Metro Weekly

Movement in Ghana seeks to outlaw being gay before it becomes a ‘pandemic’

A new law being debated in Ghana would enhance punishments for homosexuality, which anti-LGBTQ advocates claim is a mental illness

Freedom Square in Accra, Ghana – Photo: RyansWorld, via Wikimedia.

An anti-LGBTQ movement in Ghana have warned of a “pandemic” of homosexuality unless the country passes a law making it effectively illegal to be gay.

Since early last month, Ghana has been conducting public hearings for a bill that would impose harsher penalties than those already in place for identifying as LGBTQ or an ally, and would imprison anybody found guilty of expressing support for LGBTQ equality or civil rights.

Same-sex relations are already criminalized in the West African nation, carrying a three-year prison sentence. But the new law would impose a sentence of five years for anyone identifying as LGBTQ, an ally, “or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female.” The bill, which has bipartisan support, would also impose a sentence of up to 10 years for anyone advocating for LGBTQ rights.

In a televised session on Nov. 30, a representative from the Coalition of Muslim Organizations characterized being LGBTQ as a mental illness, reinforcing the view of the government’s chief psychiatrist, Dr. Akwasi Osei.

“There are both predispositions and pre-stating factors, and the sense is that these two must come together for the disorder to be exhibited,” the speaker said, News24 reports.

“If someone has tendencies of LGBTQI+ and the environment is not conducive, they might change behavior, so if we make it liberal, people with those tendencies will all come out and it will be a pandemic.”

RelatedA proposed law in Ghana would jail people who advocate for LGTBQ equality for up to 10 years

Kwame Anyimadu Antwi, who chairs the parliamentary committee handling the proposed “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill,” said he’d received videos showing violence toward LGBTQ Ghanaians.

Joseph Akanjolenur Whittal, a commissioner on Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, said “the state should not take steps” that will leave behind “any persons who belong… to vulnerable groups.”

“They are a vulnerable group,” he said, referring to LGBTQ Ghanaians. “Human rights are for all persons in Ghana.”

While conversion therapy has been condemned by international human rights groups, the proposed law would encourage parents to send their children to “approved service providers” to make them straight. Others would be forced to attend.

Julia Selman Ayetey, a lawyer representing the activist group LGBT+ Rights Ghana, told Bloomberg that if passed, the bill “would violate provisions of the 1992 constitution of Ghana and international human rights instruments.”

The bill’s main sponsor, Sam George, has presented himself in the news as a defender of “family values,” using rhetoric that resonates with the country’s influential religious groups.

Many politicians are reluctant to defend the LGBTQ+ community, with some viewing being gay as a Western agenda — though LGBTQ rights activists say colonial Western powers were the first to criminalize being gay in many parts of the continent.

“There is also a lot of misinformation and sensationalization of the community,” Alex Kofi Donkor, who directs the activist group, told Bloomberg. “I am an unapologetic gay man… This bill is trying to treat us as second-class citizens.”

Ghana’s LGBTQ community has lately faced increased scrutiny. In May, 21 gay rights activists in the town of Ho were held without bail for unlawful assembly before the case was dismissed.

There has been a spike in homophobic attacks since the draft law was introduced in August, according to LGBTQ rights groups in the West African country.

Elsewhere on the continent, other nations — South Africa, Angola and Botswana — have voted in recent years to decriminalize homosexuality.

“Ghana is a beacon to a lot of African countries,” Donkor said. “If the bill passes, it will serve as a bad example to other African countries and even the world.”

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