Ghana’s parliament passes bill making identifying as LGBTQ+ illegal


ACCRA – Ghana's parliament has passed a stringent bill that imposes a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone convicted of identifying as LGBTQ+. The bill also stipulates a maximum five-year jail term for those found guilty of forming or funding LGBTQ+ groups. 

Ghana's Parliament passes tough LGBTQ+ bill
Emily Leshner / AP file

Attempts to replace prison sentences with community service and counselling were shouted down by lawmakers, marking a growing opposition to LGBTQ+ rights in the conservative West African nation. 

The bill, backed by Ghana's two major political parties, will only come into effect if President Nana Akufo-Addo signs it into law. 

He has previously stated that he would do so if the majority of Ghanaians want him to.

In Ghana, gay sex is already illegal and carries a three-year prison sentence. 

Last month, Amnesty International warned that the bill "poses significant threats to the fundamental rights and freedoms" of LGBTQ+ people. 

Activists now fear witch-hunts against members of the LGBTQ+ community and those who campaign for their rights, with some expected to go into hiding.

This sentiment was echoed by Winnie Byanyima, the head of the UN body tackling Aids, who said: "If Human Sexual rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill becomes a law, it will exacerbate fear and hatred, could incite violence against fellow Ghanaian citizens, and will negatively impact on free speech, freedom of movement and freedom of association." 

She added that it would "obstruct access to life-saving services" and "jeopardise Ghana's development success".

The bill proposes a jail term of up to 10 years for anyone involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy campaigns aimed at children. 

It also encourages the public to report members of the LGBTQ+ community to authorities for "necessary action". 

MPs said the bill was drafted in response to the opening of Ghana's first LGBTQ+ community centre in Accra in January 2021.

The centre was shut down by police following public protests and pressure from religious bodies and traditional leaders in the largely Christian nation. 

At the time, the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council issued a joint statement saying that being LGBTQ+ was "alien to the Ghanaian culture and family value system and, as such, the citizens of this nation cannot accept it".

The bill approved by lawmakers is a diluted version of an earlier draft, with shortened jail terms and the removal of a controversial clause on conversion therapy. 

During the debate, the deputy parliamentary leader of the governing party, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, suggested further changes. 

He proposed that lawmakers should decide, via a secret ballot, whether people convicted of being members of the LGBTQ+ community should be imprisoned by the courts or ordered to do community service and undergo counselling. 

However, his proposal was shouted down by lawmakers who supported prison sentences.

Post a Comment