Same-sex relationship among tertiary institution students in Ibadan.

Author:Atoi, Ewere Nelson
Position:Nigeria - Report


The practice of same-sex relationship has over time continued to generate serious debates in Nigeria. Although the furor relating to this sexual relationship has been tentatively laid to rest with the passage of the anti-homosexual bill into law by the Nigerian national assembly, the controversy it has thrown-up is far from over. On September 28th, 2011, Senator Domingo Obende sponsored a bill prohibiting same-sex marriage in Nigeria, saying "the practice cannot be allowed on moral and religious grounds". Thereafter, the bill was unanimously endorsed by the legislators; subsequently, a fourteen year prison sentence was stipulated as the punishment for anyone who violates the law (Ajayi 2011; Ogala, 2011). However, while some groups of people view this law as a gross violation of their fundamental human right, others consider the practice of same-sex relationships an aberration and a blatant violation of the hallowed African traditional cultural values and the fundamental tenets of their religious belief.

Homosexuality, according to Anuradha (2007), is a sexual orientation characterized by sexual attraction or romantic love exclusively for people who are identified as being of the same-sex. People who are homosexual, particularly males, are known as 'gay', while gay females are known as 'lesbians'. This practice has been widely viewed by different societies as abnormal, deviant and/or an abomination; thus, the development of a healthy homosexual identity is often challenged because of the existing social attitudes towards it (Berliner 1987; Cabaj, 1989; Loicano 1989). Laws criminalizing same-sex relationship, according to Baudh (2008), are differently worded as gross indecency, debauchery, buggrey, and carnal intercourse against the order of nature, but juridical measures are more commonly known as sodomy laws. Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, some countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, United Kingdom, South Africa, and others have recognized same-sex unions (Anuradha 2007).

In his discussion of issues that are considered to be of most serious social concerns in Nigeria, Raheemson (2006) observes that human security and the phenomenon of homosexuality and lesbianism in Nigeria are becoming a worrying phenomenon attracting the attention of the religious bodies, concerned individuals, and government organs in recent times. He further opines that the scourge of homosexuality if allowed to continue unchecked portends a dangerous threat to the Nigerian family-life structures.

In a similar vein, Pichardo (2006) opines that in Spain, the issue of same-sex relationship has become the symbolic focus of both the challenge to traditional hetero-normative values and structures, and the public emergence of new discourses of equality, full citizenship and human rights. Izugbara (2004) notes that same-sex sexual relations have currently been reported among young Nigerians, but the practice tends to be more prevalent among adults. Ikpe (2004) on his part submits that same-sex sexuality is more prevalent among the men-folk, but its practice by the womenfolk cannot be totally ruled out. Ikpe further alludes that same-sex sexual activities have been reported in the boarding houses among secondary school students.

Francour, Esiet and Esiet (2000), as cited by Izugbara (2004), observe that Nigerians tend to view homosexuals as sick, subnormal, and dangerous people. Hence, homosexuals dwell at the very margins of respectability in the larger Nigerian public imaginary. Francour et al. further claim that homosexuality is also frequently associated with witchcraft, magic, and the possession of diabolical powers. In a similar manner, Abogunrin (1989) opines that practices such as rape, homosexuality manifesting in gayism and lesbianism, and having sex with animals are not only taboos in Yoruba land and many African societies, but are also regarded as signs of mental illness.

Alexander (2000) contends that homosexuality is a pathology resulting from childhood trauma. Similarly, Cochrane (2004) asserts that the most basic tenet of the religious beliefs is that homosexual activity is always immoral, even sinful. According to him, the sources for this belief are threefold: scriptural and theological, psychological, and prudential. He further observes that through the Old and New Testament, God has revealed unequivocally that homosexuality is an abomination, interpreted either as a sin or a spiritual or mental sickness.

However, Gonsiorek (1982) in contrast, asserts that the sexual preferences of homosexuals and heterosexuals have nothing to do with a psychological disturbance and/or maladaptive behaviours. Cabaj (1989) similarly posits that homosexuals only differ from heterosexuals in that they are aroused and have their needs for affection, sexual fantasies and/or social needs met more often by a same-sex partner. Cabaj further asserts that homosexuality establishes a self-identity that is different from the majority, confront or manage the difficult challenges of heterosexism. Johnson (2011) maintains that the opponents of same-sex relationships often conceptualize marriage as a traditional institution founded upon the central principle of sex difference. In this sense, protecting marriage is not, it is argued, concerned with a denial of rights to non-heterosexuals, but with the continuation of a socially important and distinctive way of life.

Furthermore, Naphy (2004) submits that same- sex sexual behavior is usually not performed in public, and that affection between men is still kept discreet. However, Gaudio (1998) take a different position; he contends that in Nigeria, there are several Hausa gay men, known as "yan daudu", who are openly gay and choose to only have sex with men. Gaudio also notes that the term "kamar mata" (meaning: ''like women'') is used to particularly refer to such homosexuals. However, the Hausa homosexual men are not prostitutes because they view themselves as men, who prefer to adopt behavior and roles considered to be "feminine".

Cameron and Kulick (2003) made an interesting point that sexual desire and intercourse have historically been viewed within a heterosexual understanding and expectations. Gopal (2008), however, argues that homophobia has served as a powerful tool to persuade people in Africa to conform to the heterosexual status quo as prescribed by colonialism. In a related manner, Ntuli (2010) contends that shame has played a large factor in the treatment of homosexuality in Africa and the world. In many traditional African societies shame can severely damage an individual's social standing and lead to isolation, even from one's own family.

Epprecht (2004) observes that homophobia is not only an external attack on homosexuals, but also finds its way into the internal landscape of many homosexuals. The social exclusion that homosexuals face in the societies...

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