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Ghana LGBTQ+ rights
Illustration Callum Abbott

Ghana’s LGBTQ+ community refuses to be silenced by anti-gay bill

A draft law aims to ban LGBTQ+ organisations, legalise discrimination, and make LGBTQ+ people to pay for their own forced conversion therapy

In February 2021, the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana was yet again subjected to state-sanctioned violence when the Ghanaian police raided and shut down an LGBTQ+ centre in Accra Ghana, due to uproar by homophobic politicians and religious leaders.

Now, just a few months after this horrific incident, there has been a doubling down on the violence against the LGBTQ+ community; a group of lawmakers in the Ghanaian parliament have set out to criminalise queer lives and advocacy in the country, through the introduction a bill titled, Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights And Ghanaian Family Values Bill.

Politician Samuel Nartey George and the seven other parliamentarians who presented this bill are hopeful that their private members bill to ban advocacy and make LGBTQ+ people pay for their conversion therapy will be passed into law in six months. According to George, “homosexuality is not a human right. It is a lifestyle choice. A sexual preference”.

Alban Bagbin, the speaker of the House of Parliament, has assured the law makers that he is very positive that the bill will be passed into law. “I am very clear in my mind that the Parliament of Ghana will pass this bill,” he said in a statement . “I have gone through all the provisions of the constitution, laws, and international obligations.”

If passed, the legal implications of this bill will operate to outlaw LGBTQ+ Ghanaians, and strip them of their fundamental human rights, which are enshrined in chapter one of the Ghanaian constitution. It’s set to direct a horde of violence against queer  people, and is so far reaching in its bigotry that it extends beyond criminalising queer people to include the criminalisation of allies.

Many activists and organisations have spoken out against this bill and rightly termed it unconstitutional. “The bill criminalises everything from queer individuals to activists, from allies to donors, from organisations’ existence to operation, and it will also ban businesses from providing services to both LGBTQ+ persons and organisations,” Danny Bediako, the director of human rights organisation Rightify Ghana, tells Dazed. “Also, it will legalise discrimination and urge people to report LGBTQ+ people to the police and opinion leaders.”

“Another disturbing part of it is that it will legalise conversion therapy and make it the only option to avoid jail in most cases,” continues Bediako. “The bill even urges parliament to amend Ghana’s current Extradition Act to make it possible for countries to return accused LGBTQ+ persons to the country for prosecution. It is a dangerous bill not only for the queer community, but for heterosexuals who engage in anal sex, oral sex, use sex toys, or cross dress.”

The bill, in many instances, pathologises the existence of LGBTQ+ people by – among other things – making them synonymous with the rate of AIDs infection in Ghana, consequently presenting them as the cause of a public health crisis. On the strength of that misrepresentation, the bill co-opts and turns upon its head international human rights instruments, policies, and fundamental principles in an attempt to appear as if it’s achieving them. For instance, the memorandum of the bill cites Goal 3 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as its rationale. It reads: “The bill aligns with the intended outcome of the SDGs, in particular Goal 3, which is to ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’.”

Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi (AKA CrazinisT  artisT), a trans woman, artist, and the director of Profocraze Artist Residency in Ghana, says: “This bill will definitely affect our daily lives, activism, and advocacy. It seeks to silence us and take away our voices.”

Additionally, the Promotion of Proper Human Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill will punish LGBTQ+ people who engage in sexual intercourse with a jail term of seven years. The bill will criminalise LGBTQ+ advocacy via electronic media, mass media, and print media, with those who go against this facing between five and ten years in prison. It criminalises every identity that is not consistent with the binary categories of male and female. The bill will institutionalise conversion therapy and enforce queer people to pay for it. It will disband associations, centres, clubs, and organisations that cater for LGBTQ+ people, and issue offenders with a six-year minimum prison sentence.

“It is a dangerous bill not only for the queer community, but for heterosexuals who engage in anal sex, oral sex, use sex toys, or cross dress” – Danny Bediako, Rightify Ghana

However, the Ghanaian LGBTQ+ community remains resilient, and is standing up against hate. According to Abdul-Wadud, the communications officer at LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana, the community is mapping out ways to tackle the bill.

“We are currently developing a strategy to fight the bill,” Wahud tells Dazed. “We had a town hall meeting last Sunday (July 25) to discuss the bill with the community, and to get input on how to protect the community while advocating for the bill to be killed. The strategy we are developing is very directional and concise, and will be done soon. In the meantime, we are in constant dialogue with Ghanaian Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and some international bodies about the best way forward.”

Abdul-Wadud importantly adds that the best way for the world to support Ghana is by donating through their GoFundMe account . “(We need) funds,” he says. “Lots of funds. We need to set up security protocols for affected members of the community, and also funds for advocacy and public education.” 

The LGBTQ+ community in Ghana is undeserving of this kind of hate; it should have no place in a truly democratic society, which Ghana purports to be.