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.