"We must share this story – to bring awareness, as to criminalization and the homophobia and transphobia that drives it. Often resulting in obscuring the lines between justice, law and how it is used to hunt humans and persecute." Melanie Nathan, Executive director African Human Rights Coalition.
Police in Ho, Ghana, have arrested 21 Ghanians at a meeting, “suspected to be members of the LGBTQI community,” the majority of whom they have identified as women.
The police arrested the suspects at the Nurses and Midwives Hotel. They were said to be in possession of some literature which the police insist shows they’re gay people holding an unlawful assembly. The law in Ghana criminalizes "unnatural carnal knowledge," which is used to go after the LGBT individuals. The suspects were arraigned before the Ho Circuit Court, charged with unlawful assembly.
To be a member of the LGBTQI community is no grounds for arrest, even in a criminalizing country. And so the old trick of calling a legitimate conference or meeting, an “unlawful assembly,” is purposefully used to oppress an individual’s right to attend, regardless of the subject matter, where in reality sexuality is of no relevance, under the law. Sexuality is only criminalized under Ghana Law if the person is in violation of the criminalizing penal code. Additionally, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons are discriminated against and persecuted by state and non-state actors, to include family members and religious leaders.
Section 12(2) of Chapter 5 of the Constitution of Ghana provides that, "Every person in Ghana, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinion, color, religion, creed or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this Chapter but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest." However the anti-LGBTI sentiment is so high in Ghana that not only is this ignored when it comes to LGBTI individuals in the country, individuals and gatherings become targets, as can be noted from these and prior arrests.
Section 104 of the Ghanaian Criminal Code of 1960 contains provisions criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual acts between males. Under Section 104(1)(b) "unnatural carnal knowledge" with consent is considered a misdemeanor. Section 104(2) defines "unnatural carnal knowledge" as "sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal." Under Article 296(4) of the Criminal Procedural Code, a misdemeanor shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.
One may challenge the views on the illegality of lesbian sex under Ghana law because lesbian sex may not fit this definition in a given instance. The law also applies to straight people who have anal or oral sex. Though the state does not interfere in the private lives of straight people, and nor does it arrest straight people at conferences.
It is known also that government officials, such as police, engage in such acts of violence against lesbians and gays and so these arrests are extremely worrisome, with reports of torture and rape frequent.
One can note from the way the police official has written the Press Release, below, that actual charges noting an actual Penal Code section, is not cited at all. Rather the motivation for the arrest is clearly revealed and documented. They mention the nature of the literature at the meeting, which reflects on subject matter of the meeting, and that in and of itself is not against the law. So even in this press release they fail to show a legitimate arrest or that they have a case against those detained. Its a witch hunt. Lets call it what it is!
This group has been denied bail and have been remanded to reappear in Court on June 4th.
Over 30 Countries in Africa criminalize LGBTQI people and persecute similarly. We must share this story – to bring awareness, as to criminalization and the homophobia and transphobia that drives it. Often resulting in obscuring the lines between law and how it is used to hunt humans and persecute. Please contact your political representative wherever you live and share this story with them. Ask if they are willing to get involved with African Human Rights Coalition in calling for an end to worldwide criminalization of sexuality. If they want to sign on they contact Melanie Nathan at nathan@AfricanHRC.org
By Melanie Nathan
Thanks to Marc Cohen for his assistance.