As one of the most religious countries in Africa, Ghana’s religious leaders and lawmakers from the opposition, are pushing for an anti-LGBT bill which will prohibit the freedom of expression of one’s gender and sexual identity, and any advocacy for this community.
Extended jail sentences, limits on freedom, increasing rates of homophobia, illegal advocacy, and threats at parliament. That is the life for LGBTQ people in Ghana, who are constantly fearing for their lives in what constitutes a huge setback for human rights. This country has a history of similar laws, as same-sex relations is extremely illegal and could result in three or more years in jail. In August of 2021, a new bill was introduced at the Ghanaian Parliament which criminalized gender and sexual identity when it pertained to the LGBT community. The bill also encourages citizens to denounce suspects and advocates for larger spread of conversion therapy, which is believed to ‘reverse’ homosexuality.
This new bill was developed by opposition lawmakers in the country and was backed by several religious leaders from groups such as the Christian Council of Ghana, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and the country’s Chief Iman, alongside the multitude of churches. Due to highly religious beliefs in the country, an investigation conducted in 2014 showed that nearly 90% of Ghanaians would like to see more laws which push for prohibition of LGBTQ individuals.
Leaders in favor of the passing of the bill have stated on multiple occasions that LGBTQ identity is not a part of Ghanaian culture or way of life, and is a threat to their beliefs. Members of the Christian Council agree that homosexuality is an abomination and should be a crime. Another reason given for the passing of the law is that same-sex relationships don’t produce children, and therefore endanger the population.
The country’s president, Akufo-Addo, has been placed in a difficult situation as he must choose between two completely different sides. Previously, he has also said that under his government the legalization of gay marriage will not occur, yet this new bill will not benefit the president politically speaking, as there are opportunities in the western world being given to the country, and if the president follows through with the bill, those opportunities will be removed. The president also stresses the absolute necessity of a civil and respectful debate, which is soon to have a date set, despite the discrepancies between sides.
For those who are part of the LGBT community, the bill signifies a huge increase in homophobia rates. It will allow doctors and nurses to refuse medical treatment, schools to expel students, parents to kick out their children from their homes and more leniency on violence and attacks on the streets. Several LGBTQ people plan to flee the country in case the bill is passed.
The United Nations believe that this bill will only increase the rates of violence and discrimination. UN experts also state that even if the bill is modified it still is a huge human rights violation, and stresses once again the immense global prohibition of torture. Activists in New York have been protesting against the bill, and believe that LGBTQ people have always existed. Therefore they are part of the culture.
For Ghana this signifies not only a setback to LGBT rights, but a political set-back, as the country has been attempting to form more connections to the western world. This bill threatens those connections due to the precarious situation it places the country in. With it, the lives of freedom-seeking Ghanaian individuals are terrorized, and they can’t live without a fear of being incarcerated or killed.