Tuesday, 9 June 2009

World's First Lesbian Prime Minister

Couple of days ago Iceland joined the league of nations that has taken it upon themselves to teach the rest of us a lesson on tolerance. That was barely a week after the United States of American elected its first ever black president. These two incidents may not ring a bell in the ears of all of us but for those who have gone through the pains of racism, intolerance and apartheid, these incidents is a dream come true for their quest to see a world where men and women would no more be judged on who they are but on what they can contribute to human development. Simply put, by the content of their character.

Former air hostess Johanna Sigurdardottir who is 66 and an openly lesbian and who was until her appointment was the Iceland's Social Affairs Minister was selected to lead Iceland until elections in May. The Social Affairs Minister became interim PM on Monday, following the resignation of the Cabinet after taking the blame for the collapse of the country's economy.

The mere fact that Iceland has got this courage to allow a Lesbian to lead them is a testimony to common sense that time has come for us to stop judging people by the colour of their skin, their creed, religion or sexuality but by the content of their character. This is also a testimony that every individual despite their creed, religion, colour or sexual orientation has got that innate ability to be the best they could be when given that opportunity.

Considering all these one begins to question the rationale behind the recent bill passed by the Nigeria’s National Assembly to stifle the rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in that country often tooted as the giant of Africa and mirror of the black race. It is not only unfortunate that the National Assembly has the audacity to welcome the homophobic bill presented to it by the Presidency to punish lesbians, gays and bisexuals but a big shame that the Assembly went a along way to consider this obnoxious Bill despite the fact that there are many other issues that demand urgent national attention.

Part of the expectation of the Bill is to punish severely whoever is canvassing for same sex marriage, promoting it, sponsoring it or taking part in the marriage either in Nigeria or abroad and to punish severely lesbians, gays and bisexuals who exhibit their sexuality with punishment of up to five years in the prison.

I have no doubt that issues surrounding sexual affairs should be left for individuals to decide upon with the state setting only the guidelines on how it should be conducted. For instance, though I have got the right to marry any girl of my choice, the state in as much as they are morally obligated to respect this my choice, should be able to provide me with a guideline on how this should be done to avoid infringing on the fundamental human right of the girl I so much desire to marry. In this case the state is expected to come up with regulations on how this should be conducted. For instance the state in a bid to safeguard the right of the girl child to a normal teenage life is morally justified to come up with a law that would prevent me from marrying that girl if she is below 18 years and should also punish me if I contravene this law.

In the same vein two same sex adults who agreed to have sex, should not be punished for their choice but should be protected by the state since the main locus of the sex is a prior agreement and consent between two of them. The state can only punish this form of relationship in the event of rape or when one has a carnal knowledge of his same sex partner who is below the age of consent in the state or having carnal knowledge of someone without their consent.

A nation like Nigeria is made up of various interest groups ranging from religious, atheist, agnostic, commercial, ethnic, sexual and many other groups and therefore the state is under obligation to protect all these interests and especially to ensure that the minorities are not unduly victimised by the majority. The state should also protect the interest of religions but should not allow religious groups to impose their beliefs upon those who agreed not to believe in anything or do not share their beliefs.

The state should also go a step further to uphold that right if I choose to be an atheist. Religion and religious matters should be made to be a very private and personal issue and the state should be ready to protect me from whoever wants to infringe on this my fundamental human right and make it clear at all times that the foundation of our democracy is not built upon any religion but on secularism, fundamental human rights, respect and tolerance for others and above all the pursuit of happiness.

The argument the National Assembly advanced forward in going forward with the Bill is that being a lesbian, gay or bisexual is not part of Nigerian culture. These we have heard over and over again but how does one explain that even though this is not part of Nigeria culture, we still have gays, bisexuals and lesbians in different parts of the country and in every aspect of its life including the Executive, Legislative and Judicial arms of the Government, churches and in a nutshell everywhere. What then could be referred to as Nigerian culture? Is it corruption?

In the middle of the 1980’s when the first case of HIV and AIDS was reported in Nigeria, the first reaction of the then Government and of course the nation was to completely deny its existence claiming that it was a Whiteman’s disease. Before we could know it, the so-called Whiteman’s disease had affected about 3.5 million Nigerians and continues to wreak havoc on our young population. But the most agonising part of the whole drama is that despite huge human resources we have both here and abroad, no single person has had the audacity to sue the Federal Government for the initial denial that led to this present day AIDS and HIV epidemic in the nation.

It is also a shame that this single episode has not taught Nigerians a good lesson. Bearing then in mind the bitter lesson we are learning from our initial responses to the HIV and AIDS epidemic, it is a shame that no single Nigerian has mustered the courage to challenge both the Presidency and the National Assembly on the effect their homophobic stand would have on the future of the nation, especially as it relates to the war against HIV and AIDS.

The impact of this proposed legislation is that many lesbians, gays and bisexuals would have their fundamental human rights trampled upon simply because they are gays, lesbians or bisexuals. Many of them could lose their lives in the future either by being attacked by homophobic people or by committing suicide since their lifestyle does not have any form of protection under the law. But the most agonising part is that the current fight against HIV and AIDS is likely to be a complete failure, if nothing is done to accommodate gays, lesbians and bisexuals under the law. Let me illustrate this in a very simple term, a bisexual who indulges in sexual intercourse with both men and women is likely to end up transferring the virus from his male partner to his unsuspecting female partner.

Research conducted in countries with a very strong homophobic attitude, noted that it is only a microcosm of gays, lesbians and bisexuals that are ever identified or known due to their strong tendency to deny their sexuality throughout their entire life for fear of public opprobrium towards them. In addition, due to high levels of illiteracy and ignorance in homophobic and third world countries, many gays, lesbians and bisexuals have a strong culture of unprotected sex amongst themselves. This is partly because they believe that same sex love can never transmit Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The implication of this is that they will continue to live in the closet putting themselves and others at risk.

There is no point in denying the reality. And to completely deny the existence of gay life and culture in Nigeria or use stringent measures and laws against them would never help the situation but would only go a long way to aggravate the already bad situation. By the way how are we convinced that putting them in prison for five years would return them non gays or lesbians at the end of their incarceration? On the contrary the Government should at least be working towards creating a conducive environment for lesbians, gays and bisexuals by providing them with legal protection under the law.

It is the function of the Government to break down all the walls of barriers and discrimination that still exist in the nation by emphasising what people can contribute towards the nation building rather than who they are. And for Nigerians who do not see anything wrong in discriminating against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, they should also not be offended or shocked when they are denied employment in any part of the country based on their ethnic group, religion or any other stereotype.

A number of Nigeria’s religious leaders headed by the Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Rev. Peter Jasper Akinola, have continued to inculcate in the minds of their congregations a fascist-type victimisation, annihilation and hatred against lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Akinola by spearheading this war has positioned himself as the most holy one forgetting that this war may not be compatible with his office for the bible rightly says that thou shalt not judge for the vengeance is mine. The question we must ask ourselves here is how is Akinola and his cohorts living up to the expectation of their model, Jesus Christ. Discriminating and not accommodating them is obviously not one of the ways.

The essence of this note is therefore never to cast aspersions on religion or anybody representing it but to point out that things are not going the way they should go. Imposing our lifestyle on others would obviously not change them. Accommodating and respecting them would surely. And for those who are going to crucify me for the stand I have taken, I have no regret and have just one message for them. I do not care for I am a staunch believer in that yet to come Nigeria, Africa and the world where and when individuals would no more be classified or judged based on their colour, race, ethnic group, religion, creed, belief or sexual orientation but on what they can contribute to the development of the nation and the entire human race.

And the quickest way to break all these artificial boundaries and barriers is by creating a Commission that should be charged with the power to severely punish any individual, group or establishment engaged in promoting any form of discrimination or hatred against others. This Commission could be called Commission For Equality or Equal Opportunity Commission or whatever name we chose at the end of the day. It should have a tribunal status with the responsibility of trying and bringing to justice those promoting these discriminations and hatred.

Finally I strongly suggest that the members of the National Assembly should bury their heads in shame for neglecting the main issues affecting Nigeria to focus on issues that brings ridicule on the name and image of the People and Government of the People of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As we hail Iceland, we desperately call upon Nigeria and especially the third world country's to borrow a leaf from Iceland and the entire world. By suppressing the right of others, we have a lot to loose.

2 comments:

  1. Meanwhile Johanna Sigurdardottir was eventually elected as a Prime Minister following her leftist coalition's April 25 electoral win. Miss Sigurdardottir, 66, with the victory ended the 18-year reign of Iceland's centre-Right Independence Party after it collapsed in January amid political chaos and an economic meltdown that brought the tiny island nation to the brink of bankruptcy. The victory for the alliance of Social Democrats and the Left Greens is the first time the left have held power since the Icelandic Republic was founded in 1944.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Also in Houston, Texas in the United States, a lesbian, Annise Parker was elected a Mayor. Parker placed first in the November 2009 mayoral election, but failed to capture a majority of the vote. She defeated attorney Gene Locke, the second-place candidate, in the December run-off election. Upon taking office as mayor in January 2010, Parker will be the city's second female mayor, as well as the first openly gay mayor of a major American city. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States and the largest city in the state of Texas.

    ReplyDelete