Legislators in Ghana with unapologetic support from President Nana Akufo-Addo have come up with a new law making life even harder for LGBTQIA+ persons in the West African country, a bill which essentially strips the community of all human rights.
Dubbed the “most homophobic document the world has ever seen”, the 36-page Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021, which is yet to be considered by parliament, would criminalize LGBTQIA+ activities in the religious West African country.
The draft bill also proposes punishment for groups and individuals who advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, express sympathy or offer social or medical support.
Social media has blasted Ghana’s proposed “anti-gay” bill as has the Ghanaian diaspora and the international community that dubbed the west African country known as the Black Star of Africa – a beacon of tolerance and peace.
Karen Attiah, writing for the Washington Post, points out that many African countries have anti-gay laws still on the books from their colonial eras. Ghana, a religiously conservative country and former British colony, has long outlawed “unnatural carnal knowledge,” though the law has rarely been enforced, she recently wrote.
+In recent years, however, a few African countries have started to remove those colonial-era laws. Mozambique did so in 2015, followed by Botswana and Angola in 2019.
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“Not so for Ghana,” continued Attiah. “Local LGBTQ activists told me things took a dark turn in 2019, after the World Congress of Families, a U.S.-based Christian group, organized a conference in Ghana. The group’s goal was to push harsh criminal punishments for LGBTQ behavior, as it succeeded in doing in Uganda and Nigeria several years ago.”
“They confidently said they were going to do the same thing in Ghana” Alex Donkor, the executive director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, an advocacy group, told the Post reporter.
Nonetheless, Donkor’s group, in 2021, managed to open a community resource center for LGBTQ people in Accra. “We wanted a safe space, a place where we could provide support for each other,” Donkor told Attiah.
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But when the center opened and word got out, it was raided by law enforcement, following claims it was a recruitment center for a gay agenda. The center was quickly shut down.
Under the proposed bill those who engage in gay sex could spend three to five years in jail. LGBTQ organizations are outlawed but there is state support for conversion therapy – practices intended to change a person’s sexual orientation. Cross-dressing and same-sex affection such as holding hands can come with a jail sentence of six months to a year, IDN reports.
Supporters and opponents of Ghana’s new bill faced off in parliament last November in the first public hearings into the proposed legislation that would make it a crime to be gay, bisexual or transgender.
Akoto Ampaw, a lawyer representing a coalition against the law, was met with occasional jeers as he told the session the Family Values bill would be “totalitarian” and “unconstitutional”.
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On the other side of the argument, Abraham Ofori-Kuragu, a representative of Ghana’s Pentecostal council, told the tense gathering of lawmakers and media the bill reflected the will of most Ghanaians.
“Our greatest worry is the health and safety of our community members,” Danny Bediako, director of the human rights organisation Rightify Ghana, told Reuters. “I have never seen so many people who want to leave the country.”