Ghana’s parliament has started considering a bill that would criminalize homosexuality and make defending LGBT rights a crime. Human rights activists have sounded the alarm bells over plans to prosecute the LGBT community in a country already plagued by a wave of homophobia.
The GhanaianNGOInterfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA) called the billinhumane. “If this law is passed, all conversations with journalists will be prohibited and our very existence will be threatened,” an IDNOWA activist told France 24 by telephone.
On Tuesday, Ghana’s parliament began studying the controversial bill to heavily criminalize homosexuality, already banned in the country. If passed, the new bill would allow up to 10 years in prison for LGBT people, penalize those who defend them as well as the publication of information that can be considered to encourage homosexuality.
The bill also promotes homosexual “conversion therapy,” a controversial practice used in several countries on the African continent and parts of the United States. Opposition Democratic National Congress MP Sam Nartey George is the architect of the bill, which was backed by seven other MPs when it was tabled in August. George called homosexuality a “perversion”. children who are the target of these LGBTQ + people, who make them believe that it is a new way of life, “he told AFP.
Unprecedented wave of homophobia
According to several associations defending LGBT rights on the African continent, Ghana has been experiencing an unprecedented wave of homophobia for several years.
In February, police kicked out people working at the reception desk of LGBT + Rights Ghana, one of the few associations to help LGBT people, barely a month after it opened.
The community has since been the target of violent attacks from politicians, journalists and religious leaders in Ghanaian media and on social media.
“Homosexuals will not suddenly disappear with the appearance of a new law. It’s just that they will have even more chances of hiding, ”Alexandre Marcel, director of the rights group of the Idaho France Committee, told AXADLETM.
The Paris-based NGO was recently contacted by a 24-year-old Ghanaian who was kicked out of the family home after his uncle caught him with another man. “I haven’t heard from him for three weeks,” Marcel said.
This is not an isolated case. In Ghana, a law dating from colonial times prohibits homosexual relations. However, no one has ever been prosecuted under the law. Yet many LGBT people face discrimination and violence, often within the family.
The Guardian reported that 21 people were arrested in Ho town in March during a training session for paralegals and other professionals who support vulnerable groups. While on bail, many had to flee to shelters, fearing for their safety. Some have even been disowned by family members and lost their jobs.
“More and more LGBT people have had to flee their homes and communities, or are the target of attacks. They are under intense pressure. The damage is also psychological, ”deplored IDNOWA activists. The NGO believes that many cases go unnoticed because people who are discriminated against do not have access to the Internet or the media.
Ghana’s rejection of LGBT people is linked to the conservatism of its highly religious society. According to a 2014 poll, 90% of Ghanaians support the establishment of a law criminalizing same-sex relationships.
“But parliamentarians should not pass this law simply because public opinion is in favor of it,” IDNOWA activists said. They find the legislation “harmful” to Ghanaian society as a whole.
“We hope that our elected officials will perceive the danger contained in this law and that there will at least be amendments”, declared the NGO, adding that it does not understand this “relentlessness” while homosexuality is already prohibited .
According to Marcel, the reasons for the persecution lie among the religious leaders, in particular the Ghanaian Catholic bishops. “They bear the responsibility for this hate speech against homosexuals. How can the Pope accept that his bishops support such a law? Marcel asks.
IDNOWA pointed out that this type of homophobia has been ‘imported’, claiming that animosity towards LGBT people in Ghana was fueled by the 2019 conference of the World Congress of Families, an anti-LGBTQ organization based in the United States and closely linked to the religious right.
Rights organizations like Human Rights Watch had previously warned of the dangers of this group’s hate propaganda in several African countries.
“These religious are trying to impose points of view that do not reflect our diversity and our rich cultural heritage. Parliamentarians should not be guided by their religious ideas. Our country’s agenda must not be dictated by religion, ”IDNOWA activists said.
They are particularly concerned that if Ghana passes this anti-LGBT law, other West African countries may follow suit.
The Ghanaian presidency is taking a cautious approach on the issue. In the midst of the economic crisis, the Head of State, Nana Akufo-Addo, who would like to attract investments from African Americans and the Ghanaian diaspora, wishes to maintain an image of an open and tolerant country. .
But that image is likely to be shaken by this bill, which many believe has a good chance of being passed.
This article has been translated from the original into French.