Human rights activists appeal to Ghana's president to reject anti-LGBTQ+ bill passed by parliament

After three years of deliberation, Ghana's parliament unanimously passed a controversial anti-LGBTQ+ bill — now known as the Promotion of Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Billon — on Wednesday, February 28. The bill is one of the harshest in Africa and has been condemned by human rights groups and activists. 

Homosexuality is already illegal in Ghana under the Criminal Code 1960, which criminalizes acts of “unnatural carnal knowledge,” and was inherited from the British during the colonial era.

However, as highlighted on Global Voices, historical accounts suggest that before colonialism, numerous traditional cultures in Ghana and other African countries were tolerant of diverse sexualities and gender roles. For example, there were many non-conformist gender roles in West Africa, including those of Asante warrior women, some of whom wore men’s undergarments, and in the 18th and 19th centuries, male slaves served as concubines and dressed like women in the Asante courts. The Nzema people in southwestern Ghana had a tradition of adult men marrying each other. The Fante people believed that individuals, regardless of gender, with “heavy souls” were attracted to women, while those with “light souls” were attracted to men.

Under the Criminal Code of 1960, the maximum penalty for same-sex sexual activity is three years imprisonment, and only men were criminalized. The new bill further criminalizes LGBTQ+ individuals, imposing a prison sentence of up to three years for those convicted of identifying as LGBTQ+. It also introduces a prison term of five years for groups funding or promoting LGBTQ+ rights.

The bill, led by Sam Nartey George, the member of parliament (MP) for Ningo-Prampram, and sponsored by a group of traditional leaders from Ghana's Christian and Muslim communities, was formerly known as the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, and was first introduced in 2021. Despite continuous backlash and attempts to quash or revise it, the bill has progressed through various stages.

Ghanaian lawmakers completed the third reading of the bill on Wednesday, February 28, unanimously approving it. As reported by myjoylonline, unexpected drama marked the passage of the bill during the session. Typically, there is a day's wait after the consideration stage before the third reading. However, a motion to suspend this rule was introduced by Muntaka Mubarak, MP for Asawase, after additional amendments were suggested. Despite opposition from the Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin, the motion was approved, allowing the House to advance to the third reading. The speaker rejected Afenyo-Markin's request for additional amendments to the bill. The bill is now set to be forwarded to President Akufo-Addo for his assent.

Following its approval, Professor Audrey Gadzekpo, chair of the board at the Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), criticized the bill, emphasizing its detrimental impact on societal well-being.

William Nyarko, the executive director of the Africa Center for International Law and Accountability, issued a warning in this YouTube video on the BBC Africa channel, highlighting the potential significant repercussions for the tourism sector, akin to the experience of Uganda following the enactment of its anti-LGBTQ+ law.

As highlighted by CBS News, the Big 18 & Human Rights Coalition, comprising lawyers and activists in Ghana, denounced the bill, stating that it “criminalizes a person's identity and strips away fundamental human rights.” The coalition has called on the president to reject the legislation.


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Takyiwaa Manuh, a senior fellow at the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development, also lamented, saying, “I am sad, disappointed and surprised that our commitment and democratic principles in this country appear to be so shallow. This bill represents a real danger to our country, and we are looking to the president to uphold the values of our country and constitution.”

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