Proposed Legislation in Ghana Targets LGBTQ People, Allies

FILE PHOTO: Detained Ghanaian LGBT+ activists appear in court in Ho
Lawmakers in Ghana have proposed an anti-LGBTQ bill that would criminalize individuals for identifying as part of the LGBTQ community.
REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko/File Photo

Lawmakers in Ghana are considering legislation that would criminalize anyone who identifies as LGBTQ or a supporter of the queer community.

Under the “Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values” bill, LGBTQ individuals could face between five and 10 years in prison for engaging in same-sex acts and advocating for LGBTQ rights. LGBTQ people could also face charges for marrying anyone who identifies as LGBTQ, including non-binary, queer “or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female,” according to a draft of the legislation. Since the bill surfaced online, LGBTQ advocates at Rightify Ghana, a human rights organization in Ghana, have decried the legislation, noting that this bill would heighten anti-LGBTQ sentiment.

 “Homophobes in Ghana always make the claim that LGBTQ persons are actively recruiting persons to be LGBTQI,” Rightify Ghana tweeted. “As a result, these sections will criminalize such activities. For example, you talking to someone or holding a meeting could be considered as such.”

The group added, “For people who have denied the existence and knowledge of the LGBTQ community in Ghana, how did they put together such a bill? Suddenly, they know there are LGBT people in Ghana?”

The bill’s text also bars LGBTQ folks from adopting children and receiving gender-affirming surgery. If passed, the bill would also promote conversion therapy — a widely denounced and debunked practice claiming to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression — by allowing for the possibility of reduced punishment if people seek such “therapy.” During such therapy sessions, religious texts are often used as a tool to shame and suppress LGBTQ identities.

The effects of this bill go beyond the LGBTQ community. According to the bill’s text, straight couples are also banned from engaging in anal, oral sex, and using sex toys, among other objects, during sexual activities. Advocates believe the bill has received backing from the World Congress of Families (WCF), an anti-LGBTQ organization and known hate group in the US that held a homophobic conference in the country in 2019, reports OkayAfrica. Rightify Ghana further slammed the bill as the “worst anti-LGBTQ bill ever.”

“It is clear that this [is] an imported bill with a signature of World Congress of Families (WCF),” Rightify Ghana tweeted. “It is a combination of bills from Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, and other places where the WCF have been. It’s the worst anti-LGBTQ bill ever.”

Ghana’s lengthy anti-LGBTQ record stems from years of colonialism, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international human rights agency. For decades, it has been illegal for men in Ghana to engage in consensual sex acts, with violators facing up to three years in prison for “unnatural carnal knowledge,” which includes “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal,” according to the country’s criminal code. It is unclear whether the law bans queer women from engaging in sex acts.

The bill’s proposal comes after authorities in Ghana charged and arrested 21 LGBTQ people for “unlawful assembly” after they held an LGBTQ rights safety training. Advocates said police received a tip about a gathering of several LGBTQ groups in Ho, Ghana, to discuss strategies to combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

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