By Melanie Nathan, Dec 04, 2023.
Ghana's Speaker of Parliament, Hon. ALBAN BAGBIN has promised that the new Anti-homosexuality bill, The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, will be passed before the year's end. Now for the first time, and rather late in its trajectory, an influential Catholic Cardinal has spoken out with the possibility of influencing some Parliamentarians against the enactment of the legislation. However it is a complex climate that presents a higher likelihood of the legislation passing than not, especially as the Catholic Bishop Conference has been promoting the new criminalizing bill and its enormous popularity among Ghanaians.
The Anti-LGBTQ+ Bill aims to criminalize people who "hold out" to be LGBTQ+, LGBTQI+ related activities, as well as prohibit the promotion and advocacy of LGBTQ+ content, and provide protection and support for children and individuals involved in LGBTQ+ issues.
Upon visiting Parliament's website, one notes that since the Parliamentary session resumed in October the Bill has been listed on the ORDER PAPERS. Just last week the Speaker, who can barely bring himself to utter the word "homosexuality" for its foul societal odor, again promised that the law would come to the floor this week, as now the Parliamentary Committee has introduced new amendments for debate.
The new Bill, as it stands is fraught with unconstitutionality as it seeks to curb a myriad of freedoms, to include freedom of expression, and goes as far as to criminalize allies and media.
Just this past week Catholic Cardinal PETER TURKSON spoke against the Bill saying that homosexuality, while a taboo, should not be criminalized. He also stated he is against same-sex marriage. His comments come as parliament discusses this week a bill imposing harsh penalties on LGBT people simply for "holding put" as LGBTTQIAAP ( the acronym noted in the Bill).
His views are at odds with Roman Catholic bishops in Ghana, who say homosexuality is "despicable". Last month, Pope Francis suggested he would be open to having the Catholic Church bless same-sex couples. He added, however, that the Church still considered same-sex relationships "objectively sinful" and would not recognise same-sex marriage.
In July, Ghanaian MPs backed measures in a proposed bill, which has still not completed its passage through parliament, that would make identifying as LGBT punishable with a three-year prison sentence. People who campaign for LGBT rights could also face up to 10 years in jail. Gay sex is already against the law and carries a three-year prison sentence.
The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) has submitted a paper to Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs expressing its position on the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, also known as the anti-LGBTQI+ bill.
The GCBC, notably not in line with Turkson, in the paper affirmed its support for the bill’s objective to protect the institution of family and promote proper sexual human rights in Ghana. The Conference believes that the bill aligns with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church and the values held by a significant portion of the Ghanaian population.
“We, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, write in support of the draft Bill presented to Parliament to make homosexual practices illegal in Ghana. Our voice needs to be heard on this matter not only because, in our view, it is morally unacceptable but also because according to the 2010 population census, the Catholic Church in Ghana constitutes a sizable percentage of the population, i.e., about 13.1 percent of the population of Ghana.”
Here is the confusing contradiction: While upholding the Church’s stance against homosexual practices, the GCBC emphasized that the bill should 'not infringe upon the fundamental rights of LGBTQI+ individuals'. The Conference in its paper called for respect and compassion towards all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Surely it is a fundamental rights to have freedom to BE or LOVE whomever you want and to have intimacy as long as it is between adults and consensual. No matter whch way you look at the Bill it robs people of those freedoms and much more...
“…In the view of the Church, it is not right to subject homosexuals to any form of harassment simply because they are homosexuals.”
The Bill serves to license extreme violence - so if the yardstick is harassment - the ideal of the Bishops is far removed from what is realistically possible.
“The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law. Homosexuals must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. So while saying this, there is no escaping that the bill as it stands and probably in any form at all, including the current criminal code, signifies the opposite. Perhaps these words make the Church as persecutor believe its is mitigating the harms. After all in Ghana over 89% are against homosexuality, and over 50% of those are Christian. Over 25% are Muslim and they also have extreme anti-homosexuality views which have impacted the popularity of the abhhorent new legislation.
According to Pope Francis, the homosexual person needs to be “respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, and ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression or violence” (Amoris Laetitia 250). Families with LGBT members need “respectful pastoral guidance” from the church and it's pastors so that gays and lesbians can fully carry out God’s will in their lives (Amoris Laetitia 250).”
Let me be clear as a country conditions expert witness for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers from Ghana, for long as homosexuality is criminalized at all, whether it includes the old penal language or current new found language, there can be no claim for respect and dignity and the basic safety of LGBTQI+ people at all.
Sam George MP at a recent anti-LGBTQ / anti-gender meeting in New York, is disappointed that Cardinal Turkson does not want homosexuality criminalized.
In the same interview yesterday on Starr FM in Accra, Sam George is frustrated that the process of the anti-LGBTQ Bill has stalled; says he doesn't know why the Speaker of Parliament has not call for it [false, he recently did] and the Business Committee have not tabled it. He says maybe some people have tried to stall the Bill's progress; claims it could be passed within 2 hours of consideration. Yet the last time the Bill was read it passed unanimously to the next phase.
He criticized Cardinal Peter Turkson, who this week in a BBC interview said that LGBTQI+ should not be criminalized and that Ghanaian culture have always had LGBTI people.
Sam George and other sponsors of the anti-LGBTQ Bill such as Emmanuel Bedzrah, have said in multiple interviews that Speakers of Parliaments and MPs across the continent are waiting for Ghana to pass the anti-LGBTQ Bill, so they replicate similar legislation in their own country.
So now let us see. This week is the week of promise by Speaker Alban. Let us see to what extent Cardinal Turkson can be of influence for what has clearly been poised for massive support.