Posted by By Valentine Obienyem on
With the present agitation for same-sex marriages, one is at a loss on whether to say categorically that marriage often takes place between a man and a woman. With its legalisation in some countries, some are still scratching their heads in perplexity.
With the present agitation for same-sex marriages, one is at a loss on whether to say categorically that marriage often takes place between a man and a woman. With its legalisation in some countries, some are still scratching their heads in perplexity. Though we hear of "contract marriage" to achieve certain aims after which the marriage is dissolved, marriage is supposed to take place between two individuals of opposite sexes who love each other.
Often, what constitutes this love is hotly debated. To some, it is a question of the two individuals understanding each other; to some in its truest sense, it is a profound natural tenderness and affection. One of my friends always view marriage and love peculiarly, and is wont to say: "If nobi for pickin, wetin person dey find for another person's yash." To him, procreation is the beginning and the end of marriage and the real reason why people of opposite sexes should confess to loving each other. To St. Thomas Aquinas, love is the -expression of what he called "intersubjuctivity". Diderot describes love as "The voluptuous rubbing of two membranes" and "the voluptuous loss of a few drops of liquid", what Lucretius similarly called "erotic befuddlement," the spark thrown off by the contact or nearness of two opposite bodies. In Plato's Symposia, love has so many rungs up to the Platonic. The Greeks divides love into: eros, philos and agape
Without affirming the general opinion, including those of the philosophers, I align with the school of thought that says that love is simply the ability to understand one another. When you do not understand the person you are relating with, but claims that you are irresistibly attracted to him/her, to me, is an aspect of irrationality and this is when and why some say that love is "blind." Marriage built upon such love simply implies trying to bind a man and a woman together almost for life because sexual desire has chained them for a moment. This is why I have often said that marriage should not be entrusted to the myopia of passion or the accident of proximity/propinquity or hormone, or infatuation, or exchange of fantasies, induced by the fever of sex capable of precipitating a union doomed to disillusionment and bitterness.
Marriage built upon such a haphazard and transitory condition is ridiculous.
This piece is not the "metaphysics of love", but I am prompted to say the foregoing because of the tale of a friend of mine who insisted on marrying an HIV positive lady on the ground that he loved her to madness in spite of the protests by his common friends. Of course, I made it clear to him that such "Romeo and Juliet" idolatry refreshes the idea of love being blind, not allowing you to see reality in a rational manner. Thus, when my friend who is preparing to get married came to inform me about his progress so far, I jokingly asked him whether he had checked his serostatus (HIV) or whether he would not mind that because now was the stage at which the flame of passion normally sets the minds of many afire. Now is the time some are not inclined to listen to dissenting voices, which they rashly see as not interested in their progress. However, I must confess that I was pleased with what my friend told me. I only wish to repeat it for the benefit of those of us who are yet to marry.
My friend said that the basic thing he found attractive in his girl was her character. This reminds one of the story of a French Prince whose parents tried to arrange marriage for, in the era of "marriage de la politic". As one of the strategies to facilitate his acceptance of their choice, they told fantastic tale of her natural endowments thus: "Her neck is alabaster, her breasts are marble, her hands are ivory: and snow would loose its whiteness near her bosom", etc. When they finished, the pious Prince said quietly, "If only she has good character." The lesson implicit in this tale is that we should not allow external, fading qualities to blind us from seeing the essence of the one we desire to marry. This, as he put it, is the reason why he went for a professional secretary rather than a medical Doctor that had been in his mind. Having understood this, I was convinced that my friend is on the right track.
Though my question was on HIV status only, he assured me that he had already concluded arrangement to also determine his genotype and that of his intended wife. Implicit in this arrangement is the fact that if medical findings as represented by the tests turn out unfavourable, the two will not get married after all. This, of course, may cause temporary agony - the agony of separation. But would a wise person prefer a temporary agony such would induce or a life long agony which the failure to carry out necessary tests or obeying the medical advice flowing from such tests would bring? It is saddening when, in this time and age, you still see people suffering from sickle-cell anaemia. Even if it was a blind love that made the parents to insist on getting married in spite of… the prospect of the agony of giving birth to sicklers that will certainly bring sorrow to them in future ought to clear that blindness.
Like other things we do, the preparations for marriage requires that we tell each other the truth, nothing but the whole truth. I have heard some people say that if they tested positive, they would hide it from their partners and go ahead with the marriage. This is one of the heights of wickedness and shows the instinct of one capable of killing without qualms. In electing to go this way, certain things are foreseeable: (1) that you will certainly communicate the disease to your partner, that is, if you have the discipline to "zip up" until marriage (2) that your children will likely be HIV positive with the prospect of dying at infancy, and (3) that you and your wife, in the absence of antiretroviral drugs, may likely die of AIDS. Though you have the transcendental option of praying and fasting for miracle to happen or for the cure for HIV/AIDS to be discovered, but that does not in any way mitigate reality.
But as I write, it dawns on me the level of distress it causes one of the partners if he suddenly discovers that he cannot get married to his fiancé on account of genotype, HIV or any other congenital abnormalities. The question now is: What should be done? Here, I do not intend to, and will not, moralise.
To avoid the situation being described, one of the realistic measures to take is for everybody to undergo voluntary HIV test as to know one's serostatus. I even understand that National Action Committee on AIDS does it free. There is every need for NACA to intensify the campaign of enlightenment, to let the people know the benefits. Rather than die of AIDS, those that test negative can be put on antiretroviral drugs that could stagnate the growth of the virus.
The problem that many people have with AIDS tests is the fact that the drugs are very expensive for the critical mass of the people to afford. The logic is sound, if one cannot afford the drugs, why do the test? This is why the federal government should further subsidise the drugs for even truck pushers to afford and this would also encourage people to do the tests. Apart from the problem of giving birth, with early detection, HIV becomes like some other protracted sicknesses, such as diabetes that require discipline to manage.
Some are ashamed of being diagnosed of HIV because of the social implications. This should not be so. The fact is that sex is part of the human constitution that once health is guaranteed, food eating, the pious minority spares time for God, while the rest for woman. Thus to be on a safe side, I enjoin those preaching continence and faithfulness. In any case, there is always the allowance of infection through the accidental contact with the blood of the infected through other means.
Once one does a test and comes out triumphant, he will certainly be more careful. If a survey is to be carried out, it will be discovered that some are reckless about their sex lives because they are not sure of themselves. In the light of this, it is suggested that organisations should arrange for voluntary AIDS tests for their employees and respect the privacy of those who consent to be tested. AIDS is spreading like a wide fire because Nigerians take so many things for granted.
• Obienyem, a lawyer, writes from Abuja
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This is a great piece of history, which is dear to our hearts as people and very much appreciated.
Many thanks to the people who worked hard in the past and those who are still making efforts to keep the institution.
The labour is obviouly worth it. We are proud of you all.
A lot still to be done, with the motivation of the champions of this course, others will follow as well to maintain the institution
May God continue to keep the edifice for development of future generations to the glory of God and the benefits of our fatherland.