"When you marry an African woman, she must know that a second one is on the way, and a third wife ... this is Africa", words probably repulsive to certain sensibilities and recently credited to Kenyan MP Junet Mohammed in an address to his country's parliament.
Over decades past, and especially since the post-colonial/neocolonial era, it has been on record that countless villains and other characters of dubious popularity have used the clause "this is Africa" to justify crimes of a heinous and dehumanizing nature, as well as actions as demeaning as they are disgusting. These people may have contributed in no small measure to the underdevelopment of Africa, but their legacy is quite without the bounds of this short piece.
Junet Mohammed was speaking to his East African nation's parliament in support of a (supposedly controversial) bill that seeks among other things to legalize polygamous associations. This bill has received legislative support and is now awaiting presidential assent to acquire the force of law.
Of course a lot of people have been upset. Several women MPs walked out of deliberations when the bill passed (or perhaps their walk-out helped it pass). But the opposition to the bill has probably been louder from without the borders of Kenya, nay Africa itself.
A United Nations spokesman is said to have voiced the concerns of the UN with respect to the development and to have stated the opposition of the UN to polygamy as it purportedly violates the rights of women anywhere and everywhere. Perhaps. Or not.
I seem to remember however that the United States, along with its Ministry for the Control of Foreign Lands (which we like to call the United Nations), criticized African governments which are opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage in their domains. They said that these African governments were institutionalizing the violation of the rights of gay men and lesbian women to be together. They said that African countries had a duty to legalize same-sex unions, to protect the rights of men who have sex with men who choose to live with their partners in a "civil union". They said this was a moral imperative because some people are born with absolutely no sexual desires for people of the opposite sex but with raging desires for people of the same sex, and that these people also deserve human compassion, etc. They went ahead to "discover" new realities in the field of human psychology to back their claim that some people are born that way. And I agree. Some people may be born that way. But we have not redefined a normal human being as one who is born with cataracts simply because some otherwise normal babies are. Why redefine marriage as union of (two) persons rather than union of a man AND (a) woman?
It is hypocrisy of a very sophisticated order, is it not, for Western powers to insist on the "need" for African countries to legalize same-sex unions which are a very strange concept to us Africans, but deny the "moral imperative" that we have to legalize polygamy which is a marriage form recognized everywhere in the world and practised everywhere in Africa.
While it is the right of every man (and woman) to choose freely who they have sex with, it is also the right of society to be spared the details of the identities of all his consorts. It is the right and obligation of every society to uphold the institutions that define that society, including the institution of the family, defined as a man, his wife (who is a woman), and their children (who are humans of both sexes).
The hue and cry over the legalisation of gay marriage in Africa is an attempt by a minority of individuals to foist their sexual preferences on the consciousness of the majority who do not care for those preferences. I do not think that a man's productivity gets any better because all of society deliberately develops a formal document that allows him to spend some or all of his free time caressing another man, or that a lady's productivity develops any less because society fails to formalize her "union" with another individual who also carries ovaries.
In fact, the level to which this campaign is ridiculous can be likened to a similar hypothetical campaign in which organizers call for society to legalize extramarital affairs, and for "sexual orientation" (whatever that means) to include 'extramaritals mainly'. Because after all, if we must recognize the rights of a few men and women to have sex with themselves and elevate those rights to the status of institutions, why may we not extend the same courtesy to the much larger percentage of the married population who are thoroughly into extramarital affairs?
What makes so much more sense to me is a drive by African countries, led by Kenya in this instance, to recognize polygamy as a form of marriage, to legalize it, and to give it equal standing with monogamy. That is logical because it is practised by many, desired by many more, and distorted as extramarital "affairs" by even much more. That is not to say that polygamy does not have its own problems. The problems of polygamy, though numerous, are not the focus of this piece. And for every problem polygamy has, gay marriage has much more.
If African countries consider it necessary, they may decriminalize homosexual acts so that people do not get reviled or even jailed for "headbutting" people of the same sex. In fact, I am quite in support of decriminalization of homosexual acts with consenting adults everywhere on the globe. Even in outer space if necessary and/or possible. But that is as far as it should go. We have no business equating our sexual preferences with marriage. In our aggressive balkanization of timeless values, we have separated sex from marriage, made divorce a common phenomenon that society tolerates and even applauds (in the case of some celebrities), and insulated ourselves against the natural revulsion one should feel at the thought of single parenting that has not been occasioned by death. We have no business dehumanizing ourselves any further. We have no business redefining marriage in a way that makes a jest of our humanity.
Gay people have a right to exist. Lesbians can cuddle all they want. But being gay should lead to an extramarital gay affair, not to a sorry imitation of marriage - which is a heterosexual union.
The concepts of sex, sexuality, and marriage may overlap in the scope of their meaning, but that does not make them synonyms of the same idea. That other phrase "sexual orientation" belongs to the dustbin of the infamous parts of human history and should be kindly allowed to go there and remain there. Because even if a man prefers to fuck a donkey, his grand joystick was first and foremost designed for parking in that natural garage that every woman has been provided.
So I am happy that Kenyans are leading Africa in telling the world that we have our own ideas when it comes to marriage; that although we all love monogamy because we are Christians and because it presents less complications, we understand monogamy to be marriage between ONE man and ONE woman; and that if we must have an alternative marriage to monogamy, it will be polygamy.
When will Naija follow suit, I wonder?