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“African governments: just let gays live”
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“African governments: just let gays live”

Oluwafemi Ogunjobi new picHomosexuality is illegal in many countries, but Oluwafemi Ogunjobi, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Nigeria, argues that it is time for African governments to recognise human rights and repeal ‘anti-gay’ laws. 

I was amazed reading Patrick’s story few weeks ago on one of the social media networks. He figured out he was gay at 13, and genuinely thought he was the only boy on the planet who was wired to like other boys.

His whole life, he had been taught that every boy will inevitably start liking girls when they hit puberty. His parents, teachers, sexual education classes, all drilled into his mind this notion that it was only a matter of time until he started getting tingly feelings around girls. So, he waited.

It never happened. His male friends started talking about girls or female celebrities they found attractive. These conversations left him indifferent. He wondered whether he was just a late bloomer or if there was something wrong with him. Then someone brought up the word ‘gay’ (which we’d been using for years as an insult without knowing what it meant) and someone mentioned something about men who are attracted to men. That single comment rocked his entire world. That’s when he realized he had been getting those tingly feelings, except he had been feeling them around boys for a long time.

My case is simple. Gays are human beings like everyone else, and should not be hunted like criminals. I have taken time to read, and re-read the ‘pros and cons’ arguments on LGBT issues, especially what Africa holds against it. In fact, I would be considered an ‘Un-African’ child and a western zealot for pulling weight in support of what some term as a ‘taboo’ and ‘abomination’.

Proponents of legal gay marriage contend that gay marriage bans are discriminatory and unconstitutional, and that same-sex couples should have access to all the benefits enjoyed by different-sex couples. Opponents contend that marriage is traditionally defined as being between one man and one woman, and is primarily for procreation.

On June 26, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the US constitution in all 50 states.

Homosexuality is illegal in 77 countries; it is punishable by death in seven of them. Only Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, and 11 other countries recognize same-sex marriages as legal nationwide. A myriad of legal restrictions exists between these two poles for LGBT individuals in various countries around the world.

In African countries like Nigeria, gays are being hunted like witches in classic movies. In 2013, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill that forbids LGBTIs on our streets. Of course, the homophobic law affects Nigeria’s human rights records. Individuals and state institutions including the police force use the law to intimidate and harass citizens based on their sexual orientation.

The Jail All the Gays’  law bans gay and lesbian marriage and outlaws anyone from forming organizations supporting LGBTI  rights. Openly gay people risk being imprisoned, and citizens who know somebody who is gay must report them or go to jail for five years. Same-sex couples face 14 years imprisonment for getting married, with ten years jail for anyone  involved in the ceremony – even the wedding guests.

Many Nigerians support the law because they believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. The Bible can be the basis for how we choose to live our personal lives, but it cannot and should not be a basis for the laws we pass.

When everyone is treated equally, we are all freer. African countries like Zimbabwe and Morocco need to let gays live. On June 5, two men were arrested and jailed in Morocco for kissing in public.

In a July 2013 HuffPost report, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe described LGBT people as ‘’worse than pigs, goats and birds’’ and threatened to behead them. The African leader – who has an extensive history of violent and homophobic statements – also accused other African countries of tolerating homosexuality because they have become reliant on European countries for aid and support.

Mugabe’s government has frequently targeted members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe. Police in August 2012 arrested more than 40 members of the group inside their Harare office. The group says authorities confiscated computers and pamphlets from the same office a few days before the arrests.

Quoting from U.S. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion; ‘’No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. Marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death; it would misunderstand these men and women to say that they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the law.’’

Homosexuality is not a crime. African governments need to repeal their ‘anti-gay’ laws. There should be an end to laws that violate human rights and give official validation to the harassment of sexual minorities. Human freedom and liberty should be respected and protected. We need a new law that guarantees human freedom and flourishing.

http://mrg.bz/TLYRtI

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About me: I am a purpose-driven Nigerian, student, freelance writer, and youth development advocate. I am continuously involved in productive activities that affect human lives, purpose and dignity.

I am passionate about writing. I seek to bring global headliners together through it, and equally to demonstrate how passionate commitment to excellent reporting and storytelling makes a difference in the lives of people everywhere.  I also love travelling and playing soccer.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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