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Ghana Poised to Pass Law Making Identifying as LGBTQI or an Ally A Crime

By Melanie Nathan, September 06, 2023

The speaker of Ghana’s parliament, Alban Bagbin, has vowed to have the new horrific anti-LGBTQ+ bill passed before the end of 2023. The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has urged the Ghanaian Parliament to embark on thorough engagements with the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana before proceeding with the anti-gay bill. Will this happen given the determination of the Speaker, the example set by Uganda to exclude voices, and the dangers for LGBTI advocates to reveal themselves in such a heightened climate of anti-LGBTI hate.

The new Bill, The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill of 2021, (which we term t\the Anti-LGBTI Bill) has already had two readings in parliament. While the title smacks of colonizing American white Evangelicals, Ghana seems to attribute the Bill to their own values. This Bill if made into law will not only toughen punishments for same-sex relationships and LGBTI rights advocacy, with sentences of up to 10 years, but also ensure simply identifying as LGBTI or an ally is an offense subject to harsh punishment.

According to CHRAJ, while the conversation surrounding LGBTQ+ rights in Africa remains highly contested, authorities should create an open space for dialogue, negotiation, and discussion on these controversial issues.

The institution is therefore calling on parliament to conduct extensive consultations and engagements with all stakeholders affected by the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill to uphold the rights of minority groups and safeguard their dignity.

Deputy CHRAJ Commissioner, Mercy Larbi, who represented Commissioner Joseph Whittal said this during her speech at the Christop Heyns African Human Rights Moot Court Competition at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST):

“It is in recognition of this reality that CHRAJ, as part of its contribution to the LGBTQ+ debate which ensued as a result of the consideration of the Proper Human Sexual Rights and Proper Family Values Bill, submitted a memorandum to Parliament…”

“And strongly recommended to the House to embark on extensive engagements with all stakeholders, including the LGBTQ+ community, to arrive at outcomes that secure the dignity of everyone.”

“CHRAJ believes that it is when we listen to one another as Africans that we can agree to uphold the fundamental rights of our brothers and sisters who may not necessarily look like the majority of the population,” she stated.

Melanie Nathan of AHRC: The Ghanaian LGBTI community had requested dialogue before the Bill's second reading but had been ignored and effectively denied any opportunities to appear in committee hearings. African Human Rights Coalition submitted a written opposition into evidence to the Constitutional Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee in opposition to the Bill back in March 2022. In our opposition we represented the many LGBTQI+ Ghanaians who flee from Ghana to the United States seeking asylum. Our commentary pointed out the country conditions as presented to a U.S. Immigration Court through expert witness testimony of Melanie Nathan, showing the victimization and cruelty experienced by Ghana's LGBTI asylum seekers in the U.S..

Just when one thinks it is only the extreme Christians at play: The Speaker, in response to being ceremoniously conferred in Parliament by the Coalition of Muslim Organizations of Ghana with a title "Saifu-Ilah, which means "the Sword of God, assured the delegation of that the Anti-LGBTI law will be passed by year's end. And such regardless of the voice of Ghana's LGBT community.

It is important to note that what binds politicians of differing faiths is the target scapegoat - the gays! This is where Christians and Muslims join hands in promoting this harsh law. Over 90% of Ghana's populace approves these string measures and politicians know it.

In July, Ghana's Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge seeking to block parliament from passing a stringent anti-LGBT bill, paving the way for its ratification. However, what the speaker ignores or defies is that such a law is unconstitutional and poised to make a fool of parliamentarians if actually passed. It will be challenged in the courts. It robs LGBTI people of inherent rights as enshrined in Article 33 (5) which ensures the freedom and dignity of all people. Lest we forget that freedom of religion insists that relying on particular religious beliefs cannot legitimately prescribe civil law. This law, whether passed or not will make the conditions in Ghana for LGBTI people worse. The very rhetoric of the Speaker adds to the harms currently afoot, causing a mass migration of Ghana's gays.

It is important to note that this law will not only be viciously cruel in terms of the potential for charges and jail time, just for "holding out" (wording in the Bill) as LGBTI or an ally, but also for that which it licenses. Already the existing law licenses state and non-state actors to persecute and commit violence against LGBTI people with impunity. If it is passed - it is likely government will prosecute anyone who identifies as gay or advocates for LGBTI rights, and impose imprisonment. If it is not passed, the populace will react and take its dissatisfaction out on those suspected of being LGBTI. Already vigilante groups hunt and torture gays. This will continue with impunity.

This new legislation, introduced in 2021, indicates the surge in anti-homosexuality climate on the continent of Africa, in general. This year Uganda passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023, otherwise known as The Kill the Gays Bill. After signing it into law, Uganda's President Museveni called on all african countries to lead the world in eradicating homosexuality. Uganda has already arrested the first person, a 20 year old man, under charges of so called 'aggravated homosexuality' which carries the death penalty. Melanie Nathan is a country conditions expert witness in the U.S. and global courts for LGBTI asylum seekers from Ghana and 19 other African countries:

Expert witness page here.


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