Nigerian author and poet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has criticized legislative efforts to further suppress the LGBTI community in Nigeria in an opinion piece for News Wire Nigeria published yesterday.
The prize winning novelist and poet wrote that the so-called ‘Jail All The Gays Bill’ was an anti-democratic measure and that Nigerian society needed to be able to accept difference.
‘why would … anybody choose to be homosexual in a world that makes life so difficult for homosexuals?’ Adichie wrote.
‘The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic.
‘The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust. Even if this was not a country of abysmal electricity supply where university graduates are barely literate and people die of easily-treatable causes and [Islamic terror group] Boko Haram commits casual mass murders, this law would still be unjust.
‘We cannot be a just society unless we are able to accommodate benign difference, accept benign difference, live and let live. We may not understand homosexuality, we may find it personally abhorrent but our response cannot be to criminalize it.’
Adichie wrote that consensual sex between adult homosexuals was a victimless crime and thus should not be punished and that the bill that President Goodluck Jonathan had signed into law was so ill defined almost anybody could find it used against them.
‘A crime has victims. A crime harms society. On what basis is homosexuality a crime? Adults do no harm to society in how they love and whom they love,’ Adichie wrote.
‘This is a law that will not prevent crime, but will, instead, lead to crimes of violence: there are already, in different parts of Nigeria, attacks on people “suspected” of being gay. Ours is a society where men are openly affectionate with one another. Men hold hands. Men hug each other. Shall we now arrest friends who share a hotel room, or who walk side by side? How do we determine the clunky expressions in the law – “mutually beneficial,” “directly or indirectly?”’
Adichie noted that nationalist sentiment ran through many of the arguments made in favor of persecuting LGBTIs but said it was homophobia that was truly ‘unafrican.’
‘It is the passage of the law itself that is “unafrican.” It goes against the values of tolerance and “live and let live” that are part of many African cultures … and it is informed not by a home-grown debate but by a cynically borrowed one: we turned on CNN and heard western countries debating “same-sex marriage” and we decided that we, too, would pass a law banning same sex marriage,’ Adichie wrote.
‘Where, in Nigeria, whose constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, has any homosexual asked for same-sex marriage?
‘This is an unjust law. It should be repealed.’
Adichie is the most prominent Nigerian heterosexual ally to speak out against the criminalization of homosexuality in Africa and is the author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun