This country might pass the most discriminatory LGBTQ+ law in recent memory- we can’t let them
By Christine Siamanta Kinori
Earlier this year, the Ghanaian LGBTQ+ community found themselves under one of the deadliest legal attacks in recent memory when a group of lawmakers drafted a bill that risks stripping them of their basic human rights. The proposed bill, known as the “Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values” is considered one of the most draconian and sweeping anti-gay laws proposed around the world. It is also the first major legal proposal for criminalizing the sexual minorities and their supporters since independence from colonial rule in Ghana.
The proposed bill that is currently being debated in the Ghanaian Parliament and would allow for LGBTQ+ individuals to be jailed for 10 years, heavily penalize LGBTQ+ allies and force anyone who knows a queer person to report them to the authorities. The bill also advocates for conversion therapy, a practice which is listed as a form of torture by the UN. It also criminalizes support for intersex people and the government could direct intersex people to receive “gender realignment” surgery. The cruel bill also prevents journalists from producing content seen to be sympathetic to LGBTQ people.
More concerning is the fact that even before the proposal of this inhumane bill, the country already had severe cases of homophobia. The persecution of members of the Ghanaian LGBTQ+ community has been getting worse and this controversial bill only worsens the situation and legalizes discrimination. Many queer individuals are fleeing their homes after facing discrimination and violence, often within the family and their communities. They have ended up being disowned by their families, losing their jobs and the lucky few have managed to survive mob attacks. Vigilante groups are known to lure people on queer dating apps then physically attack them.
There is no avenue for them to find safety or justice even when their lives are being threatened. They cannot report the attacks to the police because they will be arrested and they can’t get help from their family members who have chosen to not associate with them. The government has also made sure they can’t get help from NGOs. Back in February, a community space offering support for sexual minorities was forced to close. The police raided their offices and evicted them barely one month after they opened following heavy backlash from politicians, civil and religious groups, and the media. The backlash also led to a rise in arrests and abuse against people perceived to be gay or queer.
Given that public opinion is in favor of this bill and both the opposition, and the ruling party are united on the crackdown on the LGBTQ+ community, it seems that the bill is likely to be passed. If the bill is passed, the ball will be thrown over to President Nana Akufo-Addo’s court and he can choose to sign or veto it. He is approaching this issue delicately as it may have adverse economic effects to the country when investors pull out once the country is no longer considered open and tolerant. It is a known fact that the President is anti-gay and has stated gay marriage will never be permitted while he is in power. According to analysts and diplomats, however, the President is more likely to sign the bill into law.
If Ghana passes this bill, there is real concern that other African countries will also pass more severe anti- LGBTQ+ laws. Senegal is already following suit and pushing for severe jail time, one official was even quoted saying, “we will kill them, or we will burn them- we’ll never accept homosexuality.” This is clearly setting a dangerous homophobic precedent and empowers more people to join homophobic attacks.
It is sad that Ghanaian LGBT+ members and their allies can’t be safe in their own country. To have their whole existence deemed illegal is dehumanizing. They must live in hiding, never knowing when and who will be attacking. They are constantly on alert. They have been made out to be the enemies of the people when all they did was love. This is not just a fight for Ghana, but for Africa and the larger world as well. In 2022, we need to do better, to make sure no one is persecuted for who they love or how they identify, no matter where they are in the world.
About the Author:
Christine Siamanta Kinori grew up in a little village in Kenya known as Loitoktok near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. All she wanted to do when she grew up was to explore the world. Her curiosity led her to join Nairobi University to pursue a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She later got a job with an amazing travel magazine Nomad Africa which gave her the opportunity to explore Africa. She also writes for numerous travel websites about Africa and tries to create a new narrative in the media about our aesthetic continent.
Christine claims to have somewhat unhealthy addiction to TV and reading, as it is a fun way to keep herself occupied during the long journeys for her travel writing. She is also a believer of letting people be their beautiful selves. To her, love is love and it is the greatest gift we have as humans.