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The Verdict: Gays need help, not rights

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In the face of the hard times we are going through, the last thing we needed was some distraction that would consume our energies, waste our time and leave us needlessly drained.

It is sad that instead of pooling our brains and directing them towards addressing issues like the gaping resource holes and declining quality of public services, we are busy debating whether people have the right to be abnormal.

At the risk of angering my family and employers whose time I am wasting writing about homosexuality, I will allow myself the luxury of discussing an issue that, truth be told, is material for pub talk, not an agenda for a struggling nation of 15 million people.

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First, let’s address the obvious and basic issues about relationships. For all the pious talk that people make about romantic relationships and marriage, the bottom line is that we want to be in love with a woman or a man to have sex and bear children.

In the hypothetical event that these crucial elements of relationships were removed, love and marriage would collapse in an instant.

For the vast majority, a relationship with a person of the opposite sex would lose its essential meaning and value.

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Some would argue, and rightly so, that if one wants love that is stripped of the romantic attachment, then brothers, mothers, sisters and other relatives would provide it in abundance.

All this boils down to one important but overlooked fact in this hullaballoo over homosexuality: Romantic relationships are possible because the people we fall in love with on the opposite end of the sex equation have the necessary and purposely designed anatomy to meet our needs.

In simple and basic language, a man possesses what a woman doesn’t, making it possible for the ‘unlike terms’ to meet and satisfy each other’s needs. Because this is the natural order of things, we know the organs to use when we want to engage in meaningful sex.

Unless one is out of their minds, you would not penetrate your partner’s eyes, ears or nose because the right ‘gadgetry’ is there on his or her body. Now throw gays into the equation, and you will understand why I am saying that their ideas are an abnormality.

The point I am trying to stress is that homosexuality is an anomaly, not a human rights issue. Yes, gays, like all of us, have the right to live and enjoy the opportunities that life offers. I will not rob them of this right.

However, to have the right to live is not the same thing as having the right to be an anomaly and abnormality. To illustrate this point further, let’s take the example of the mentally retarded.

No doubt, they have every right to live like the rest of us because they are human beings and Malawians who are fully protected by the Constitution, but they don’t have the right to be mentally retarded because this is a disease or health condition, not a right.

Unless I am missing something, I am yet to see laws that protect abnormalities.

Laws protect and safeguard human beings as well as the normal and accepted ways of living. If anything, people with such conditions need treatment, counseling and other forms of support, not rights.

If we take the issue of gays from this perspective, we will see that whether homosexuality is inborn or acquired is immaterial. Regardless of its origin, the fact is that it is an anomaly, a deviation from what is normal.

If, for argument’s sake, two homosexual men engage in sex using the passage we use for passing bodily waste, then what should concern us is their health, not their right to harm themselves. This, therefore, becomes a health issue.

I have heard some people say that we should leave gays alone because they harm nobody. Well, it depends on how you define harm. Is it not harm when people insert their sex organs into all the wrong places on their partners’ body? Ask those versed in matters of health about this.

You may also say that when people threaten the foundations of the accepted ideas and ways of life that govern our societies, they are harming us. For me, the definition of harm that underpins the arguments of gay advocates is rather shallow and misleading.

You will also hear others saying that in regulating what are purely private matters— conducted in the secrecy of the bedroom— government is overstepping its mandate by invading a zone that should be left to individuals to inhabit.

In response, I would say that government has a duty to save some people like gays from themselves. Where people blissfully harm themselves, government cannot look on helplessly in the name of safeguarding rights. In this case, government is the necessary evil.

Let’s also recognise that, in this complicated and multi-coloured world, rarely are there what you may call universal values and ways of doing things. What is good and acceptable is a function of context, history and shared thinking.

In the face of all these obvious facts about homosexuality, it puzzles me why we are misdirecting our energies by focusing on the misplaced argument that government should decriminalise gay liaisons.

For practical reasons, I understand government’s strategic ambiguity to keep the laws in place but spare gays the rod. For government, this will keep the majority of Malawians on its side while also ensuring that the Global Fund does not close its aid taps.

That is what is called practical thinking. It is premised on achieving the delicate balance between principle and pragmatism.

My verdict is that we have more important things to do than engaging in academic debates that leave us no better or wiser. After all, when all is said and done, gays need help, not rights.

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