This is not the first time such a bill has been introduced in Nigeria, and I have no idea how likely its passage is this time. The bill is certainly distressing. I will offer here a few links to help readers get up to speed on what is happening in Nigeria. The pages referenced have links to other information and opinion.
The Lead is a good place to start: “New bill proposed to further oppress Nigerian gays,” “Nigeria once again considers harshly punitive anti-gay legislation,” “A dumb, depressing document from Peter Akinola and his Church,” and “Nigeria's legal system adequate for persecution.” Be sure to follow links to the Thinking Anglican posts. As noted by The Lead, Changing Attitude has been tracking developments in Nigeria and has a number of news items on the subject. I recommend going to the News Items page of the site and searching for Nigeria bill. Click the “All the keywords” radio button before searching.
The Lead has a link to “Expel the Nigerian Church - Time to Move On,” a post on Pluralist Speaks, and I want to single it out for special mention. The outrage in this essay is more than justified, and the suggested response from the West is surely appropriate.
Thinking Anglicans has posted scans of the two pages that contain the proposed legislation. You can read the text (barely) here and here. For the non-masochists among my readers, I offer a simplified version of the text below.
AN ACT TO PROHIBIT MARRIAGE BETWEEN PERSONS OF SAME GENDER, SOLEMNIZATION OF SAME AND FOR OTHER MATTERS RELATED THEREWITH
BE IT ENACTED by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as follows:
1.—(1) Marriage Contract entered between persons of same Gender is hereby prohibited in Nigeria.
(2) Marriages Contract [sic] entered between persons of same gender are invalid and shall not be recognized as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.
(3) Marriage Contract entered between persons of same gender by virtue a certificate issued by a foreign country shall be void in Nigeria, and any benefits accruing there from by virtue of the certificate shall not be enforced by any court of law in Nigeria.
2.—(1) Marriage entered between persons of same Gender shall not be solemnized in any place of worship either Church or Mosque in Nigeria.
(2) No marriage certificate issued to parties of same sex marriage in Nigeria.
3. Only marriage contracted between a man and a woman either under Islamic Law, Customary Law and Marriage Act is recognized as valid in Nigeria.
4.—(1) Persons that entered into a same gender marriage contract commit an offence and are jointly liable on conviction to a term of 3 years imprisonment each.
(2) Any person or group of persons that witness, abet and aid the solemnization of a same gender marriage contract commits an offence [sic] and liable on conviction to—
(a) if an individual to a term of 5 years imprisonment or a group of persons to a fine of N2,000 or both,
(b) if a group of persons to a fine of N50,000 only.
5. The High Court of a State shall have jurisdiction to entertain matter arising from the breach of the provisions of this Bill.
6. In this Bill, unless the context otherwise requires—
“Marriage” here relates to a legal union entered between persons of opposite sex in accordance with the Marriage Act, Islamic and Customary Laws.
“High Court” to include High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“Same Gender Marriage” means the coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of leaving [sic] together as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship.
7. This Bill may be cited as Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, 2008.
This Bill seeks to prohibit marriage between persons of same gender, and witnessing same, and provided appropriate solemnization of the marriage penalties thereof.
I never read last anti-homosexual bill proposed for Nigeria, but I think this one is, well, less Draconian. That is little comfort, however, since this one is quite Draconian enough. Put simply, entering into a same-sex marriage lands you in jail for three years, and your marriage is not recognized anyway. Apparently, aiding and abetting (or just witnessing) the unhappy couple could land you in jail for five years. (I am utterly confused about how one is to parse Section 4 (2), so the penalties are a bit murky.) You could also be fined, it would seem.
Thinking Anglicans has provided a PDF document generated from a scan of a statement by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). Since the quality of this document is poor, I offer its text below. This is, I believe, a correct copy, with formatting more or less intact. Labels used in lists differ slightly from the original, so, when quoting from my text, consult the PDF if numbering is involved.
THE MOST REV. PETER J. AKINOLA, CON, DD.
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria
POSITION OF THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA (ANGLICAN COMMUNION)
ON THE BILL FOR AN ACT TO PROHIBIT MARRIAGE BETWEEN PERSONS OF SAME GENDER, SOLEMNIZATION OF SAME AND FOR OTHER MATTERS RELATED THEREWITH.
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is a bible-believing church. It sees the world as the creation of a loving, caring and rational God whose wisdom is unsearchable. That he created man in his image is a clear indication that man is the crown and caretaker of creation. In his infinite knowledge, he created them male and female with the injunction to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth …” (Gen 1:28).
The present trend in certain quarters to cast the bible aside and foist on the world a religion that does not have God and the bible at the centre was why orthodox Anglican all over the world gathered in Jerusalem (June 2008) for the Global Future Anglican Conference (GAFCON), which dwelt extensively on human sexual orientation resolving to be faithful to the plain teachings of the bible on this. The introduction of this bill at this stage of national development is one of the best things that have happened to us as a nation.
Section 1 (4) of the bill should be upheld for the following reasons:
- The Bible clearly forbids the practice.
- Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. [sic]
- Leviticus 20:13 “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood guilt is upon them.”
- Romans 1:26–27 “For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions, for their women exchange the natural function for that which is unnatural and in the same way also men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire towards one another, men with men committing indecent
acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. [sic]
- [This item is erroneously numbered viii in the original. It would be difficult to reproduce that error here. Likewise, the next item was numbered ix in the original. Sorry about that. —LED] 1 Corinthians 6:9 “Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkard nor slanderers nor swindlers will intent [inherit?] the kingdom of God. [sic]
- Genesis 19: 1–29 “It was because of the sin of homosexuality that the city of Sodom and Gomorrah was completely wiped out from the face of the earth. [sic]
Any society or nation that approves same sex union as an acceptable life style is in an advanced stage of corruption/moral decay. This bill therefore seeks to shield Nigeria from the complete annihilation that will follow the wrath of God should this practice be accepted as normal in this land.
- Marriage is a creation of God between a man and a woman.
Genesis 1:27 “So God created people in his own image; God patterned
them after himself; male and female he created them. [sic]
Matthew 19:4–6, haven’t you read the scripture? Jesus replied. They record that from the beginning God made them male and female; and this explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. They are no longer two but one; and what God has joined together, let no man put asunder”. [sic]
We must note that it was God who ordained marriage. Since was not invented by man, it must be practiced in accordance with the will of God.
- Those who argue for the legalization of this unwholesome practice on the claims of human rights must first of all recognize and respect the right of God to order his creation the way he wants it. Human rights therefore should not infringe on the right of God to remain God.
- Part of the purpose of God is to ensure that human existence is sustained through procreation. “God blessed them i.e. Adam and Eve and told them, multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1: 28). Same sex marriage is a violation of this divine injunction and will only endanger human existence.
- The world is a global village. The explosion in information technology has made communication very easy. As with every other thing in human development, globalization has both good and bad sides, which are disseminated through the ICT to every nook and cranny of human society. The Harmful effects of the bad side of globalization can have very painful effect on a nation and its citizens. It is therefore the duty of every responsible government to ensure the protection of her citizens from all harm including bad influences.
The presence of gay churches, fellowships and clubs in Nigeria is not only embarrassing but also very unhealthy. The passage of this bill will no doubt ensure that this moral cancer did not destroy the social fabric of our dear nation.
- It is a well known fact that individualism is one of the marks of secularization and post-modernism. This culture which dominates the Western World presently is alien to Africa in general and Nigeria in particular where existence outside the community is inconceivable. The family is the nucleus of any society and its destruction will lead
inevitably to the destruction of the society. Same sex marriage is out to foist on the world a false sense of the family which will bring disastrous consequences to mankind.
This bill therefore will not only preserve the Nigerian families but will also ensure that the community spirit in African does not die.
- One of the Corollaries of same sex marriage is the introduction of male prostitution. For a long time now, Nigeria has had to battle the unhealthy practice of female prostitution because it got to the point of being a national embarrassment. This battle is far from being won. If male prostitution is added to the social problem of Nigeria at this stage of our national development the effect will be very catastrophic particularly to our youth.
Furthermore, we must take note of the various stages of pernicious western influence in our nation and continent. The slave trade dehumanized us, the political colonization humiliated us while neo-colonization has continued to exploit us through imperial institutions/agents like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The present clamour for unrestricted human rights especially in relation to same sex union is yet another ploy to unleash more mayhem on this nation.
Secondly, some places of worship are licensed by our law to solemnize marriage. Our understanding of marriage in Nigeria is that it is a union between a man and a woman. It will no doubt run counter to our constitution should we use places made for the solemnization of a union between a man and a woman to that of people of the same gender.
- The penalty for engaging in same gender marriage should be five (5) years imprisonment each.
- The term of imprisonment for witnesses should be three (3) years.
- Section 4 (c) should be three (3) years imprisonment for an individual while one year imprisonment without an option of fine should be the punishment for group of persons.
Same sex marriage apart from being ungodly is also unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, uncultural, un-African and un-Nigerian. It is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this county. It is also capable of existincting [sic] mankind and as such should never be allowed to take root in Nigeria. Outlawing it is to ensure the continued existence of this nation. The need for doing this is urgent, compelling and imperative. The time is now.
The Most Revd. Peter J. Akinola
Archbishop Primate and Metropolitan
Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
However appalling an Episcopalian might find the proposed legislation, this message from Archbishop Akinola is likely to be even more disturbing. I will offer a few observations about the statement, but I strongly suggest that you read it first. Some random thoughts:
- Can Akinola really believe that “[t]he introduction of this bill at this stage of national development is one of the best things that have happened to us as a nation”? Nigeria must indeed be a very unhappy place.
- My concerns about Section 4 are shared by Akinola. Clearly, the draft legislation is a bit muddled.
- Many have disputed the interpretation of the scriptural passages supposedly touching on homosexuality. I have read more than my share of this literature, but I do not claim special expertise here. Suffice it to say that the interpretations offered by Akinola would be considered minority viewpoints in The Episcopal Church and in many other churches as well. Moreover, some of the points that seem to be made clearly in one or another of the passages quoted seem much less clear in other translations. No serious discussion of these passages can be carried out without analyzing the ancient sources.
- The interpretations offered by Akinola suggest that he is, if not a fundamentalist, then something very close to it. Like all fundamentalists I have known, however, his attitude toward scripture never seems to show the consistency one might expect. Why, for example, does Akinola accept the judgment of homosexual behavior of Leviticus 20:13, yet not accept stoning as a proper response to it? In particular, how can he support a law that offers only a prison term, rather than a death sentence, to a married homosexual couple?
- Akinola has no respect for the United Nations concept of human rights. His argument seems to be that if it says so in the Bible, no law may say otherwise. This is an argument for theocracy, a form of government with a less than stellar reputation. Since Nigeria has both a substantial Christian and substantial Muslim population, the desire for theocratic government has great potential for leading to ararchy and bloodshed. In this case, perhaps the Christians and Muslims can agree, and the views of those of other religions (or of no religion) can be ignored.
- Akinola is not very careful in quoting. Whereas leaving off closing quotes might be thought of as merely a punctuational lapse (as in the citation of Genesis 1:27), his treatment of Genesis 19:1–29 in unconscienable. The passage cited is not the passage that seems to be quoted. Instead, what passes for a quotation, albeit without closing punctuation, is actually an interpretation of the passage, and a widely rejected one at that.
- Akinola’s annotation of the Sodom and Gomorrah story reveals another aspect of his theology. He apparently believes that the sins of a nation will necessary bring God’s wrath against that nation. This idea is either axiomatic—in the end, we’re all dead—or historically falsifiable. The statement that “[t]his bill therefore seeks to shield Nigeria from the complete annihilation that will follow the wrath of God should this practice be accepted as normal in this land” is exactly equivalent to the claim made by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell about how liberals and gays were responsible for 9/11. Akinola’s logic is but one step removed from sacrificing virgins to guarantee a good harvest.
- Homosexual marriage is hardly going to lead to the “existincting” (extinction?) of humanity. What is this man thinking? Fewer mouths to feed on this earth would actually be a blessing, but, for example, two single lesbians are not going to produce more children than two married ones. What is the logic here? (It probably is that the lesbians will simply marry men and reproduce. Get real, Archbishop.)
- In general, Akinola reasons about the harmful effects of not passing this bill, though without explaining or justifying his logic. How he gets from A to B is something of a mystery. How, for example, will allowing homosexual marriage lead to the introduction of male prostitution? First, I suspect that male prostitution is not unknown in Nigeria. Beyond that, however, I would think that allowing gay men to marry would decrease the demand for male prostitutes. Am I missing something here?
- It is clear from this document that Akinola has a good deal of hostility to the West over how his nation has been treated. There is some justification for this anger. The notion that “[t]he present clamour for unrestricted human rights especially in relation to same sex union is yet another ploy to unleash more mayhem on this nation,” is, however, pure paranoia. Frankly, I have no interest in telling the Nigerians what to do with their country. I only wish they felt the same about mine.