«ABSTRACT t is sad to note that the culture of homosexualism which is a I form of sexual perversity has enveloped the world and it has become a canker ...»
PP. 77 – 85
European Journal of Business and Social Sciences, Vol. 1, No. 12, pp 77-85, March 2013.
ISSN: 2235 -767X
AN ETHICAL PERSPECTIVE OF HOMOSEXUALITY AMONG THE AFRICAN PEOPLE
OBASOLA, KEHINDE E. Ph.D
DEPARTMENT OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES
OLABISI ONABANJO UNIVERSITY
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF BUSINESS AND SOCIAL SCIENCESPP. 77 – 85 Introduction The homosexual debate has recently gained more intensity the world over. Even in Nigeria, strident voices are asserting their viewpoints either to affirm or debunk the morality behind the homosexual saga which now pervade the human race to the intent that man is now at the throes of this human epidemic. It is interesting to note that man has lost every sense of dignity and moralism and there is an open declaration by both men and women for homosexual desires. On March 11, 2009, hundreds of gays and lesbians were reported to have stormed the National Assembly apparently under foreign influence to protest against a Bill prohibiting same sex marriage by homosexuals in Nigeria (Umukoro, 2009). They did this under the guise of fundamental human rights.
Interestingly, Archbishop Peter Akinola, the immediate past Primate of the Anglican Communion in Nigeria, was in the news because of his heroic effort against legitimizing homosexuality in Nigeria. The
Archbishop was forthright in condemning homosexuality. According to him:
Despite the protest raised against the practice, even in the Western part of the world, homosexuality as a form of sexual orientation has gradually become a reality, acceptably within the legal framework of many countries. It may be surprising to many to learn that the present President of America, Barak Obama, concurs to the view that homosexuals have a legal right to contract marriages (Obama, 2006:222-223). He believes that to prohibit them will be tantamount to a denial of their fundamental human rights. It is no wonder that in Europe and in America today, many marriages are being contracted among homosexuals and they receive legal protection just like heterosexual marriages. Even though this development may be quite shocking to some, the pressure from the gay fraternity to recognize gay Bishops and Priests is equally making negative impacts. It appears all cultural, religious, ideological and social wall of partition against homosexualism are systematically being broken down, especially in the Western world.
In Nigeria, however, one may not say homosexuals have been able to remove all cultural and institutional barriers. Many are still in the closets, perhaps because of the strong cultural aversion towards the practice. But some are gradually coming out of their closet to assert what they perceive to be their constitutional rights. They want people to recognize them and respect their sexual orientation. They do not want to be regarded as weird and abnormal because of their sexual preference. In the Christianized West, the homosexuals have gradually worked their way into public acceptance, at least, legally. Bur can that be said of Nigeria or Africa where traditional religion still holds sway? How does a typical African view homosexuality? Amidst this debate of the morality of homosexuality, what should be the response of a typical African?
Etymological Connotation of Homosexuality The word homosexuality may be etymologically traced to the Greek and Latin hybrid with homos deriving from the Greek word for “same”; thus connoting sexual acts and affections between members of the same sex, including lesbianism (Wikipedia, 2010). Gay generally refers to male homosexuals, but is sometimes used in broader sense to refer to all homosexuals. In the context of sexuality, lesbianism denotes female homosexuals. Contrary to popular opinion, the word “homosexuality” was coined not by psychiatrists or scientist, but by a person who was fighting for the homosexual rights. It was first seen in public print in 1869 when it appeared in two anonymous pamphlets. Those pamphlets were published as a method of fighting against the criminalization of homosexual sex in the newly formed Federation of the Northern German States. Journalists in the first part of the twentieth century readily adopted the term and made it available for use in everyday while psychiatry circles continued to use the term “sexual perversion" (Wikipedia, 2010).
One needs to point out that while the term “homosexual” was not created until the end of the nineteenth century; same sex love has been practiced since the beginning of civilization. In ancient Greece and Rome, the pairing of same sex partners during the act of love making was not considered out of the ordinary. The disapproving connotations attached to homosexuality began to enter into the thought patterns of Roman society just prior to the emergence of Christianity. But as Christianity flourished, the expression of sexuality for any reason other than procreation was considered very sinful, hence the initial persecution of homosexuals.
During the Middle Ages, the term “sodomy” first came into use to describe homosexual love and according to Marmor (1980:6) it is an ancient phenomenon. It originated from medieval Latin around 1180 as a designation for “crime against nature”. There were three methods by which this crime could be committed: first, by obtaining venereal pleasure with a member of the opposite sex; but “in a wrong manner”; second, by having sex with an individual of the same sex; and third, by having sex with an animal.
From Medieval Latin it passed into the languages of Western and Central Europe as the technical expression for a crime which was punishable by death until the second half of the eighteenth century. Thus, the terms “sodomy and “sodomite” embrace more than just homosexual sex, although most of the prosecutors were for either male homosexuality or beastiality. According to Ahmadu (2001:167) “the growth of sodomy has been so phenomenal that in the West today, about ten percent of the population is involved in gay and
lesbianism”. Furthermore, he surmised that:
Sodomy involves the act of lesbianism which is the erotic drive of female to female. This act has been condemned by various traditions and cultures even though, it is an act which still pervade various societies today.
The Bible and Homosexuality There is a plethora of passages in the Bible that dwell on issues bothering on homosexuality.
Probably, the first reference to homosexual practice is recorded in Genesis 19. Here is recorded what appears to be a homosexual encounter. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah has been described as “legendary” (Geisler, 1991:268). Among their numerous acts of debauchery was homosexual behaviour, clearly demonstrated in the incidence of Lot’s encounter with certain men of the city. They wanted to have carnal knowledge of the two visitors who had lodged in Lot’s house. They inquired form Lot, “where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we may know them, carnally” (Gen. 19:5). It is instructive to note that Sodom became so depraved that the term “sodomy” (apparently derived from the word Sodom) was synonymous with all forms of moral aberrations. Scholars have noted that the sin of Sodom was not simply luxury or inhospitality but that of homosexuality (Geisler, 1991: 268). To try to interpret the passage otherwise is begging the issue and thus would do violence to the plain understanding of the incidence. It is clear from Lot’s vain attempt to appease the sensual appetite of these debased people with his virgin daughters that they were not just after any form of sexual encounter, but the homosexual type. No wonder God’s judgment was unsparing: “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion…They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). It is equally pertinent to note that homosexuality is strongly condemned
in the Levitical Code. The divine disapproval for the act is expressed in judgmental terms:
Such immoral act is regarded as perversion and is totally abhorrent to God. The content of the passage reveals that it was because of such abominable acts of sodomy and beastiality that God judged the Canaanites Lev. 18: 24-25).
Bearing in mind the strong language and the capital punishment meted out on homosexual offenders, it would be right to conclude that God considered homosexual acts a very serious sin and His wrath was not limited to Jews alone but extended to the Gentiles who practiced this act of perversion.
In another perspective, Paul wrote extensively about love, grace and tolerance in personal and interpersonal relationships was critical in evaluating homosexual lifestyle. He employed the most condemnatory language when referring to homosexual practices among the Romans and the Corinthians.
The Romans particularly, had abandoned God and given themselves to lewd practices. Therefore,
Paul referred to homosexuality as an act which is “against nature”; that is, it is unnatural and it is on this parameter that it is condemned as unwholesome and unethical.
However, Bailey (1955) maintained an opinion which is somewhat different from that of the Bible.
He maintained that there are two types of homosexuality, namely, homosexual condition or inversion and homosexual pervert. According to him, “the genuine homosexual condition or inversion, as it is often termed, is something for which the subject can in no way be held responsible. In itself, it is morally neutral like the normal condition of heterosexuality. However, it may find expression in specific sexual acts and such acts are subject to moral judgment no less than those which may take place between man and woman…the pervert as the term suggests, is not a true homosexual, but a heterosexual who engages in homosexual practices. He may do so casually, from motives of curiosity or in exceptional circumstances; or habitually, as a prostitute or in pursuit of novel sensual experiences.