Senate and same sex marriage

 By Dapo Odebunmi
Now that the other shoe has finally dropped in the signing into law of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill by the Senate, it is more important to react to the column featured in Viewpoint on October 13, 2011. As a matter of fact TWO shoes dropped this December as the United Sates also ended the ban on gays being in the military.

 Your article could not have put it better how our representatives in Abuja squander precious time and money doing next to nothing; or worse they distract us from their ignominious failure to give unity, traction and direction to the government of the day by pursuing inane issues that have no immediate bearing on the wellbeing of the helpless Nigerian. More disturbing is that their position on the issue of same sex relationships is ill-informed perhaps by ignorance, bigotry or most likely laziness, which stopped them from checking their old-world sentiments with the cold, hard facts.

 However, as much as I agree with you that any two adults (or more than two, if they so wish) can choose to be in any sort of emotional/sexual arrangement, which is clearly protected by their Right to Association, your article did not put the necessary balance on the issue based on some salient backgrounds. Again, as much as I would have appreciated that you pinned your position solely on the issues of human rights, your need to provide empirical data did become your Achilles ' heel.

 Whereas on the facet of fundamental human rights, the legislators may have overstepped their boundary on the private affairs of two consenting adults, but your article quoted them taking a position on same sex marriage, not same sex affairs (quote: it would be unthinkable to, for instance, to refer to two of his male colleagues as husband and wife). Marriage, beyond being a relationship, is also a legal contract with provisions beyond the participants.

 That is the position I would expect the representatives are concerned about. Besides, in a democracy, legislation can neither sit on the fence nor keep silent. Legislation must take a position. If the Bill has been brought before the House, it must take a position. Sometimes these positions are wrong and stand the risk of being amended or even repealed in future. But this is the very essence of democracy. It is the same reason the US government took a position by lifting the ban.

 While you made references to the reality in nature, you seem to leave out the basic fact that many human laws that are the bedrock of our civilization are specifically to protect us from some of nature's harshest conditions. Nature is brutal and she has only one law: Survival, of both the individual and the species. Whereas homosexual behaviour has been documented in the wild, it is never an exclusive sexual contact performed by such individuals (unlike what we see in humans who claim they are exclusively homosexual) and it always, always serves as an instrument to maintain order, especially in social animals. The only exception to this rule of any mammal has been observed in a tiny percentage of domesticated sheep.

 If the survival of a species is not guaranteed, Nature simply takes that species out of the way. In mammalian context, if heterosexual sex is not practiced successfully to have a generation to replace the dying, we may very well be on our way to extinction. A recent example is the fighting dog of Cordoba. Bred for hunting and dogfighting, this animal was so aggressive that its individuals would rather fight than mate. The species simply became extinct within the last century. Nature is neither patient nor has a conscience.

 Demographers confirm that below 2.1 children per woman, a population simply goes into usually irreversible decline. Ask Russia, Japan and much of the EU. Any extensive practice of non-reproductive sex literally kills us. And since marriage also confers other legal rights to the couple, should the law grant equal access to child adoption to homosexual partners when we are yet to see what effects such family settings will have on the child?

 I notice that in your support of the right of the homosexual, you made reference to a helplessness similar to that of a hermaphrodite or androgen. I am certain most homosexuals will disagree with you. The conditions you mention are indeed quirks in the building blocks of nature that are inherited by the hermaphrodite and androgen - one is a mutation and the other a hormonal production that goes into overdrive. People who have 'chosen' to be homosexuals do not claim to suffer from these conditions.

 Why I am also very careful of such comparison is that as humans we possess the unique ability for judgment and choice, which is absent in other animals. Androgens or people born with the XYY gene have not been shown to succumb to their inherent nature and commit more crime or violence than the average individual despite having more testosterone that should predispose them to it. Many of them have indeed channeled this energy to become great sportsmen, explorers and soldiers. So the theory of predisposition versus choice cannot be fully reconciled.

 We must agree too that most of our laws (even those inherited from our colonizers) are not based on any empirical fact. In fact most laws are passed in line with a people's collective sociocultural, moral, ethical or religious compass. For example, in Europe (Spain in the 16th Century) and America (in the 17th), the provocateurs of the abolition of slave trade - which we all applaud now - were Christian bodies that had neither economic advantage to gain from abolition nor the forensic tools to be certain that homo sapiens was indeed a single species regardless of its obvious outward diversity and that therefore its members ought to be treated equally. But is it not an irony that the same Christian bodies that supported Abolition laws, with no knowledge of psychiatry or modern science, supported the killing of many women for practising witchcraft at about the same time? Lawmaking is not an exact science.

Odebunmi writes from Lagos.

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