of open antagonism, discrimination and hatred for sexual minorities in Nigeria, with the government legitimizing this discrimination and hatred. As a result, there are continuous incidents of gays, or people perceived to be gay, being evicted illegally from their homes, stripped naked, tortured, or beaten. A recent example was the five alleged gays stripped, beaten and paraded naked in Warri in March 2014.[xiv]

 Furthermore,the Nigerian police force that is notorious for abuse and exploitation of their citizens has now gained more legal status to continue this act as a result of the passing of anti-gay bill into law. Arbitrary arrests and detention of real and perceived homosexuals have continued to take place. This law has exponentially compromised the personal safety of Nigerian sexual minority, or those perceived or accused of being gay.

Some NGOs that render support to sexual minority are under threats because of the clause in the anti-gay law that spells out 10 years for any organisations caught supporting this group. In the wake of the anti-gay laws, a few organizations working for the defence of LGBT rights fear recriminations and have to be extremely careful about their interventions as not to risk jail terms imposed by the law. Many organizations that have done incredible work in advocacy, lobbying and service provision for the protections of sexual minorities are been forced into silence by this law. This is a breach of the constitutional and democratic freedoms of non-governmental organizations in Nigeria. With most organizations clamped down upon by this law, exploitation and illegal prosecution of perceived and real homosexuals can only rise.

Another significant threat is access to quality health care. Available statistics revealed that there are about 3.7 million Nigerians living with HIV.[xv] With this new law, homosexuals living with HIV/AIDS are likely to go underground for fear of prosecution. The likelihood of spreading HIV/AIDS with those forced underground will increase thereby leading to a greater health hazard. NGOs working on issues of sexual minorities and providing health services will have trouble delivering adequate services as well. Unfortunately, the anti-gay discrimination may fuel the African HIV/AIDS epidemic in Nigeria. Part of the ongoing efforts with the World Health Organization, ‘to eliminate health disparities across board, notably including those impacting the LGBT community’ will be hampered.[xvi]

Fuelling more threats both internally and externally is the media.As the mainstream media highlights awareness on gay rights, so also is the platform used for promoting hate and discrimination. The effect of media ‘sensationalist tabloids’ on gay rights has been negative.[xvii] Through some media outlets the categorization of homosexuality as ‘unnatural’, ‘ungodly’, ‘unhealthy’ and ‘unAfrican’, as gained high profile debate and prominent visibility.[xviii] Some Nigerian TV stations and online newspapers are culprit. Also, traditional media in so many ways have contributed to ‘witch-hunting’ of gays by ‘linking same-sex attraction with incest, paedophilia, bestiality, and adultery’.[xix] Negative reporting can only further endanger the lives of sexual minorities who are already marginalized.

 Finally, there is growth in the number of asylum seekers from Nigeria. Ilesanmi in her interview on ThisDay newspaper explained that many homosexuals have been forced to seek asylum outside their country, leading to more ‘brain drain’.[xx] This has increased rapidly since the bill became law. Sadly, many skilled individuals who were contributors to Nigeria’s economic development and growth are fleeing persecution by their government.

 Conclusion

It is unpalatable that sexual minorities in Africa are used as collateral damage in the global war of power and self-determination. We live in a global village, with opposition and support for homosexuality, which is not totally strange in human relations. However, the Nigerian government has not shown objectivity or understanding of the threats to human security in the position taken against its sexual minorities. The atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance has dimmed significantly. Both the political and religious leaders have been part of the crusade of homosexual persecution and prosecution. Nigeria needs conversations that are open to change and that demonstrate respect for human rights and diversity.

Whilst it would help for political leaders to repeal the laws that criminalized sexual minorities, a move towards evidence-based research on sexuality issues is crucial. This is an important step that will be useful in educating the Nigerian society. Until such moves are made human rights and human security will continue to suffer imminent threats and Nigeria will continue to be seen as a retrogressive nation.

______________

Toyin Ajao is a Peace and Conflict doctoral fellow and an assistant lecturer at the University of Pretoria. She is also an alumnus of the Africa Leadership Centre at King’s College, London and Obafemi Awolowo University. Her research focus includes: human security, conflict transformation, citizen journalism and gender and sexual rights.

NOTES

[i] See Abass, A. (2010) An Introduction to Protecting Human Security in Africa. In Protecting Human Security in Africa. 1-20.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] See Tamale, S. (2009) A Human Rights Impact Assessment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Public Dialogue.Kampala: 1-6.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] See Ilesanmi, Y. (2013) Freedom to Love for All; Homosexuality is not UnAfrican!
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] See Amnesty International (2013). Making Love a crime: Criminalization of Same-sex conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa.
[viii] See Dlamini, B. (2011) Homosexuality in the African context. Agenda: Empowering women for gender equity : 128-136.
[ix] Ibid.
[x]See http://www.voanews.com/content/lesbian_gay_rights_in_africa_hit_roadblocks/1512357.html
[xi] See Ossome, L. (2013) Postcolonial Discourses of Queer Activism and Class in Africa. In Queer Africa Reader. 32-47.
[xii]Seehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16068010
[xiii] See Sampson, T. I. (2012) Religious violence in Nigeria: Causal diagnoses an strategic recommendations to the state and religious communities. AJCR Volume 12 No. 1: 103-134.
[xiv]See http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/blog/gay-men-publicly-stripped-and-beaten-nigeria.
[xv] See http://www.avert.org/hiv-aids-nigeria.htm
[xvi] See Daulaire, N. (2013) The Importance of LGBT Health on a Global Scale. LGBT Health 24 July: 1-2.
[xvii] See Johnson, C. A. (2007) Off the Map: How HIV/AIDS Programming is failing Same-sex Practicing People in Africa.
[xviii] Ibid.
[xix] Ibid.
[xx]See http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/our-senators-are-hypocrites/104344/

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-6eDnYWpuKGM/UKIrjSYf3sI/AAAAAAAAAQ0/uYT_8fvkpdI/s320/Bisi+01.jpg

Twitterview with Bisi Alimi – Living Positively with HIV for 10 Years

Via Elnathan John

Transcript of a Twitter interview conducted by Elnathan John on May 7, 2014 with Bisi Alimi.

Bisi Alimi, a human rights campaigner and health advocate who rose to notoriety when he first came out as gay on NTA. He started his advocacy work at the height of the HIV epidemic within the Nigerian MSM community in the late 1990s. In 2004, Bisi’s open declaration of his sexuality, caused a turning point in the discussion on sex and sexuality in Nigeria. In July 2012, he was invited to the White House by President Obama for his work with black gay men in Europe. On May 7, 2004, Bisi was diagnosed with HIV. He continues to passionately do his advocacy work from his base in the UK. This interview marks 10 years of Bisi living ‘positively’.

I first interviewed Bisi in November 2012

Bisi Alimi

EJ: My first question Bisi, what was your first reaction when you got the test results saying you were positive?

 

BA: Honestly, considering the number of friends I had lost before then, I was sure it was going to be positive. Still, I was shocked and upset when I was told I was HIV positive. It was like a big cloud of a broken dream.

 

EJ: Were you in Nigeria at the time?

 

BA: Yes I was in Nigeria. Actually I was tested at the National AIDS Conference in Abuja in 2004.

 

EJ: What was the climate like at the time with regard to access to HIV care? Where did you first receive treatment?

 

BA: You see prior to that time, I didn’t even know much about treatment at all in Nigeria. I was so naïve. Also because of the fear, shame and guilt, I didn’t even tell anyone about my status apart from people present. I was waiting to die. I had seen friends dying, so I was like, well it’s a matter of months until I am gone.

 

EJ: Many people link HIV to homosexuality. However health sources cite over 80% of HIV transmission from heterosexual sex. How, in your experience does ignorance about HIV affect stigma?

 

BA: You see the conversation that HIV is homosexual disease is right and wrong and I will try to explain. HIV as we now know it was first discovered among gay men in America in the late 1970s to early 1980s. So it was kind of okay to link the virus to that community, however further digging around found that it is not so true. Scientists had found out that a similar virus had wiped out a community in the Congo around the late 1960s to early 1970s. So then the global interest started. However depending on who is telling the story the answer is different. The good thing about ownership of the virus by the gay community is that it brings the right sentiment. I guess you can only face one stigma at a time. So they [gay people] wanted to remove the HIV stigma as a pathway. But in the context of Africa, it is a different story. Heterosexual couples are driving the virus. [About ignorance and stigma], this is multilayered. First there is the image of HIV you see on TV. You know the skull and the two bones – it is scary. Then there is the religiosity or morality around the whole sex thing. HIV is seen as being a punishment.

Continue on Elnathan John

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Nigeria: Chibok, A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters

Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source: TheGuardian.com]
Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source: TheGuardian.com]
 Women across Nigeria are protesting the abduction of 234 schoolgirls from Chibok, in north east Nigeria, which took place on Monday April
the 14th. Starting from Wednesday the 30th of April, protests and rallies are planned in Abuja, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Kano, Lagos, Kaduna,
Benin.

A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters – Statement by Women of Peace And Justice

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Since Monday 14th April 2014 when over 200 young female students from the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok, Borno State were abducted by heavily armed men, millions around the world have been unable to come to terms with the loss and the implications of this loss. Today, millions of Nigerian women and men call on the Federal Government and the security agencies to find and bring back these girls currently living in captivity.

These young girls are daughters, sisters, nieces; tomorrow’s women and mothers. Those directly affected grieve, and we as Nigerians and human beings, join them in their anguish and distress. We want them back. Safe in their homes where they belong.

The trend of conflicting information about the exact number of girls who are still missing and even the operations are regrettable. The fact that as yet, no credible claim of responsibility for the abduction of these girls has been made is equally disturbing. This makes it an imperative for all Nigerians to amplify and demand of those with the responsibility for the safety of all Nigerians to ACT and CONSTRUCTIVELY engage to find and return these girls to their parents.

As citizens it is our right and responsibility to ask the following questions which have been on the lips and on the minds of millions around the world. This is even as we wait, with baited breath, to be informed about the fate of these young girls whose only crime is striving for an education:

How is it possible in the age of drones, Google Maps, and aerial surveillance that over 200 girls will vanish without a trace? Is this suggestive of the weaknesses of security operations covering soft targets such as schools even after clear indications of their vulnerability?
Why was protection for our children in schools in the N.E not intensified even after the devastation and pain of the 59 innocent children murdered in FGC Buni Yadi on February 25 2014?
How is it that security is not upgraded around institutions even when warnings of potential threat or imminent aggressions are issued? The warning after Buni Yadi that girls would be targeted or that Giwa Baracks in Madiguri are two cases in point.
What is the rational explanation that in a location (Borno State) under a state of emergency; 4 trucks and numerous motor bikes can deploy, move in convoy, unleash terror on the school at Chibok and then flee with over 200 girls to a location yet to be determined by Nigeria’s security institutions?
Where are or what has happened to the much mentioned assistance to the Federal Government or collaboration with friendly governments ?
Why, despite the massive increase in security spending, (up to N1trillion in 2013 and N845 Billion in 2014), are Nigerians not safer; while our security and military personnel are said to be under equipped and ill prepared to face the ever growing security challenges confronting Nigeria?
What support plans are being made to cater for the emotional needs and management of the trauma the parents of these girls must be going through?
The Chibok incidence is CRITICAL as well as a stark reality of the vulnerability of all Nigerians but most especially innocent children seeking to actualize their right to education towards a potential improvement of quality life. There is a need to scale up security efforts and sustain vigilance until ALL the girls are found. They cannot be abandoned and all Nigerians must share in their agony and in the anguish of their immediate families. The media must step up its act especially in reporting and constructive investigative journalism.

We recognize the complexities and dangers in security and military operations, however it is our firm belief that these institutions hold in high esteem the value of Nigerian lives as well our sovereignty being their primary mandate. The reading from Chibok is WE, ALL, including the military and security personnel are at great RISK of being consumed by the aggression of those in ambush of our peace and prosperity. Extra measures that remain within the legal limits of operations and counter insurgency/terrorism must be employed. Citizens must remain vigilant and supportive of the institutions of security at all times.

We speak out today and will do so every day until these girls are ALL accounted for. As mothers, fathers and siblings we call for the urgent and complete end to the politicization of the insecurity in Nigeria. OUR pain and solution are collective.

Updates on twitter at #BringBackOur Girls and #FreeOurGirls

The Rabid Virus {Poems of Resistance}

The Rabid Virus

1

It is a global epidemic
Somehow causing fitful laughter
Mainly causing fearful slaughter
In the selfsame flock
Fearful but if you said as
Much it’s enough excuse
They set children they’ve
“Dog train,” kids on you.
Those without children
Will just infect their dogs
“Definitely!” assurance of
Fear. Gender role is the
Unnamed virus human’s
Live with daily viral form
They call it, “the order of
Things!” It reeks dosorder.
Rumi calls it, “consumptive”
‘Akiarapa calls it, “ailment”
Buddha calls it, “suffering,”
Ignatius calls it, “in-breeding”
Descart call it, “chains,”
Fearfully a friend asked
“Why is everyone giving
you dirty looks?”
They are fearful of the uncertainties
My existence provokes in them…
Enough said only humans
Can live in occupation so &
Say, “that’s why we are here!”
& rabidly believe it…

2

Away and home team up
Always at each others throats
Only setting time out for
The outsider they see in me
The virus that holds them together
Irritates others like me robbing us
Of breathing space. Questioning
Our right to basic human rights,
Questioning our rights to use designated loos
Question our right to our own voices
And then turning it into an imaginary
Cow prod to keep us in line
“You need to bleach wash your brain
Out!” they’d say calling other on board.
Or the rabid virus would say at
Our expense. Hell, some of us out
Of fear out of a craving for acceptance
Out of desire for approval.
“How do they do it? How do they?”
They thunder the rabid virus does
The neocolonial craze is in the air
Neocolonialist come in all colours
No use pointing out colonialist alone
We all take part in the demise
Of soul of spirit of our role in to true self

3

If in doubt listen again when out and about
If in doubt listen to your heartfelt pelt
We, some of us, call ourselves women
We, some of us, call ourselves men
But do not forget some call ourselve trans
Some intersex some queer some neuter
But wherever the leaf drops
The cancer is the same.
Bornstein calls it, “the either/or” system
Agbaje calls it, “Okun n’b’obirin”
Raymond calls it, “the transsexual empire”
In an attempt to apportion blame
The band wagon followed her lead
Inagije called it, “eat make a eat jo!”
Diaspora (African) call it, “white supremacy”
And still dem go bone when a say
A no be dis a no be dat a don tell una
A no be bai, bai not to be mistaken for bi
“Are you trying to be a pariah?”
A guy asked me once when I answered
NO! I’m a woman only loving neuter
He barred me from existence if he could.
Cousin Warrior took one look and asked
The ground under his feet to swallow him whole.
Later cousin Warrior told aunt Mope
“He said he is no longer Home”
“How dare he?” she responded blaming
Her near rape by my father on me
It happened even before I was born
“Inkan se!” she said thinking “like father like son”.

4

Efen multicultural nonentities go put mouth
Dem go say, “na paranoia dey kill am”
Dem no fit speak the truth wey dey
Kill dem small, small for body
Dem no sabi say na di epidemik wey dey dem
Heart. Dem no sabi say because of di
Paranoia wey dey dem heart dey so so
Wey dem for heart
Dem know sey somtin dey
Wey dem sef dey call dem rabid virus dem
We dey chop dem since so na ma
Palava dem com put for head…
What is it about gender role?
How dare you say you are a woman?
How dare you say you are a man?
What was that? Trans?
How dare you say you are
Trans, intersex or Queer?
Chides the mob of sufferers
Upgrader to gender role police
It is unnatural it is unAfrican.
No it isn’t.
Gender role is unafrican it enslaves
Women gender role is unnatural it
Makes monsters of men
Gender role is the rabid virus
It makes cowards of us all
Before you become slaves to disorder
Question what evils you sow.
The rabid virus is gender role.

5

It is a global epidemic gender role
Check it out causing fitful laughter
In some causing fearful slaughter mainly
In the selfsame flock so
Fearful but if you said as
Much it’s enough excuse for them
To set their children they’ve
“Dog trained” kids on you.
Those without children
Will just infect their dogs somehow
“Definitely!” assurance of
Fear. Gender role is the
Unnamed virus human’s
Live with daily viral form
They call it, “the order of
Things!” It reeks disorder.
Rumi calls it, “consumptive”
‘Akiarapa calls it, “ailment”
Buddha calls it, “suffering,”
Ignatius calls it, “in-breeding”
Descartes call it, “chains,”
Fearfully a friend asked
“Why is everyone giving
you dirty looks?”
They are fearful of the uncertanties
My existence provokes in them…
Enough said only humans
Can live in occupation so &
Say, “that’s why we are here!”
& rabidly believe it…

Mia Nikasimo (c) March 2014

Neocolo Chop Chop {A Poem to Goody Jonatenn & 9Ja Kaki Lovers} {Poems of Resistance}

Neocolo Chop Chop

As A look u so u be gay
Dis na my chance to chop &
Chop & chop sotay dem no
Go  say A no work, A no put
Food for table, A no put roof
Over ma family head, dem.
U see say a be gay wetin be
Conductor’s palava for driver?

As A look u so u lesbian
Goodoulucku don give us the
Starting point the rest dey una
Hands if u see dem make
U show dem say kaki no be
Leather; leather self no be
Kaki, no be so? Na so oh…
A be lesbian wetin na kaki
Palava for latest leather?

As A see u so u be bi
Na so na. Wetin do dem dey
Hala dem gay dem lezzy dem?
Na waa oh. Make we do some
Ting now. Sabi u dey play
Me a dey play u? Ern now.
Wetin be una lezzy gay? Na waa.
Na so oh. Na bi a be a no be
Bai, bai. “Ewo n’ti ‘e l’oro mi”?

As A see u so u be “Aparinda” (?)
Wait ma a laugh first… sey una
Na man or woman or na hala
Be dis oh make una com see
Pancake for face nna una eye-
Liner take u na bag Miss World
Na only u dey? A beg, a beg
U see say a be trans who you dey
Call “aparinda (sex change)”?
Na wetin be colomental palava for ma tori?

As A see u so u be intersex
Water do pass gaari for dis obon
Oyinbo. No bi Naija we dey?
Wetin u say u be both, oloun
Walai Chineke gaari don pass water
Mae a go come a go show una pepper
Way u dey go wait na. u dey fear?
Me a no dey oh a no sabi five prison
Chineke poku! A be intersex, so?
A send u? Make u na cool temper.

As u dey so u be queer
See me see trouble oh  una too get
Mouth. If no be dis na dat how
Person go sabi pikin for dis colo?
See me see trouble wetin god do una?
E put u for dis una life no bi so?
Ah beg oh ah no fi shout. Giv me chop
U know say a dey queer wetin na
Una own for anyting goes; amebo?

Wetin dey chop u na for ma palava?
Ah no say ah be a minority of one
Tell me how dat wan take kill u?
Na so so “a see say, a see say” u dey
Peddle; wetin dey bite u for body?
Wake up chop, wake up chop, wake up
Wetin tell u say sacrifice wey u na
Cook no go nuke u sooner or later?
A beg bo lef tori wey no be una palava.

Mia Nikasimo (c) March 2014

What is this protest about?

Via @muparutsazim
Via @muparutsazim – from Free Gender
02 Mar 14

President Yoweri Museveni has done it. Against widespread expectation raised by his earlier pledge, the Ugandan leader turned around this week and signed into law the contentious Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed last December by a parliament his ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), controls. The bill had been opposed locally and internationally for a record four years, since its introduction to the legislature in 2009. It is a remarkable coincidence that Museveni’s executive action came in the week Pambazuka News has devoted to a special issue on the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (LBGTI) struggles in Africa. Our decision to dedicate a special issue to this subject was informed by the alarming reality that throughout Africa, colonial era laws that criminalised ‘unnatural acts’ are now being reinforced by independent governments, pushed by powerful lobbies, under the pretext that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ and harmful: this despite the fact that the existence of LGBTI persons in Africa since time immemorial is well documented. Colonial legislators would have had no reason to criminalise homosexuality if it is the Europeans who introduced it to the continent. Beyond repression through harsh laws, there is fierce LGBTI intolerance throughout Africa. Even in countries where the constitution proclaims non-discrimination on whatever grounds, politicians, the priestly class and other self-styled moral police are undeterred in inciting their followers against gays. Homosexual persons have been attacked and killed or injured. Many have been forced into hiding, ostracised by their families, denied employment, have been unable to rent a house, etc. In South Africa the horrific phenomenon of ‘corrective rape’ before killing has been perpetrated by men against lesbians as an alleged ‘cure’ of their sexual orientation. It is impossible to remain silent in the face of this epidemic of hate and violence against innocent people.

01 Mar 14

A dangerous new imperialism is on the rise in Africa and the Caribbean. It comes wearing a rainbow flag and dressed in pink. The recent wave of anti-gay laws on the African Continent and a two month visit to Jamaica where LGBT activists and homosexuals are in a battle for self-definition have helped to crystalize this suspicion. To be clear I am a Black, gay Jamaican male who has loved and lived for over 30 years in America. I identify myself thusly so you can understand that this is not a conclusion I come to easily. It comes from observing keenly the struggle for Gay Rights in America, Africa and the Caribbean for the past 30 years.

24 Feb 14

Coming out will not be easy or even an option for everyone, but if you do decide to come out, I wish you luck! Visibility definitely matters. The truth is, I never wanted to have a conversation about who I have sex with, but because the government and the population is having that conversation, I too am forced to. The simple fact at the end of the day is: I am human. I am Nigerian. I am gay. Now my social experiment may or may not work. What I do know is that I must try. I will attempt to change minds, tackle homophobia and let Nigerians see a real life gay person: one introduction at a time.

Bisi Alimi - http://www.ynaija.com/watch-gay-rights-activist-bisi-alimi-speaks-to-amanpour-on-cnn/
Bisi Alimi – http://www.ynaija.com/watch-gay-rights-activist-bisi-alimi-speaks-to-amanpour-on-cnn/

Nigerian gay rights activist, Bisi Alimi, who had to leave the country in 2007 out of fear for his life, spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on his feelings about the law and the fate of the Nigerian LGBT community.

18 Jan 14

24 Feb 14

Kill them. This sentiment has been expressed about homosexuals in Nigeria, both in the streets and in the media, especially since the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act came into operation on January 7, 2014 – again, and again. And again.

24 Feb 14

Yet Smith fails to articulate the self-determination demonstrated on the part of LGBTQI Africans as proof against an imagined Africa where all people think negatively about queer and trans people. Even in Uganda, on the very day of the passing of the anti-homosexuality bill, queer and trans Ugandans, and their allies, are asserting their disapproval through a global media campaign aptly titled, #IAmGoingNowhere, according to Hakima Abbas, co-editor (along with Sokari Ekine) of the Queer African Reader.  That there are those placing their lives on the line, today, should be ample enough proof that not all Africans are homophobic. It should also remind us to resist the urge to cast our critical gaze upon other geographical spaces before we cast it upon ourselves.

Via @HOLAAFrica
Via @HOLAAFrica
01 Mar 14

If Kenya is not Uganda or Nigeria, why are we at the brink of legislating laws that further criminalise same sex sexualities?  Kenya will soon follow Uganda and Nigeria in enacting new anti-gay laws, my crystal ball predicts. And it might be sooner than you expect. According to several media reports on radio and TV, several lobby groups, politicians and religious associations, have come out publicly to call for stricter – read, extreme – laws against homosexuality in the country. Unfortunately, 90% of Kenyans support their decision if a Pew Research on attitudes towards homosexuality in Kenya is anything to go by. In December 2013, I highlighted 10 African countries that were going the Nigeria and Uganda way in proposing, debating, enacting and assenting new laws that targeted same sex sexualities among men and women.

Via @ShailjaPatel
Via @ShailjaPatel

Follow @holaafrica @bisialimi @denisnkioka @keguro_macharia @blacklooks

Femi Kuti Comes Out Against the Nigerian SSMB

From OKAY Africa, Femi Kuti joins his junior brother in condemning the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Bill.  He responds to those who ask if Fela would have supported this bill – the answer is Fela was at best ambivialant on homosexuality but he was adamant on upholding human rights.

‘The Right To Choose Your Own Sexuality is a Human Right’ by Femi Kuti

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In the wake of the recently passed “anti-gay” law by our government and President Goodluck Jonathan, there has been much speculation online as to how Fela Kuti, my father, would react. So let us get this clear, and I will also express my own views on the matter.

My father would not support this law. He would know why the law was passed: as a way of distracting the population from the main problems we face today – poverty, lack of electricity and services, corruption, mismanagement, and so on and so forth.

That being said, Fela may have had some reservations about homosexuality itself. Who is to say? No one can speak for him. But Fela would not have had any reservations about upholding and protecting basic human rights. The right to choose your own sexuality and sexual behavior –as long as it is between consenting adults– is one such human right.

It’s a difficult topic for a lot of people in Nigeria to understand as it’s a very new issue that has never been quite public. Our culture and traditions and certain religious values make it more difficult for many to accept or understand, and it will take some time for those people to learn to respect the fundamental human rights of others to express themselves freely. People have said that being gay is “un-African” – I’m not an expert on our history, but I don’t know of anywhere the topic is mentioned in our history (I am not referring to Christian orthodoxy that was brought by non-African missionaries).

The gay community in Nigeria will have to be patient and realize acceptance of homosexuality is a gradual process which will take a very long time – especially in the north of Nigeria. But they must slowly put their case forward. They will need a lot of diplomatic support, and they will have to fight the law. They might definitely lose, but they will just have to keep on fighting for their fundamental right to live. There is no other choice.

We have to keep talking about the issue of gay rights, but it’s the government’s responsibility to take the lead to defend people’s fundamental rights. Citizens must have the right to be who they want to be.

-Femi Kuti

The Central points of the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage [Prohibition Act] 2013

Human rights activist Joseph Sewedo highlights the main sections of the Nigerian SSMB  and points out that all Nigerians are impacted by this law.

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1.    Homosexuality between men has been illegal in Nigeria for almost a century. And in northern Nigeria (no thanks to Sharia law), homosexuality between men and women is been criminalized with penalty up to death sentence. Hence this Bill is not dealing with that.

2.    The marriage Act in Nigeria expressly allows for union between (1) Man and (1) Woman and only in the application of the customary law is polygamous heterosexual union made legal. In no way does it permit same-sex union.

3.    In my whole existence in life (26 years!), never did I hear of any Nigerian protesting to marry another person of the same-sex. Human rights groups of which I am part, only demanded for protection of the rights of persons who are gender non-conforming and those with homosexual tendencies. This is based on the fact that homosexual and other gender non-conforming persons are HUMAN by all standards.

4.    With my very modest travel experience in Nigeria (20 of 36 states), never did I hear about or by chance visit a gay “anything”. Neither a bar, nor a club!

5.    Gay association or organization? To my knowledge, none existed legally. Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) would not register any. CAUTION: NGOs serving “homosexuals” are not necessarily gay associations or organizations; they are either Human rights organizations or Health care service providers.

So what is this Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Law about?

1.    Victimization will extend from just the homosexuals to every persons associated with them. This implies that anyone with the slightest appearance or show of natural affection to person of same-sex albeit related, will be liable to imprisonment under this law.

2.    Friends or relatives who- for economic hardship in Nigeria, are forced to co-habit will be victims of blackmail and extortion.

3.    Impunity perpetrated by the Police will increase. All those Lagos boys wearing skinny jeans and shagging their pant. Ah! I shake my head.

4.    Heterosexual relationships will become more pathetic as there will be increase in forced marriages and practice of a double (fake) life. Homosexuals (men and women) will be sadly engaged to persons of the opposite sex and end in a very miserable relationship, many which will have a negative impact of their children- if they have any.

5.    As the campaigns for 2015 elections approach, politicians will be hunted with this law. In no doubt, this law will be used as an instrument of political blackmail.

6.    Families will suffer emotional turbulence (to mention a few).

While in no doubt, this Law seeks to further criminalize same-sex relationships in Nigeria, it is clear it will have greater impact on non-homosexual persons who are not used to living “sexually” restrictive life. Homosexuals have always being in the closet and they will continue to do so “conveniently” but unfortunately. In essence, this (Law) is not only detrimental to those “bloody homosexuals” but to the general citizenry. Thus let’s join forces to say NO TO HATE IN NIGERIA. Please kindly follow me on twitter @sewedo_akoro and twitter #NO28in9JA: venting your concerns.

For regular updates on Nigeria see Joseph Sewedo’s blog here

Sexual Liquidation & Responsibility to Protect

The Rise of Sexual Liquidation by Joseph Sewedo

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Today, laws are being promulgated to heighten sexual liquidation in several parts of the world. The last few months have been very challenging for human rights activists/ advocates globally, especially activists committed to addressing homophobia in the world. Over the years, homophobia has been identified to be perpetration of hate crimes against persons who do not conform to certain sexual and gender norms: thereby challenging what is claimed to be traditional values including cultural and religious practices.

In the last decade, the promotion and protection of persons who have so far being identified as sexual minorities have face several ups and downs- from legalization of same-sex unions in several countries to now what is understood to be State-Sponsored homophobia, where persons engaged in any form of same-sex relationship might suffer imprisonment from 5years to life imprisonment and worst still death. Activists and advocates for rights on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are facing great challenges globally, where they have to deal with institutionalized homophobia from Nigeria to Russia to Uganda, whose President (Museveni) recently signed into law an Act that will send all homosexual into imprisonment for life.

Human rights diplomacy, which involve discussing protection and promotion of sexual minority rights globally, policy advocacy and lobbying seem to have met a defiance in States that proudly discuss tradition as an excuse not to discuss the rights of homosexuals or even attempt protecting their homosexual citizens. States like Gambia and Zimbabwe have perpetually sponsored violation of the rights of their homosexual citizens and render this minority group to stable fear in their own homeland. Given my very active involvement in the promotion and protection of human rights of sexual minority groups (precisely homosexuals) in Nigeria, “back door” or “quiet” diplomacy is a strategy I have supported and implemented but unfortunately remained inutile given the “vested interest” associated to this advocacy. This “vested interest” not only includes politicians but also countries in the international community whose economic national interest is prioritized over the promotion of human rights. Often, this “back door” or “quiet” diplomacy has left the SOGI (Sexual orientation and Gender Identity) movement in Nigeria invisible and even considered non-existing. No wonder Ojo Maduekwe (former Foreign Affairs Minister) mentioned in 2009 at the United Human Rights Council that there was no group advocating for the rights of homosexuals in his country. Furthermore, this strategy has created a friction amongst local activists who feel going radical in advocacy is best to claim the rights of homosexual citizens.

From the experience of countries like China and India, human rights diplomacy usually depends on two factors: the national interest at stake and the benefits to or interest of the community-at-large. In addition, Japan who have always maintained and refrained from incorporating human rights consideration into its foreign policy but nonetheless engaged “off the scene”. Apparently, human rights diplomacy is an inevitable dilemma to which many States are exposed and that which manipulates the strategic planning of human rights advocates/activists.

From an African perspective, it is very challenging to objectively discuss human rights protection and promotion without having to sound culturally non-conforming or worse still, intellectually colonized by the West. Human rights situation in many countries in Africa is often regarded as an internal issue and one that challenges the sovereignty of a State when being discussed at international fora. Given the international law policy of non-interference and State sovereignty to which States quickly refer to when being challenged for the deteriorating human rights situation, it is difficult to communicate to States that regardless of these policies, there is the “Responsibility to Protect” norm that is expected to be implemented by each State. RtoP- although not a law but a norm invested in international law- is a relatively new mechanism to ensure that States protects the rights of their citizens and prevent them from non-state human rights abuses as well as state-sponsored violations. Although RtoP precipitated into international discussion of human rights to prevent “Genocide, Crime against humanity, War Crimes and Ethnic cleansing”, it is apparently becoming necessary to add a new term, given the trending issue of human rights abuses and violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. This term could be referred to as “Sexual liquidation”.

One of the three foundation “pillars” of RtoP provides that, if the state manifestly fails to protect its citizens from Genocide, Crime against humanity, War Crimes and Ethnic cleansing and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort. While this is very delicate measure to consider, it is important to begin to think along this direction before the situation of sexual liquidation gets worse.

The similarity in the new laws in Nigeria and Uganda as well as the propaganda law in Russia is to liquidate sexual acts that are considered homosexual and/or un-natural, what can be likened to ethnic cleansing. This also brings the melancholy of the Rwanda genocide- a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi and Hutu majority as well as the South African apartheid- the worst situation of racism in world history.

While it is important that States protect their sovereignty and maintain their political autonomy, it is pertinent that they adhere to RtoP norm that ensure that their citizens are protected from all forms human rights violation, especially those affecting human dignity and life. Homosexual citizens are becoming victims just as citizens became marginalized and discriminated against because of their color, ethnic and tribe. The international community should not wait for another round of genocide in the world before considering that sexual citizenship is an important discourse in promoting world peace. It is time to promote the implementation of the responsibility to protect and prevent “sexual liquidation”.

Article was originally published on Joseph Sewedo Akoro

Against Discrimination: An Open Letter to African Leaders

H. E. Joaquim Chissano is the former President of Mozambique and current co-chair of the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development)
H. E. Joaquim Chissano is the former President of Mozambique and current co-chair of the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development)

Originally posted in the Africa Report, January 14, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a transformative moment for Africa – and indeed, for the world.
Decision-makers from across the continent, under the able leadership of Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, are finalising a crucial document outlining a common position for Africa on the development agenda that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.

To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others – Nelson Mandela

Since the 1990s, Africa has gained considerable strength in international negotiations by sticking together and forging consensus on important issues.

It is a strategy that has empowered us in many ways. And it means that our voices will be heard when the framework that will guide governments, donors and development partners for years to come is negotiated. So we need to be careful what we ask for.

I urge our leaders to draw from the lessons of the past, but also to heed current realities. And to look ahead to what the future is calling forth – because this new development agenda will affect the lives of millions of our people at a very critical time for Africa.

I encourage leaders to take a strong stand for fundamental human rights, and advance the trajectory for basic freedoms.

This means pushing for three priorities that lie at the heart of sustainable development: the empowerment of women and gender equality; the rights and empowerment of adolescents and youth; and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people.

These interlinked priorities and their policy implications have been carefully analysed by the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD that I co-chair.

We have found that they represent not only human rights imperatives, but smart, cost-effective investments to foster more equitable, healthy, productive, prosperous and inclusive societies, and a more sustainable world.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights, in particular, are a prerequisite for empowering women and the generations of young people on whom our future depends.

This simply means granting every one the freedom – and the means — to make informed decisions about very basic aspects of one’s life – one’s sexuality, health, and if, when and with whom to have relationships, marry or have children – without any form of discrimination, coercion or violence.

This also implies convenient, affordable access to quality information and services and to comprehensive sexuality education.

We can no longer afford to discriminate against people on the basis of age, sex, ethnicity, migrant status, sexual orientation and gender identity, or any other basis – we need to unleash the full potential of everyone.

As an African who has been around a long time, I understand the resistance to these ideas.

But I can also step back and see that the larger course of human history, especially of the past century or so, is one of expanding human rights and freedoms.

African leaders should be at the helm of this, and not hold back. Not at this critical moment.

The international agenda that we will help forge is not just for us here and now, but for the next generations and for the world.

As I think about these issues, I am reminded of the words of our recently departed leader, who gained so much wisdom over the course of his long walk to freedom.

“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,” Nelson Mandela reminded us, “but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Let us live up to his immortal words.

• H. E. Joaquim Chissano is the former President of Mozambique and current co-chair of the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development)

There is one path and one path only, it is the path towards embodied liberations

Published 24 February 2014 on The Feminist Wire

By Jessica Horn

Editors Note: We were scheduled to post a reflection by Jessica Horn later in this second week of our global forum celebrating Audre Lorde’s life and living legacy. However, TFW Contributing Editor and co-editor, with Sokari Ekine, of Queer African ReaderHakima Abbas recently informed us that the Ugandan President *just* signed the Anti-Homosexuality bill into law.  There is no time like the present. For most of us, “Today Is Not the Day.” We must use our wherewithal to do whatever we’re able to do to support our LGBTQIA Brothers and Sisters in Uganda whose lives are in grave state sanctioned danger. Family in Uganda are using #IAmGoingNowhere to speak out.  If you use twitter and are able, please follow the conversation today and use the hashtag in solidarity.  

Without community there is certainly no liberation, no future, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between me and my oppression… ~ Audre Lorde

 

Gloria Joseph, Audre Lorde, Ellen Kuzwayo and other Sisters from South Africa (pre- the ending of the Apartheid regime)  copyright: Dagmar Schultz

Gloria Joseph, Audre Lorde, Ellen Kuzwayo and other Sisters from South Africa (pre- the ending of the Apartheid regime) copyright: Dagmar Schultz

I found Audre Lorde as an undergraduate student at Smith College. She was one of the pieces of gold that emerged from a frantic search in libraries, bookshops, classrooms and student organising spaces, a search for echoes of anything that reflected the experience of my feminist left upbringing in what we then called the ‘Third World’, my east African ancestry, the African continent whose liberation I cared so much for, and the new identity of political blackness that I embraced as I came to understand the history of Black, Latina and first Nations struggle in the USA. I was in search of African feminists, of black feminists- and I found poet-philosophers.  Yes, I found June JordanSonia SanchezGloria AnzalduaChrystosand Sandra Cisneros. And I found Audre Lorde.

Audre Lorde wrote. She wrote and she wrote and she wrote. The volume of her poetic and analytical production in relation to her years on this earth is itself a cause for celebration. She wrote in what feels like a different activist economy, an economy of independent feminist presses, and feminist collectives, left-wing bookshops and social spaces that gave physical ground to intellectual communities. She wrote from the vantage point of a liberated imagination, one that could even name itself as a black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet- a set of interlaced identities that signaled a unification of ways of being in this world often deemed as mutually exclusive.

Audre Lorde Image Credit: © Dagmar Shultz

Audre Lorde, Image Credit: © Dagmar Shultz

These days we obsess about Beyoncés’ feminist contributions as celebrity culture and one-liner politics invade via cyber-space, and as the world burns around us in religious fundamentalist backlash. Audre Lorde’s writing reminds us of the power of depth. Of taking on a part of life and burrowing deep enough that you start to see the interconnections, to see that all the strands of this devastating, complex, beautiful life are in fact woven together. To be able to see how the macro-political and the micro-narratives of our intimate lives connect- that is what Audre Lorde’s work offers us.

Today the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. This follows on from the passing of the Anti-Pornography Act in Uganda which enables greater state surveillance of people’s private lives, and echoes the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act and other legislation in recent years in many other African countries aimed at solidifying exclusion and hatred in law. This legal trend brings into sharp relief the reality that our bodies remain the battlegrounds on which all struggles for patriarchal power and control are waged. Our sexualities are in the focus, with states seizing the sovereignty of our own bodies away from each and every one of us, while paying scant attention to the demands we ourselves put on them around our bodily integrity. We demand quality accessible healthcare, tackling impunity for violence against women and girls and the often appalling treatment of women and girl survivors by police and the courts, and creating economic environments that support our ability to live autonomous, meaningful lives. Instead, we get laws that call for imprisonment and collective censorship of our legitimate desires.

Audre Lorde warned us in her essay on Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference that

unless one lives and loves in the trenches it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.

It feels like everybody is living and loving in the trenches now. Everyone is under attack, regardless of their identities. Its time to rise up, to throw away the silences as Audre encouraged us to, and to realize, as she did, that we may not be able to choose

the time, and the arena and the manner of our revolution… we must do battle where we are standing

____________________________________

Jessica Horn

Jessica Horn

Jessica Horn is a feminist writer, activist and consultant. She has worked with community groups, progressive donors, and governmental agencies around rights, justice and the body- advancing sexual rights, ending violence against women, supporting women living with HIV, researching religious fundamentalisms and ensuring women’s rights in conflict-affected contexts. A believer in grounded interventions, her professional engagement intentionally spans policy and community spaces. Jessica is a founding member of the African Feminist Forum. She serves a board member of women’s funds Mama Cash and Urgent Action Fund-Africa, and is a commissioning co-editor of the Our Africa platform on openDemocracy.

Press release on the Implicatons of the SSMB Act 2013 on Human Rights in Nigeria

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PRESS RELEASE ON THE IMPLICATION OF THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE [PROHIBITION] ACT 2013 ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN NIGERIA

The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, Mrs Reine Alapini-Gansou, has taken note of the promulgation on 13 January 2014 in Nigeria of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, and is deeply concerned about the consequences this law may have on sexual minorities who are already vulnerable as a result of social prejudice.

The Special Rapporteur is concerned by some provisions of the Act, in particular Sections 4(1) and 5(2) which prohibit and provide for penalties against defenders of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. These provisions undermine the work of human rights defenders and are against any public debate on this crucial issue.

The Special Rapporteur is concerned by the increase, following the enactment of the law, in cases of physical violence, aggression, arbitrary detention and harassment carried out against human rights defenders dealing with sexual minority rights issues.

The Special Rapporteur strongly condemns such acts which are a violation of the right to life, physical integrity, and freedom of expression and assembly of human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteur would like to remind the Government of Nigeria of its international obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

The Special Rapporteur calls on the Government of Nigeria to ensure that human rights defenders are able to conduct their activities in an enabling environment that is free of stigma and reprisals.

The Special Rapporteur would also like to encourage the Nigerian political authorities to continue their efforts towards ensuring the physical integrity and safety of human rights defenders in Nigeria.
Banjul, 05 February 2014

Nigeria SSMB: unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems

An excellent essay in which Chimananda Ngozi Adichie joins other high profile Nigerians in condemning the Same Sex Marriage Bill and extended criminalization of homosexuality.  The law has led to vicious and humiliating attacks on men ‘suspected’ of being gay, in the nations capital, and elsewhere. Instead of protecting the men from the mob, the police have joined in the violence.

The government and religious leaders, the self-righteous lawmakers and pious preachers watch in silence as people are chained and beaten. The visceral hatred expressed by the mob, the state and religious institutions, even from afar is palpable and one imagines death will soon be registered. Adichie rightly condemns the law as unconstitutional, ambiguous, a strange priority and above all else, unjust – a refusal of a fact of existence    Adichie’s essay appeals to the humanity and humility of the haters rather than a focus on the politics of the Bill. Nonetheless, it is a strong piece and one hopes other Nigerians will begin to express their disgust at this law.

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Chimamanda Adichie: Why can’t he just be like everyone else?

I will call him Sochukwuma. A thin, smiling boy who liked to play with us girls at the university primary school in Nsukka. We were young. We knew he was different, we said, ‘he’s not like the other boys.’ But his was a benign and unquestioned difference; it was simply what it was. We did not have a name for him. We did not know the word ‘gay.’ He was Sochukwuma and he was friendly and he played oga so well that his side always won.

In secondary school, some boys in his class tried to throw Sochukwuma off a second floor balcony. They were strapping teenagers who had learned to notice, and fear, difference. They had a name for him. Homo. They mocked him because his hips swayed when he walked and his hands fluttered when he spoke. He brushed away their taunts, silently, sometimes grinning an uncomfortable grin. He must have wished that he could be what they wanted him to be. I imagine now how helplessly lonely he must have felt. The boys often asked, “Why can’t he just be like everyone else?”

Possible answers to that question include ‘because he is abnormal,’ ‘because he is a sinner, ‘because he chose the lifestyle.’ But the truest answer is ‘We don’t know.’ There is humility and humanity in accepting that there are things we simply don’t know. At the age of 8, Sochukwuma was obviously different. It was not about sex, because it could not possibly have been – his hormones were of course not yet fully formed – but it was an awareness of himself, and other children’s awareness of him, as different. He could not have ‘chosen the lifestyle’ because he was too young to do so. And why would he – or anybody – choose to be homosexual in a world that makes life so difficult for homosexuals?

The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic. The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust. Even if this was not a country of abysmal electricity supply where university graduates are barely literate and people die of easily-treatable causes and Boko Haram commits casual mass murders, this law would still be unjust. We cannot be a just society unless we are able to accommodate benign difference, accept benign difference, live and let live. We may not understand homosexuality, we may find it personally abhorrent but our response cannot be to criminalize it.

A crime is a crime for a reason. A crime has victims. A crime harms society. On what basis is homosexuality a crime? Adults do no harm to society in how they love and whom they love. This is a law that will not prevent crime, but will, instead, lead to crimes of violence: there are already, in different parts of Nigeria, attacks on people ‘suspected’ of being gay. Ours is a society where men are openly affectionate with one another. Men hold hands. Men hug each other. Shall we now arrest friends who share a hotel room, or who walk side by side? How do we determine the clunky expressions in the law – ‘mutually beneficial,’ ‘directly or indirectly?’

Many Nigerians support the law because they believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. The Bible can be a basis for how we choose to live our personal lives, but it cannot be a basis for the laws we pass, not only because the holy books of different religions do not have equal significance for all Nigerians but also because the holy books are read differently by different people. The Bible, for example, also condemns fornication and adultery and divorce, but they are not crimes.

For supporters of the law, there seems to be something about homosexuality that sets it apart. A sense that it is not ‘normal.’ If we are part of a majority group, we tend to think others in minority groups are abnormal, not because they have done anything wrong, but because we have defined normal to be what we are and since they are not like us, then they are abnormal. Supporters of the law want a certain semblance of human homogeneity. But we cannot legislate into existence a world that does not exist: the truth of our human condition is that we are a diverse, multi-faceted species. The measure of our humanity lies, in part, in how we think of those different from us. We cannot – should not – have empathy only for people who are like us.

Some supporters of the law have asked – what is next, a marriage between a man and a dog?’ Or ‘have you seen animals being gay?’ (Actually, studies show that there is homosexual behavior in many species of animals.) But, quite simply, people are not dogs, and to accept the premise – that a homosexual is comparable to an animal – is inhumane. We cannot reduce the humanity of our fellow men and women because of how and who they love. Some animals eat their own kind, others desert their young. Shall we follow those examples, too?

Other supporters suggest that gay men sexually abuse little boys. But pedophilia and homosexuality are two very different things. There are men who abuse little girls, and women who abuse little boys, and we do not presume that they do it because they are heterosexuals. Child molestation is an ugly crime that is committed by both straight and gay adults (this is why it is a crime: children, by virtue of being non-adults, require protection and are unable to give sexual consent).

There has also been some nationalist posturing among supporters of the law. Homosexuality is ‘unafrican,’ they say, and we will not become like the west. The west is not exactly a homosexual haven; acts of discrimination against homosexuals are not uncommon in the US and Europe. But it is the idea of ‘unafricanness’ that is truly insidious. Sochukwuma was born of Igbo parents and had Igbo grandparents and Igbo great-grandparents. He was born a person who would romantically love other men. Many Nigerians know somebody like him. The boy who behaved like a girl. The girl who behaved like a boy. The effeminate man. The unusual woman. These were people we knew, people like us, born and raised on African soil. How then are they ‘unafrican?’

If anything, it is the passage of the law itself that is ‘unafrican.’ It goes against the values of tolerance and ‘live and let live’ that are part of many African cultures. (In 1970s Igboland, Area Scatter was a popular musician, a man who dressed like a woman, wore makeup, plaited his hair. We don’t know if he was gay – I think he was – but if he performed today, he could conceivably be sentenced to fourteen years in prison. For being who he is.) And it is informed not by a home-grown debate but by a cynically borrowed one: we turned on CNN and heard western countries debating ‘same sex marriage’ and we decided that we, too, would pass a law banning same sex marriage. Where, in Nigeria, whose constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, has any homosexual asked for same-sex marriage?  Continue Reading on The Scoop Nigeria

 

Anti-Gay Laws and the Unification of Nigeria

From The Feminist Wire, an excellent article by Adejoke Tugbiyele “Sexual Identity and Nigerian Culture”   which examines the challenges presented by  the recently signed Same Sex Marriage Bill and the resulting explosion of homophobic violence across the country.

“I spent the latter part of 2013 living and working in Nigeria under a Fulbright Scholarship.  My research dealt with the cross-section of spirituality and sexuality among LGBTQ communities living in that country and how they navigate a largely conservative, religious society.  My first three months in Lagos were very productive.  I attended gay parties with my friend and activist Williams Rashidi, with whom I had many engaging debates about how to bring about change in the minds of others towards queer communities.  I also filmed a panel discussion organized by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS) at their screening of the new documentary Veil of Silence.  I visited the Shrine of Osun, based in Oshogbo, and interviewed a Yoruba Priest and Priestess about homosexuality within traditional Yoruba culture. I engaged LGBTQ communities in Lagos, as well as Nigerians abroad, about what it meant for them to be queer and Nigerian. The responses I got mirrored many of the issues one would find in mainstream society.  Just like straight people, queer people also need access to good health care, clean drinking water, a better educational system, and so on.  In other words, LGBTQ people are people, and their sexuality does not necessarily make their daily experiences remarkably different from the average Nigerian, African or global citizen.

My research and my self became threatened when President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMP) earlier this year. It is essentially an anti-gay law, as it includes the banning of all gay parties and organizations. It also states that any public and private display of affection is punishable with 10 years imprisonment. Practically overnight, LGBTQ people, who are worried about things like getting to work on-time just like everyone else, now fear leaving their homes altogether.  Their beloved country had just labeled them criminals. I, as an out-lesbian artist living in Nigeria at the time, had also been criminalized.  Police have essentially enacted a “witch-hunt” for gays, and these were just the stories we could access in the papers. Apparently, other evils have emerged within the past two weeks that have not been covered in Nigerian news outlets. For instance, I just learned that a “gay convert” just stabbed his gay friend to death in Lagos last weekend.  The fear this new law has raised in LGBTQ communities has led people to turn on each other.

The fundamental problem with Nigeria’s anti-gay law is that it unites supposed enemies within Muslim and Christian sects, and it validates and empowers their extremist, conservative views on how we ought to live.  The empowerment of hate groups is not only happening in Nigeria.  With the events unfolding in Russia regarding the Sochi Olympics, the world is beginning to wake up to LGBTQ rights.  Along those lines, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently argued that LGBTQ rights are one of “the civil rights challenges of our time.”

I am concerned, however, that the West would not be pressing this hard on global LGBTQ rights had the events of the Sochi Olympic Games not unfolded. After all, the “corrective rape” of lesbians has been rampant in places like South Africa for decades now. And it was just over three years ago when LGBTQ activist David Kato was brutally murdered in Uganda.  Further, the extortion and bribery of LGBTQ people has become common place in Nigeria, as depicted in a handful of homophobic Nollywood films, such as Hideous Affair (2010). “The Video Closet” by Lindsey Green-Simms and Unoma Azuah thoughfully examines how mainstream homophobic views are reflected in within the regulated Nollywood film industry. Regarding sexual identity, we can argue that this historically dominant view still holds—the African/Black body as “less important” than that of the Western/White body. The sexual revolution that begun in the West must not fall prey to the mistakes of the feminist revolution in the U.S. in order to be considered truly global. We must remember that the emergence of writers like Angela Y. Davis, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde was a response to racist feminisms that excluded Black women. Similarly, African female writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have emerged to continue the feminist wave across the Atlantic. In short, with all the work that still needs to be done globally to combat discrimination, the additional fight for sexual rights in Africa and throughout the diaspora makes the work even more difficult. The sexual revolution must be global and inclusive of all peoples for it to have lasting impact both socially and politically.

Internal problems certainly don’t help. In the case of Nigeria, there are still too many parents that won’t allow their Yoruba daughters to marry Igbo sons. Many Igbo people are calling on the federal government to apologize for the genocide of Biafra. A lot of Hausa people in the North believe that Nigeria belongs to them, since it was handed to them one hundred years ago by the British during the Amalgamation of 1914. Therefore, national unity and identity is not as defined in Nigeria as it is in the United States. To a large extent, believing that the masses will “do nothing” is partly what empowers the federal government to sign such hateful and demeaning laws in the first place.   Continue reading on the Feminist Wire.

 

 

 

 

Angelique Kidjo’s critique of homophobia

Speaking out against homophobia across the African region, award-wining Beninoise singer and activist

Angelique Kidjo – watch it here:

As she says, speaking to the ab(use) of religion – “”its not about God its about power”.

Funmi Iyanda on the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Bill

From Change a Life Nigeria, Funmi Iyanda on the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Bill

Founders Statement on the Same Sex Marriage Bill

The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition law is an impractical, non-enforceable, abuse prone diversion from the clear and present dangers of poverty, insecurity, violence, collapse of institutions and infrastructure as well as corruption that are the real challenges the Nigerian government must tackle.

Gay people in Nigeria have never demanded their right, never mind marriage. The law is mischievous and designed to stoke a mob mentality to distract from real issues. As a reaction to perceived pressure from trends in the West and possible pressure from Western governments, we would do much better to assert such laudable independent will and sovereignty in the area of better global economic negotiation and leverage to guarantee prosperity and development for our people.

The debate about homosexuality is completely different from this dangerous law that criminalizes everyone, contravenes parts of Nigeria’s constitution and ignores basic tenet of universal human rights, which Nigeria is signed on to. It is so ill thought out and vindictive, it is un-implementable except as a tool of witch-hunt, victimisation and abuse, especially of the poor and powerless. This is ominous in a country that is already politically fragile, economically unjust and fractious along ethnic and religious lines.

Homosexual is a noun, not a verb; as such it is non-injurious to others. The centuries of its existence in Nigeria has not slowed down human reproduction. Science has proved it is not a lifestyle choice. Insisting otherwise is ignorant and retrogressive. It will stunt the management of the impending HIV and AIDS pandemic, of which Nigeria is at risk.

Our common humanity rests on freedom and justice for all, regardless of our differences.

-       Funmilola Iyanda  @funmilola on Twitter

 

Tey, a film by Alain Gomis: From Senegal to Haiti, timelessness and spirituality remain the same

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Tey, [Today] a film directed by Alain Gomis which opens  in NYC on Oct 6 at Mist Harlem,  won the Golden Stallion Prize for the best film at the  2013 FESPACO  in Burkina Faso.    The film has now been formally submitted as Senegal’s entry to the 2014 Academy Awards.  Haitian blogger and researcher, Alice Backer tweeted me with details of a discussion on the film between herself, star of the film, Saul Williams, Guetty Félin from Belle Moon Productions [distributors], and Alexandra Salazar of Creatively Speaking On Air. You can listen to the discussion here.

Briefly the synopsis of the film..

In a tradition where death warns its arrival, Tey recounts the journey of one man’s last day on earth. The role is Saul William’s first lead since SLAM, fifteen years ago. Despite scant dialogue, Williams, acclaimed African American poet, writer, musician and performance artist, brilliantly plays Satché — a man determined to bid a transcendent farewell to his community, family, friends, lover, and wife .

Tey is a powerful fairy tale. In a village outside Dakar, the gods, the stars, or destiny, have spoken — Satché must die by the end of the day. A countdown to his transition, it is a reverse journey to birth – a joyous celebration feted by his community, as if he were a saint. Chosen to disappear, Satché soon finds himself set apart from those closest to him, in beautiful scenes that seek to show those elements of friendship, desire, sadness, affection and anger that are usually left unsaid.

Satché’s journey from the U.S. back to his native Senegal mirrors director Alain Gomis’ own personal story. Born in France to a French mother and Senegalese father, Gomis says about Tey: “For me it’s a voyage… The film was shot in Dakar, this city I love, where I come from… I want(ed) to create suspense with simple moments… an adventure, a film about reconciliation with death — it’s a dream of life.” [From Press Statement]

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Alice and I had a brief email exchange where I asked a number of questions on Haiti’s connection  to the film and Senegal as well as her own personal relationship with Senegal in particular and Africa in general.  As a Nigerian living in Haiti, I wanted to know why so many Haitians are working on releasing the film in the US..

SE: Have you observed any connections between the two countries in the film.

AB: There is no difference aesthetically between the streets of Dakar and the Port-au-Prince I grew up in. The hustle and bustle, the colors of the people and of what they surround themselves with, the cement, the layout of the markets, the headscarves of the women are the same.
But much beyond that, the timelessness and spirituality are the same. The notion that there are higher forces beyond humans, whether energies, gods, spirits, the ancestors or nature that we must be in harmony with. Community is almost a character in the film. Gomis conveys well that sense that we have in our African traditions whether on the continent or in Haiti that family and individual must be in harmony. An African or Afrodescendant divorced from his/her root will loose his/her way. Satché bows to the ultimate end because it is foretold by forces greater than him that he knows look out for the whole.  As a result, he and the community both celebrate that prophecy and he is treated like a god. In this film, death, like birth is announced and celebrated. I often hear African Americans use the word “transition” and I suspect that is the reason.

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SE: What is your own personal involvement with the film, I recall sometime ago you were working in  Gabon?

I was tapped to help bring the film to its natural audience because of my personal and professional connections to so many elements of the film. My parents and I are Haitian but my formative years were spent in the Congo before my family moved back to Haiti when I was 5.

So I lived in the Congo before I lived in Haiti. My father was born in Haiti but died in the Congo at 42, having been exiled from Haiti for standing up for the whole.  There is something akin to Satché’s story there. My brother lives in Senegal and through his  Facebook updates, I look at the place every day.  Guetty Félin of Belle Moon Productions may not have known  all that but she and I had met before and she knew that I had covered Francophone African blogs for Global Voices Online and that having been raised in Haiti, I speak French.

Michelle Materre of Creatively Speaking has been a mentor for 20 years. I first met her when she recruited me as an intern on the US distribution of  Raoul Peck’s film Man by the shore. Oh and last but not least, Guetty Félin is Haitian and Michelle Materre and Saul Williams both have Haitian lineage. So anyone’s crystal ball should foresee a screening of this film in Haiti at some point down the line.

The social media campaign I conducted in Gabon during the 2009 presidential elections marked my first return to the continent of Africa since leaving it at 5. Africa never leaves me. How could it? It’s in my DNA.

Behind the scenes of TEY - Director Alain Gomis with lead actor Saul Williams.
Behind the scenes of TEY – Director Alain Gomis with lead actor Saul Williams.

The connections Alice makes between Haiti and Senegal are familiar. Haiti is possibly the only country in the African Diaspora that continues a visibly strong spiritual, cultural, religious, linguistic relationship with the continent. On my first visit to Haiti in 2007, I was struck and emotionally moved by how similar it was to Nigeria, to Lagos or, in terms of size, to Port Harcourt. The streets, the market, the movement of people,  everyone doing something with so much colour and vibrancy.   I still see and feel these everyday as I walk and tap tap myself  around Port-au-Prince and other cities.    But the relationship goes much further and deeper into our common historic roots. As Alice says, Haiti is in Africa and at least [I could safely say] West Africa is in Haiti, through body language, drum rhythms, voudou dance and the way voudou is embedded in the history and everyday life even for those who profess to be christian. Its so much part of the reality in the same way that indigenous religions, gods, spirits and ‘majik’ are in Nigeria.

TEY-Today Trailer for US release.. from Guetty Felin on Vimeo.

 

The U.S. Premiere of Tey will be held  in NYC at MIST Harlem–Oct 6-13th:  Other events are as follows:
Multi-Award-Winning Film TEY (Today) by Alain Gomis Starring Saul Williams (Slam) Launches its U.S. Theatrical Run
on Sunday, October 6th!
Red Carpet Premiere with Director and Stars in the Heart of Little Senegal

For more details and contacts

Commercial screenings: Guetty Felin Bellemoonproductions AT gmail.com

Educational Screenings: Alain Kasanda apkas AT hotmail.com

Community screenings: Natalie Teter natalie.tey AT bellemoonproductions.com

Screeners, press screenings and interviews: Steffan Horowitz Steffan.tey AT bellemoonproductions.com

Media related issues NY: Michelle Materre & Alice Backer: films  AT creativelyspeaking.tv

Phone contact: 415-375-0670 or 415-935-7013

 

 

 

My grandmother was a fisherwoman………

she used to fish on the Sombrero River and the adjoining creeks but then came the  oil, and  greed, and pollution and war, now most of the fish are dead, fat men and women fight over the overspill of their bellies and men with guns terrorize people trying to live in peace!  This could be a long story and maybe one day it will be but for now….

From Platform London

The picture above captioned as A Niger Delta Village In the 1960s (Before Oil) has sparked much discussion on online forums in Nigeria. While there have been debates about its veracity, what is interesting is the way that it provides a catalyst for people’s memories about the region before oil.

Here is one comment that I find particularly moving and evocative:

As a young Niger Delta boy even in the early 70s such good looking natural environment existed in the Niger Delta.

1. I remembered going to pick periwinkles in the swarms meeting blue coloured water that is reflecting the blue skies in a hot afternoon like that.

2. I remembered especially on a rainy day and especially at night going to creeks with only Calabash and bare hands coming home with good catch of fishes

3. I remembered using such clean (so to say) sea waters tasting salty to soak my garri padling my canoe while returning from Kaa or Iyanaba market

4. I remembered not bothering about tap water every morning to bath to school but jumping into this river like you do in this modern day swimming pole, wash mysely come out robe high scenting pomade and off to school

5. I remembered having my canoe capsided on the sea and I swarm to safety without any polluted water with oil to choke me

6. But I also remembered afterwards on Sobiekiri river many canoes with people on the water, someone mistakenly threw a cigaret stub on the water and it caught fire and so many people were burnt to dead including good swimmers who jumped into the river to see if they could dive past the burning oil on the water

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50 years on and Shell STILL has not cleaned up it’s mess – despite the 2011 UN Environmental Programme’s  [UNEP] damming report on Shell’s and the NNPC activities

The report found that, without exception, all the water bodies in Ogoni was polluted by the activities of oil companies – Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Indeed the report stated that some of what the people took as potable water had carcinogens, such as benzene, up to 900 times above World Health Organisation standards. The report also revealed that at some places in Ogoniland, the soil is polluted with hydrocarbons to a depth of five (5) metres.

The UNEP report revealed that the Ogoni homeland had indeed been turned into an “ecological disaster,” as the Bill of Rights asserted. We remind ourselves that the UNEP report made recommendations that most of us saw as low hanging fruits that government could easily have responded to assuage the pains of the people and commence a process of restoring the territory to an acceptable state. The apparent inaction is nothing but a squandering of opportunities to rescue a people and for impactful political action.

A total clean up of Ogoni land will take a life time or about thirty years at the least. That is the length of time UNEP estimates it would require to clean up the water bodies in the territory. And it would require an additional five (5) years to clean up the land. How is that a lifetime? Well, life expectancy in the Niger Delta stands at approximately forty-one years.

 

 

Stella Damasus on shameless men in the Nigerian Senate

Via Nigerian Curiosity on Child marriage in Nigeria “I wish I had something to add but, this reaction from Stella Damasus shall suffice. For Now” I’ve been thinking on this, its a non starter that is how can this be defended?

“Until these IDIOTS, both men and women, no longer have power, this and other nonsensical, crimional acts will continue to happen. And Nigerians will continue to suffer at the hands of their leaders.

Thank you Ms Damasus. I no fit shout.

Queer interventions – When victories in America’s culture wars become imperial policy

It is nearly  two months since the Nigerian Senate passed the Same Sex Marriage Bill [SSMB 2013]  yet the Bill is still awaiting presidential approval.  It’s not clear why Goodluck Jonathan is dithering over a decision but possibly because of pressure from the European Union, Britain and the US or maybe  its just not a priority.  Maybe the fracas  over the constitutional amendment to remove the  section 29 clauses 4(b) which states that” any woman that is married in Nigeria is of full age” which would include underage girl children who have been forcibly married at age 13.

Thus in Nigeria the forced marriage and rape of children is legal and socially acceptable whilst consensual loving relationships between two adults of the same sex is illegal and morally unacceptable.   Unfortunately the noise on social media on the former has yet to make the connection with the latter.  There are no threats of withdrawing AID over child marriage, no loud noises from Mr Cameron or President Obama or Madam Clinton.   No international lobby against rape of children -well there is an international against violence against women but there too there is silence despite statements of protest by a consortium of  Nigerian women’s groups, The Gender and Constitution Reform Network (GECORN)

Recently the US appointed it’s first ‘openly gay’ ambassador to the Dominican Republic [one of five gay recent appointees] a country used to American interventions.  There has been some protest from the usual suspects – the church and the political right but the DR is a small island nation and like its island neighbour Haiti,  has little realistic autonomy.     In ‘Freedom Gained or Freedom Imposed?’ Emma Rosenberg and Mario Alejandro Ariza consider what happens when a civil victory in the US becomes an interventionist policy underpinned by unequal imperial relationships.  I began to wonder what would happen if the US or the UK, Nigeria’s former ? colonial power intervened by appointing an openly gay, lesbian or transgender person as ambassador.  How would the government and the people respond.  I am sure there would be outrage with screams of cultural and sexual imperialism. Probably the nation would galvanize and millions would march on the streets quoting biblical texts and engage in the burning of flags and effigies of western leaders.  Unlike the DR, same sex relationships are illegal in Nigeria even without the passage of the SSMB, but an ambassador has diplomatic immunity so she or he could not be arrested.

Of course such an appointment would never happen and even though I would be personally conflicted between Nigeria’s right as an independent nation state to self-determination and the rights of LGBTIQ  to full citizenship, it would at least force a public debate which hopefully would include the rights of children not to be forced into marriage.