A controversial bill criminalizing same-sex relationships is making its way through Ghana's parliament.
Over the past few months a number of rousing events have taken place surrounding the small but growing LGBTQ+ community in Ghana. Earlier this year we reported on #GhanaSupportsEquality, a social media campaign that was sparked as a result of increased backlash the LGBTQ+ community began to face from members of Ghana's society who are strongly opposed to the rights of the community.
In March, the headquarters of Ghana's official LGBTQ+ support group called LGBT+ Rights Ghana was subject to a raid by police, after the center became the target of a furious public backlash. That led to the forced closure of the center, which had opened barely a month prior. Following the raid, LGBTQ+ Ghanaians and their supporters began to push back, fighting for the rights and equality of the highly marginalized group using online advocacy, fundraising, and other means.
Recent developments have seen the presentation of an anti-gay bill in Ghana's parliament that criminalizes same sex relationships and other activities associated with the LGBTQ+ community. Named the "Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill", the 38-page bill proposes the following:
1. Up to five years in prison for LGBTQ+ Ghanaians
2. Forced medical procedures for intersex children
3. Jail terms for family members and teachers who fail to report gay relatives and students
4. Jail terms for public displays of same-sex affection or cross dressing
5. A 10-year jail term for LGBTQ+ advocacy
6. Criminalizing the distribution of material deemed pro-LGBTQ+ by the press
All this and more are contained in the draft of the bill presented before parliament, and that means that it isn't just LGBTQ+ Ghanaians who are in danger of being targets of such harmful legislation. Even allies of LGBTQ+ Ghanaians, human rights activists, or anyone at all who shows support or renders any form of help or protection to gay Ghanaians living in Ghana could be arrested.
This morning, I was interviewed by @Claire_McDonald on the @BBCWorld programme #Newsday on the Bill my Colleagues and I have sponsored on the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/jRyu1uzju2— Sam 'Dzata' George (@Sam 'Dzata' George) 1635261095
Samuel Nartey George, the Ghanaian politician spearheading the bill with the support of seven other members of Ghana's parliament has been in both the local and international news for his strong advocacy of the bill. In an interview aired on BBC's Newsday program he defended the bill, stating that the bill is a reflection of the opinions and feelings of the majority of Ghanaians as well as the values and norms of Ghanaian society.The politician trended on Twitter following his articulate defense of the bill, seen by many to have one-upped the hosting journalist with his eloquent and witty responses.
The popular and controversial bill is currently awaiting a debate and vote in parliament. An exact date for those events to take place has not been established yet, but circumstances indicate that it will happen in just a matter of weeks. Ghana isn't the first African country to introduce anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, with such laws already existing in countries such as Nigeria and Uganda. But these proposed laws are the harshest seen by far.
The issue is highly polarizing, with the bill seeing strong support from members of Ghanaian society on one hand, and adamant opposition from LGBTQ+ Ghanaians, human rights activists, and the international community on the other. There has also been a high level of public response to the bill. Several known figures have come forward to publicly declare their support for the bill, including politicians and high-ranking members of Ghana's religious organizations of both Christian and Muslim faith. Roman Catholic Archbishop Philip Naameh told CNN that being LGBT is against Christian and Ghanaian values and that it could make the Muslim population of Ghana a majority and potentially turning Ghana into an Islamic State.
I am gravely concerned by the draft anti-LGBTQ+ Bill due to be debated by the Ghanaian parliament. I will be speaking with the Archbishop of Ghana in the coming days to discuss the Anglican Church of Ghana\u2019s response to the Bill. \n\nMy full statement:https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/news/news-and-statements/archbishop-canterburys-statement-ghanas-anti-lgbtq-bill\u00a0\u2026— Archbishop of Canterbury (@Archbishop of Canterbury) 1635247420
However, the international community doesn't share the same views, with the likes of the UN Human Rights Council, British religious figures, and more condemning the bill and even tweeting their support and concern for the community. A US State Department spokesperson told CNN the US government was concerned with the increasing rhetoric and actions that threaten the LGBTQ community in Ghana.
Ghana is a nation that has over the past few years become increasingly invested in tourism. The country is top of the list of African nations advocating for African Americans and other diasporas of African descent "returning home". The government of Ghana has even reportedly offered incentives such as immediate citizenship and other special accommodations for those who decide to make the country their home, whether the migrants' heritage has been traced to Ghana or not. 2019's "Year of Return" initiative championed by the Ghana's Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture saw 1.1 million tourists make the trip to Ghana for the holiday season. That figure included thousands of individuals of the African diaspora visiting for the first time, some of which even resolved to make the coastline country their home, if not immediately then at least sometime in the future.
Ghana's proposed anti- LGBT legislation is unacceptable and must be resisted. It would promote fear and intolerance, putting the freedom of so many people under threat. We are all love equally by God. My prayers are with the LGBT community in Ghana at this time.— BishopSarah (@BishopSarah) 1635239594
This was largely possible due to Ghana's reputation for being a peaceful nation, and one that asserts being exemplary in Africa for its respect for human rights. But with these recent developments it looks like that is slowly beginning to change, as the passing of this anti-gay bill into law could put this marginalized group and others at risk of imprisonment and more, completely and fully backed by the law. The bill passing into law could also see the violation of a significant number of human rights, a huge contrast to the nation's reputation. It also puts Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, a former human rights lawyer himself in a difficult position, as the world waits with bated breath to see not just the outcome of parliament's deliberation and vote, but the decision he will take once the controversial bill lands on his desk soon afterwards.