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The Specification of Human Rights : An LGBT Prospectus by Chimezie Chika

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I want to specify human rights. This is not an attempt to insult anybody's intelligence. Far from it, I see the need to steer the vehicle of rights agitations on to what i think should be the right path. In doing this a problem must be identified and it is the very acknowledgement and recognition of this problem that sets everything to some kind of fulfillment or actualization.

What we are doing now as a nation is denying what has been a part of us for centuries before the coming of the Europeans. We are currently springing a bouquet of denials and smugly congratulating ourselves for exorcising an 'alien' spirit. What we have neglected in our impetuosity and rashness--or just simply refused to acknowledge--is that even the yardsticks with which we decide what is right or wrong are completely foreign.

This is how a group of devious and mischievous miscreants had begun a vendetta against history. It is like having this beauty spot on your forehead but each time someone points it out, you deny that it's there. How can one deny what is inexplicably a part of one?

What we deny is the very locality of homosexuality here. We would prefer to erase--no, emasculate--the very existence of LGBT here. But at the back of our minds, we hear conscience persist: we recall childhood and adolescent memories of otherness, of peculiarities, of queerness. It is all there in those early friendships and enmities--in all our human encounters. And did we take it for granted then because we were young and 'naive'? Is what we do now right?
The word 'right' is a funny diaphanous one and could, like the famous amoeba, take many shapes and meanings. What is right here could be wrong elsewhere. Cultures thrive on these subtle differences and yet remain dynamic.

Now these clobbering miscreants, who are bent on victimizing LGBT people, and their sympathisers balance their supposed high sense of morality on the pedestal of religion, Christianity and Islamism. I will look at the one i know better. Some 160 years ago Christianity was virtually alien in our clime. It was brought here by 'skinless' people from overseas. Before then our people worshiped many gods and lived pretty fine. Now Christianity came and some made it their own. Now more than a century later some people are using it to judge our characters, erroneously citing Sodom and Gommorah which was, upon closer reading, punished for bestiality. Even then there is a sense in which our diversities should be seen as the wonderful handiwork of an infinitely creative God.

A question that must be asked now remains: is this religion a part of us? Why have we made it ours to such an extent as to guage our actions and inactions by it? Like the risible woman in the proverb who cries more than the bereaved, we have fanaticized and fundamentalized a religion that is not our own such that some people take you to the cross for not going to church on Sunday. I find it personally annoying on Sunday when someone greets me and then proceeds to ask if i went to church, as if going there would all make us acknowledge each other's humanity and right to exist in a diverse world and stop all these misguided clobbering of others from happening. That hardly goes because churchgoers are occupied with other things. The so-called custodians of morality today in our churches are constantly falling short of expectations, especially considering how they have made themselves effigies of purity. It is no longer news, is it, that many sleep with women in their congregation. I have a personal grudge against a religion that has not removed the cataract in its eye before trying to remove that of others.

I never wanted to tell this but i might as well go ahead. Months ago, in January, it came to light that my younger sister was pregnant. It was a trying period for me but to cut a long story short the culprit was a young pastor in a certain church. And here was a guy who hardly makes a full sentence without putting the name of God or quoting the bible. It says a lot about a society where a lot of zealots cannot even live up to what they so vehemently proselytize.

Now, why are we always trying to join the throng? Coming to terms with the LGBT came naturally to me after long hours of introspection. The unsurprising insight that came from that exercise is that these are people like any other. It is we who have chosen to take their existence for granted. Now it's not about saying from smug armchairs that 'Christianity' does not sanction this or that. That is invalid. It's not about saying so stupidly and without any fact, it's not in our culture, for it has been there. History is there to prove it. It takes a little curiosity to clear things up. What comes up after all the sleuthing is that we are dealing with human beings here with human feelings and with as ordinary a motive and cause for living as any other. Why would I like to be friends with a particular person? Is it because he is dark and everybody likes dark people? Is it because she is intelligent and everyone prefers clever people? When I become friends with a person, is it because he eats beans (I don't care what he eats)? Is it because of her sex style or orientation? Such things are trivial. In any case they play second fiddle. I am not your friend because you prefer sex in a particular way. I mean, that hardly comes up at all. Why should anyone spend his precious day imagining another person's sex life? These are non-interest areas. Sex is not why I like Prof. Emenyonu or Prof. Diala or Dr. Leon. I am simply not interested in how they have sex with their wives or whoever. It's none of my business. And the idea doesn't come up at all, why should it? Sex is not why I like Darlington or Johnpaul or Chibuihe or Olisa, that hardly comes up. Then why would anyone be so concerned about another person's sex life that he feels his sexual preference is not right? Why have we not locked up porno viewers, sado-masochists, and all owners of Fifty Shades of Grey and Pirates DVDs if we are so bent on maintaining orthodoxy? (orthodoxy in this context may imply that LGBT is new which it's definitely not. It's a living, fiery, defiant thing, like all visceral feelings that drive humans.) What I am saying basically is that it shows the perversity at the very heart of this ongoing victimization of other people and a gross trampling on their human rights. What matters for each and every one of us, what makes our fallibilities tolerable is the idea of our innate humanness, which brings up the idea of fallibility and imperfections in the first place. These are people such as we are. People who could be anything. People who eat and love and think and laugh and hate. These are everyday people in the streets, in the markets, in the banks.

What is the motivation behind a Reverend Father or Sister's celibacy? Why do we choose to do certain things and not the others? Why do we grovel at a thing for years and then leave it for something else, something deceptively lesser perhaps? The dialectics of happiness and choice is subjective to individual human experiences. The dynamics of the workings of the human mind, their innate convictions and inbuilt orientations, are sometimes beyond comprehension. Our swiftness to involve sex as being at the heart of LGBT identity is a grotesque testimony not only to the despicable perversity--even of the oh-so-smug moralists in the churches--but also of their inchoate understanding and experience. Just as sex operates at the periphery of our lives and encounters, albeit in an important way, that is the way it is for them, for us, for everyone. It is a free thing that has its boundaries.


In lieu of a conclusion, I will refer to a book I just finished: Blessed Body edited by Unoma Azuah. It is a book of real life stories, stories of people we so shallowly condemn. The book shows that we are thoughtlessly condemning our next-door neighbor, sibling, friend, etc. Reading the book instilled a kind of fear in me, a trepidity I can only describe in apocalyptic terms. Before we call for a person's head, let us sit down and reflect for a while and ask ourselves if it is the right thing to do, if we ourselves are not guilty of a fundamental violation of human rights, if we too are not really in very subtle--and not immediately apparent ways--condemning ourselves too. This is the duty, the specifics, of human rights: it encompasses all of us, not a particular group, for we are all humans and nothing else.
Chimezie Chika's works has been published in Brittle Paper, Aerodrome, The Kalahari Review, Praxis Magazine, and several other literary outlets.

Comments

  1. I so much love this piece of work here. I do not know if it's because of the fact that you are a Nigerian, or the way you explained it and judged it critically that me love it more. I am so happy more Nigerians are beginning to view things with their own perceived mindset and not the mindset that was enforced on us.

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