Thursday, 29 December 2011

Debunking the myths: Is majority support of ‘Anti Same Sex Marriage’ bill a democratic license to discriminate against sexual minorities?

"Minority can have their say but majority will have their way" is the new anthem of majority homophobic members of the supposedly enlightened Nigerian community on the issue of the draconian 'Anti Same Sex Marriage' bill. The mere thought that some supposedly enlightened people still think a majority has the right to have its way at the expense of the human right of a minority is really worrying; what enlightened mind would even support such a proposition in this time and age?

Many Nigerians eagerly confuse democracy with majority rule, what a shame and how sad for my beloved motherland! Good old Wikipedia comes to the rescue with some facts about democracy; note the difference between Democracy and Majority Rule. 
Going by this 'ill-perceived' concept of democracy as "minority having their say and majority having their way", I guess the scenarios below would be deemed democratic:-
  • Muslims in Nigeria, who according to the census are in the majority, could vote for an Islamic Nigeria. "Yeah, we Muslims now vote for the adoption of Islam as the official religion in Nigeria, the majority 'Yays' now have it. Gbam!  All hail the Federal Republic of Islamic Nigeria!"
  • The majority physically abled Nigerians could democratically vote for the gassing of the minority  Nigerians living with disability. It's all about majority votes!
  • The majority poor masses could democratically vote to behead the minority rich. Now, that is something to consider; 99% vs. the 1%!
  • The majority heterosexuals should just democratically vote to put the minority homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals in prison. Oh, wait a minute; they are already doing just that and worse, they can even stone them to death!
 Well, I hope you enjoy your majority rule, what a laugh! Still wonder why civilized people always ditch majority rule for true Democracy?

It is funny how many people are quick to point out that even USA does not fully recognized equal rights for gays and lesbians. Guess what? Even USA does not have the perfect democracy! What does USA and Somalia have in common right now? Well, it is the shameful fact that, of all the members of the United Nations, only USA and Somalia have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As it is, the majority are holding back the ratification in USA based on religious beliefs and ignorant reasons against the treaty. Indeed, there is a strong danger to humanity when the majority holds power and same majority are religious bigots.

 It is an established fact that ALL HUMAN BEINGS HAVE INALIENABLE RIGHTS, these rights cannot be taken away from the minority by the majority. The question really goes beyond the elementary “What is majority rule”? It moves towards a deeper debate on “Do we accept majority rule or do we have a duty to protect the rights of the minority even when we are not in the minority?”. 

This debate had already been settled at the UN roundtable in 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, but again, Nigeria is always lagging behind, but better late than never! Welcome to the 21st century, the age where Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. This type of freedom, which is connected to human or the capacity to begin anew, sees democracy as "not only a political system… [but] an ideal, an aspiration, really, intimately connected to and dependent upon a picture of what it is to be human—of what it is a human should be to be fully human. Welcome to the humane world, if you don't like it, you are free to retreat back into the cave; NO, you can’t drag us into the cave with you!

Many self righteous, indignant homophobes lament that the minority LGBT community in Nigeria and  international LGBT allies are forcing ideas down the throat of the majority homophobic Nigerians. Well, let us not forget that it is a group of lawmakers, in conjunction with clergymen and religiously influenced majority that are forcing their religious beliefs down the throat of an oppressed minority; in fact they want to put that minority in jail for 14 years and LGBT rights supporters behind bars for 10 years and in fat some are glad to just stone Homosexuals, Bisexuals and Trans. How barbaric, talk about the Stone Age!

I find it really ridiculous how some Nigerians are quick to scream "If you don’t like the laws of Nigeria, then stay away from the country, there is no two ways around it". Well dear, as it happens there are more than two ways around it. It is my country; I am not leaving it for nincompoops to destroy.

When homophobes suggest that Nigerian lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals should leave the country and seek asylum abroad if not comfortable with the votes of the majority, I just wonder at the state of their sanity! So, every oppressed person should go and queue up at the British or USA embassy, waiting for asylum visa? And who says Britain or America has the duty to grant every asylum seeker a visa or refugee status? Are you advocating that people should turned refugees and asylum seekers because of discriminatory, oppressive, religious rules in their country? What about fighting for equal rights for all citizens and freedom from discrimination? Some brave ancestors fought for freedom from slavery, some fought for an independent Nigeria, some of us fought for our rights to vote and yes, I inhaled enough teargas and was hauled to various police detention centers, in an attempt to get the military out of power and make way for a democratic country. Do you think ignorant, religious fanatics are going to chase me away from my country now? You thought wrong, dear! I am going to tell the lots of you where to stick your religious bigotry, just take it out of my bedroom and the federal constitution I so dearly fought for!

I have no problem if anyone believes in a God, worship a blue eyed blonde on a cross, make sacrifice in a shrine or believe snakes are gods; it is simply not my headache. However, it becomes my business when people use their religious beliefs to stand in the way of my freedom and obstruct access to my inalienable rights. The fact that majority of Nigerians believe in the tenets of religion and the "sinful" nature of homosexuality does not mean I am duty bound to follow the majority belief. If majority Nigerians who are Muslims decided that Nigeria should be an Islamic State, would the majority vote make it a right and fair decision?  Would that not be a breach of the human right to Freedom of Religion? Would the minority be right in opposing this majority vote or would you say the majority has spoken and that is final, especially if you are a Christian?

It is easy to use the majority trump card when you are not personally affected, but a revolutionary activist knows that it is not only when you are affected that you demand a change, but also whenever an injustice is perpetrated. Justice is not about popularity, it is a fight for a JUST cause, whether by majority or minority! 

Is silence a meaningful tactic of Nigerian socialists?
It is indeed saddening and unfortunate that many Nigerian Progressives are not out supporting the oppressed Nigerian Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals. Many self professed Nigerian “left” in defense of their non support of LGBT rights often claimed that it is not a majority struggle. Well, majority of Nigerians do not believe in socialism or communism, they would rather have capitalism or a reformist version of capitalism but does that stop the minority socialist left from clamoring for a socialist state in Nigeria? NO, it has not, so why is it an excuse to not fight for LGBT rights?

While socialism is not an inalienable human right but an ideal some of us strive for, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and transsexuals’ rights are already INALIENABLE HUMAN RIGHTS.  LGBTs are Humans and already have these inalienable rights! The problem is, because of RELIGION, IGNORANCE and INTOLERANCE of diversity, those in the majority want to take away these rights from lesbians and gays in Nigeria. We are saying Lesbians and Gays are not sub citizens, we are not sub human, therefore no one should deny us our inalienable rights. Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans do not gather to debate and vote on the right of heterosexuals to marry another consenting adult, why assume heterosexuals have the right to debate on marriage right of sexual and gender minorities?

Sometimes I find it difficult to differentiate between religious fanatics quoting their holy books and some Nigerian socialists quoting and most often misquoting and misinterpreting Karl Marx. I am indeed relieved to have met other socialists around the world who understand what it really is to be socialist and the tenets of socialism.

Socialism is not just about overthrowing capitalism but about creating a better, equitable and fair world for all to have equal access to resources which most definitely include equal right to life, freedom from discrimination and freedom of association. If we do not share the same vision for a world free of oppression, where equality reigns supreme, then we do not share the same vision of a socialist world.

Unfortunately, it seems that some Nigerian "true Marxists" need the support of the majority so much that the oppression of the minority does not matter. To those 'Marxists', the minority are dispensable, sacrificial lamb in their vision to rule the world with their scripted Marxism. They lament," if majority is not supporting LGBT rights, it is not worth fighting and dividing the majority for”, and of course they prefer to sacrifice the minority gays and lesbians just so they could dine with the majority.

What I see is not a tactic but probably conscious inaction. Frantz Fanon said ‘Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor’ and as Desmond tutu also said “When you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressors.” Which side is the majority of Nigerian Left/Progressives on?   

Seek the sympathy of the majority?
Vocal Gay rights advocates are often told to seek the sympathy of the majority rather than demand for their rights. Well, ‘Sympathy’ is not the word, ‘RECOGNITION’ is!

Rights are not gained based on sympathy; hardly is power relinquished voluntarily. People always had to fight for control of power, in this case the majority holds the power, and many have chosen to use it tyrannically against the minority, sympathy is not what would take that power away!  We must appeal to logic, protest and take a stand to demand recognition and enforcement of the recognized law that all human beings are born equal in rights and dignity, this is what would give us the recognition we deserve and that itself is a revolution. Yes, a minority can carry out a revolution; a struggle against oppression is in itself a revolution whether supported by the majority or carried out by the minority.

Funny how some Nigerian socialists now conveniently say ‘Genuine human right can only be assured to man only when capitalism is overthrown and socialist society is established." I remember how many human rights activists, student activists, left progressives and yes socialists marched and demanded at various times in the history of Nigeria for the Right to Education, opposed hike in school fees, protest for the right to vote in a capitalist state, demand freedom of Association and Freedom of Expression; how come the idea of "Let us first have a Socialist state before demanding for these rights did not occur then?" Is it just a case of “Minorities are the ones affected now, we can afford to ignore them in our pursuit of a socialist state"?
The goal of socialism is not about overthrowing Capitalism, it is about building an egalitarian society, overthrowing capitalism or any other existing oppressive system is only a MEANS to an END. You can overthrow capitalism and still not have an egalitarian society. I stand for an egalitarian society, which in my opinion is best achieved through a socialist state, obviously some Nigerian socialist just stand for an overthrow of capitalism, without any interest in egalitarianism. Equal rights are not equal until everyone has equal rights whether in a Freudian, Capitalist or Socialist state.When the government's boot is on your throat, whether it is a Left boot or a Right, is of no consequence!

Fuel subsidy removal: An excuse not to fight for LGBT rights?
LGBT rights are rights, not just any rights but CORE HUMAN RIGHTS. No core human right should be above or below the other. The anti fuel subsidy removal fight is a fight against further impoverishment of the people. ‘The people’ encompasses all sexual orientations.

Let no one make no mistake about it, there will be lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals marching in the rallies against fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria. The big question is, would LGBTs and allies be allowed to hold banners that read ‘NO TO ANTI SAME SEX MARRIAGE BILL’ during fuel subsidy removal protests? If I was in Nigeria, I definitely would be part of such protests; however one side of my protest banner or T-shirt would read ‘SAY NO TO FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL’, while the other reads ‘SAY NO TO ANTI SAME SEX BILL’. Would my safety be assured in that mass protest? Would some ‘comrades’ demand my SILENCE on the anti same sex bill on the pretext that it is a fuel subsidy removal protest and not an anti gay bill protest?

As an activist,  I have marched alongside people with differing views; I have protested alongside avowed Christians who carry placards that reads “Proudly Christian, Proudly gay”, I didn't scream “NO I’m an atheist and all religion is oppression therefore you cannot march in a protest I am organising!”.

Some oppression unites us all especially economic oppression of the masses however violation of human rights of ANY ONE should unite all progressives. LGBT rights advocates are not saying our demands be prioritized above the fight against economic hardship, we are demanding that our human rights as LGBT be not SUBSUMED or DISMISSED. The Nigerian Progressives silence and disregard for the right of Nigerian sexual minorities is very 'unprogressive'; it is retrogressive! It is however a silence that must be broken and a truth that must be told.

It is disheartening that many Nigerian Left/Progressives are trying to paint this fight for LGBT right as a diversionary tactic meant to take attention away from ‘pressing’ economic problems in Nigeria. 

I am an Atheist but if there was a bill in the National Assembly propagating that Christians or Muslims be put in jail for 14 years for practicing their religion, I would be at the forefront of a campaign to oppose this flagrant violation of human rights and our constitution, but so also would many so called Socialists because that would be a majority struggle. However, I wouldn't be opposing the bill because it is a majority struggle but because it would be a violation of human right. It matters not the quantity of people involved, an injury to one is an injury to all.

I hope we all take the important step forward to be all inclusive in our fight against all forms of discrimination and oppression. I find it totally disappointing that many Nigerian "socialists" cannot understand that this is a human right issue, and therefore paramount. It does not stop anyone from fighting fuel subsidy removal or asking for workers rights, afterall many Lesbians and gays would be the first to have their workers’ rights violated because of their sexual orientation. Let us stand up for LGBT rights as human rights, it does not make you less a socialist but more of a respecter of equality; a major tenet of socialism.

Some Nigerian Socialists  once said, “ Nigeria  has economic problems , we can't avoid to demand for equal rights for women now”, these excuses were used by some people touting themselves as socialists some few years ago when gender rights and affirmative action was put on the progressives’ agenda in Nigeria. Now I see same people using same excuse to justify the oppression of a minority. “Violations of human rights of lesbians and gays are not as important as economic development for the majority!”.

Let us understand that we are all HUMANS first before any other tag whether Man, Woman, Heterosexual, Homosexual, Socialist, Capitalist, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Rich, Poor, Bourgeoisie or Proletariat. If you have no respect for inalienable human rights, you got no business touting deluded economic package for all especially since your economic package excludes lesbians and gays, or didn’t you know that with this bill, homosexuals do not even have the right to life, shelter or even right to work and earn a living?

Tell me, if your right to marry, raise a family and freedom from discrimination at work are all taken away, would you not be on the street protesting? well if you said yes, you would not protest, then I might consider not fighting for these rights for myself and the oppressed minority in Nigeria, but truth be told, whether any other person accepts oppression as normal, that won’t stop me from fighting against any form of discrimination whether it comes from the majority or minority, from the 99% or the 1%, oppression is oppression, no other name for it and all oppression must be opposed!

Self imposed ignorance, bullying and creating awareness
The new tag for vocal gay rights activists in Nigeria is Bullies! Well, some of us are now called bullies for demanding our human rights! Hmm…I am a bully because I am not crawling to the majority to beg for my right? How ridiculous!

Many Nigerians had never even heard the word SEXUAL ORIENTATION or BISEXUALITY before this bill came up, pointing people to scientific body of knowledge, research and evidence on these issues does not make us a bully, we are sharing information and knowledge, not bullying you!

Anyone could be ignorant about a particular area or subject in life, for example, I hold a Masters of Law in Gender Sexuality and Human rights, I am not an expert in for instance, Maritime Law. I wouldn't think it is offensive or an insult if someone said I am ignorant on Genetics biology! It is a statement of fact, not an insult. I wonder why many Nigerians think being called "Ignorant" on something they are not knowledgeable on, is an insult?

Ignorance in some aspects of life and subjects is inevitable, but what is inexcusable is self imposed ignorance. When you are provided with evidence, superior logic and facts and you still chose to cling to your myopic opinion, now that is bigoted and self inflicted ignorance.

When you are presented with scientific evidence that Homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder and it is as natural as sex, skin colour, eye colour or left handedness, something you are born with but because of religious, personal or cultural beliefs, you still chose to ignore the evidence and still went ahead to demand that people be victimized and criminalized for their sexual orientation, that makes you an ignorant bigot and a bully!

Those of us who believe in EQUAL RIGHTS AND JUSTICE FOR ALL will keep on fighting for HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL; it does not matter whether we are a majority or a minority because LGBT RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS and that is the beauty of democracy, not your majority rule!

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