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Rainbow flag used to represent the LGBTQIA++ and Ghana's National flag

Here's What We Know About #ReleaseThe21, Ghana's Latest LGBTQI+ Rights Movement

#ReleaseThe21 is a solidarity movement that aims to amplify the voices of 21 Ghanaian LGBTQI+ activists who are reportedly still behind bars after being unlawfully arrested 10 days ago during a conference hosted by human rights organisation, Rightify Ghana.

Ghana's queer community has taken to Twitter in a moving demonstration that calls for solidarity following Ghana's latest crackdown on innocent members of the LGBTQI+ community. 21 Ghanaian activists were arrested on May 21, during a conference where paralegals and activists were undergoing training in support of the LGBTQI+ community. The police allegedly barged in during the workshop, took photographs of the members and ceased their possessions before arresting them.

Same-sex relations are criminalised in Ghana, and there are allegations that the media teamed up with police authorities in an effort to stall Rightify Ghana's conference. According to GCN, the 21 activists were arrested on the grounds of an "unlawful assembly" and advocating homosexuality at a hotel in Ho region. Police then confiscated educational brochures on coming out, transgender acceptance and intersex knowledge. Though not clear how all 21 members identify, the statement released by the Ghana Police Service claims that 16 are women and 5 men "suspected to be either gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex". Many Ghanaians have called the arrests a breach of the law, especially considering that none of the members have been granted bail.

Alex Kofi Donkor, the director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which was raided by police at the start of 2021 was deeply by affected by the recent arrests and slammed the police for the homophobic actions guised as a lawful response. Donkor had this to say to Ghana's UniversNews:

"A clear indication of the police inciting hate and violence against other citizens. Which part of our constitution or criminal code criminalises LGBTQ persons such that you will ask that people should report incidents? This is a clear violation of our human rights as equal citizens of this country and it is being perpetrated by the police who have a mandate to protect us."

The police unashamedly stated that the arrests were in line with protecting the Ghanaian public, and in a scare tactic forewarned parents to report any LGBTQI+ events or meetings that support the community. Donkor, according to CNN, emphasised that LGBTQI+ persons are still targeted and singled out from their communities. The workshops then exist to equip queer individuals with knowledge on how to protect themselves and dealing with issues of abuse should they arise.

#ReleaseThe21 gained traction on Twitter soon after the arrests and caught the attention of international audiences. According to Them., Netflix's Pose actor Angelica Ross has used their platform to urge Black Americans to join in solidarity with movement. Wanlov The Kubolor, Ghana's multi-disciplinary artist and activist, is the latest artist to add his voice to the online demonstration. He and shared a video of himself this past Sunday after visiting the 21. The soft-spoken artists rallied Ghanians to advocate for the release of the 21 members and called for the humane treatment of LGBTQI+ people after detailing the deplorable jail conditions in which the 21 are detained. OutRight Action International which is a legal aid organisation, Alliance For Equality and Diversity (AfED) and more Ghanaian LGBTQI+ organisations have been outspoken about the injustice of the 21 and have publicly joined the movement.

Read: Security Forces in Ghana Target New LGBT Rights Group Centre

Efforts by human rights lawyers to secure the release of the detainees were rejected by the Ho Circuit Court. While same-sex relations are illegal the official bill has yet to enter into Ghana's legislation. There is no prohibition against the gathering of LGBTQI+ people and furthermore, the freedom of association is upheld in Ghana's Constitution. The 21 are expected to appear in court on June 4, 2021.

Here are some Twitter responses:


It's Official: British Vogue Has Made 2022 The Year of the African Model

The major fashion magazine's February 2022 issue features 9 gloriously Black and African models - and we can't get enough.

Sigh... The Black Woman.

Legendary fashion and lifestyle magazine British Vogue has set the tone and welcomed in a new era with their latest cover, celebrating Black women in all of their glory. In what is arguably their most diverse, Afro-centric issue to date, the February 2022 issue of the popular magazine features 9 glorious (and Black) African models. Their latest issue, which celebrates "The Rise of The African Model", features South Sudanese models Adut Akech, Akon Changkou, and Anok Yai, Ethiopian beauty Akway Amar, Senegalese-Italian Dibaa Maty, Nigeria's Jumbo Janet, Nyaguaa from Sierre Leone, Australian Abény Nhial, and American model Majesty Amare.

Photographer Rafael Pavarotti captured the group's beauty, and British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful's vision beautifully. On the cover, Enninful says, "I saw all these incredible models from across Africa who were just so vivacious and smart. These girls are redefining what it is to be a fashion model. He went on to speak about the soon-to-be-historic cover on his Instagram, writing, "No longer just one or two dark-skinned girls mingled backstage, but a host of top models took a meaningful, substantial and equal place among the most successful women working in fashion today. It means so much to me to see it."

Echoing Edward's words and highlighting the importance of having diverse models on both sides - the model and the viewer - model Adut told the fashion magazine, "When I first started modeling internationally... I would literally be the only Black, dark-skinned girl in the show. There were no Sudanese models, no African models," the 22-year-old model said, "Now, I go to a show and there are girls from my country, girls from Africa who look like me. So yes, there has been a huge change. It has gone from me being the only one at a show, to 15 or 20 of us. I'm just so happy that we are finally at this place. I was tired of always feeling out of place, and feeling like an outcast."

Social media lost it when the cover dropped, many sharing the emotional impact seeing so many Black models on an international cover has over them.

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Nigeria's Government Has Lifted Its Twitter Ban

We chat to two Nigerians working in media about the restoration of Twitter across the country.