LGBT and Ghana flag on concrete wall

LGBT and Ghana flag on concrete wall.

Photo: Getty Creative Images.

Ghana’s LGBTQ+ Community Faces Increased Backlash During Pride Month

The marginalized community fights an uphill battle for acceptance as lawmakers push a bill that criminalizes the group’s existence.

The month of June is well known around the world as Pride Month, a month dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities all around the world. However, in Ghana, intolerance of the LGBTQ+ community and its members is at an all-time high. In November 2021, we reported on an “anti-gay” bill that had begun to make its way through Ghana’s Parliament, a bill criminalizing the very existence of LGBTQ+ individuals as well as LGBTQ+ advocacy.

The controversial bill which was titled the "Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill" proposed up to five years in prison for LGBTQ+ Ghanaians, forced medical procedures for intersex children, jail terms for family members and teachers who fail to report gay relatives and students, jail terms for public displays of same-sex affection or cross dressing, a 10-year jail term for LGBTQ+ advocacy, criminalizing the distribution of material deemed pro-LGBTQ+ by the press, among other harsh legislation that puts LGBTQ+ individuals and their loved ones at risk of falling victim to state-sanctioned discrimination or worse.

The bill marked what at the time was the peak of the backlash that the community faced last year. Such backlash included the forceful closure of the headquarters of Ghana’s official LGBTQ+ support group by security forces, as well as the arrest of 21 LGBTQ+ activists during a conference addressing human rights treatment of LGBTQ+ people in the country, on charges of “unlawful assembly”. Now in June 2022, despite increased LGBTQ+ advocacy as well as a public show of support by several influential public figures and well-meaning celebrities across the world, the marginalized community is facing backlash yet again, which has escalated during the year’s biggest month of LGBTQ+ advocacy and support around the world.

Starting from the anti-gay bill which appeared to have stalled since it’s introduction into Ghana’s Parliament late last year, politians invested in the success of the targeted legislation are attempting to force the now notorious 38-page bill into passing. Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, a Member of Parliament representing Ghana’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) political party brought the bill to the House’s attention during a meeting on June 8th. He expressed suspicions that the passage of the bill was being intentionally delayed, and stated that he along with other members of his political party would resist any other bill that comes before Parliament until the anti-gay bill has been acted upon, even if those bills aim to bring development to their respective communities.

In other news concerning the community, to mark Pride Month, LGBTQ+ activists mounted billboards in Accra and two other cities with various inscriptions in an attempt to promote LGBTQ+ tolerance in what is quickly becoming a hostile environment for queer and trans folk. However the giant posters sparked public uproar, prompting conservative Members of Parliament to call for their destruction. Samuel Nartey George, the Ghanaian politician and lawmaker championing the anti-gay bill led a coalition to mount pressure on the police to tear down the billboard, which was successful as the billboard ended up being torn down after just days of being up. Alex Kofi Donkor, director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana condemned the act and served notice that LGBT+ Rights Ghana will seek redress for the act in court, as the billboard was sponsored by the organization and he believes it being pulled down was unlawful.

Also taking place during Pride Month, litigation has been initiated seeking redress for discrimination against LGBTQ+ community members and activists. Three out of the 21 LGBTQ+ individuals who were arrested by members of Ghana’s police force during a LGBTQ+ human rights conference in Ho, Volta Region have come forward in a lawsuit against the Inspector-General of Police as well as Ghana’s Attorney-General for unlawful arrest and detention. They were arrested and detained, being released close to three weeks later after being denied bail four times. An intersex individual who was also part of the 21 also came forward in a separate lawsuit, filing a motion against the state for harassment and abuse.

Over the past few years Ghana has become West Africa’s go-to destination for tourists all across the world, especially for members of the black diaspora wishing to connect with their roots. The crackdown against the country’s LGBTQ+ community comes at a time where the country’s president Nana Akufo-Addo is reaching out to African-Americans as well as the Ghanaian diaspora to encourage people to return to their ancestral country. However, the fight for gay rights in the country continues, as the notorious and potentially harmful bill that has polarized the Ghanaian public inches closer and closer to being passed.