Ghana is experiencing a shift towards further excluding marginalised members of its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) community with an anti-gay bill if passed into law.
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The West African nation is among some 69 countries where homosexual intercourse is outlawed, with terrible conditions for gay people, the BBC reported.
In 2006, the Government of Ghana disallowed a gay and lesbian conference due to fears that it would promote homosexuality and harm the country's culture and morals amid backlash from politicians, the media, civil and religious groups.
The past seven months in 2021 have equally been terrible for the community, with members targeted by politicians, religious groups, local press, and homophobes, owing to what appears to be a wave of state-sponsored harassment against LGBTQ+ people.
In February, Ghanaian security forces stormed a community space operated by LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which provided support for sexual minorities and forcefully closed it amid similar reactions that characterised the prohibition of the gay and lesbian conference in 2006.
Also, in May 2021, 21 people were arrested for attending an LGBTQ+ event in Ho city in the Volta Region, and a court in the Ho district ordered the accused, who were charged with ''unlawful assembly,'' to be held in police custody.
The 21 were released on bail following an online campaign with the hashtag #ReleaseThe21 that trended on social media.
The new bill
Though Ghana's laws already ''proscribe'' homosexual intercourse by prohibiting ''unnatural carnal knowledge'' in section 104 (1) (b) of its Criminal Offences Act, albeit a colonial legacy, the country seeks to even do more with the anti-gay bill submitted to the nation's Parliament.
The bill, titled The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021, proposes a five-year jail term for any individual who identifies as lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual, queer, pansexual or non-binary. And ten years in jail for people, groups, and individuals who advocate for their rights, express sympathy or offer social or medical support, said The Guardian.
When passed into law, media companies, online platforms and accounts that publish information that could be deemed to encourage children to explore any gender or sex outside of the binary categories of male and female could face ten years in prison.
The bill, which has now been gazetted and sent to the Business Committee of the House, also seeks to criminalise intersex people and encourage ''gender realignment'' surgery for intersex people. Also, marriage would be clearly defined as being between a male and female.
The bill has been enabled by the approval of a Private Members' Bill by Ghana's Parliament, which has removed the Executive's exclusive power in introducing bills to Parliament for consideration.
Individual Members of Parliament (MPs) who are not ministers of state or non-government officials, as well as private people, can submit or start bills for consideration on the floor of the House.
The first bill to be submitted under the President Akufo-Addo-led administration is sponsored by a group of eight Members of Parliament (MPs), including Sam George.
But the bill is only one of several initiatives and narratives used by Ghanaian officials to suppress and suggest that homosexuality is alien to the Ghanaian culture to whip up populist sentiments against LGBTQ+ members.
Sam Nartey George, one of the MPs who submitted the bill has described gay rights as a ''perversion'', insisting that homosexuality is not a human right. "It is a sexual preference,'' he said in a post on Twitter, according to The Guardian.
According to Face2Face Africa, the bill is the first major step in criminalising sexual minorities and their supporters since independence from colonial rule.
Though prosecutions are rare, yet many gay and queer people have reported experiencing abuse by citizens and law enforcement agencies, said The Guardian. The bill proposes harsher measures.
But some Ghanaians and foreign diplomats, including the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, His Excellency Gregory Andrews, have expressed concern over the bill and are calling for its review before it gets put to a parliamentary vote.
New stage of the bill
As of now, ''the bill has duly been gazetted and sent to the Business Committee of the House. It is great to see the Bill has been programmed to be laid for [the] first reading on Monday, 2nd August. Our eyes remain fixed on the prize,'' said Sam George in a Facebook post.
There are fears among pro-gay groups and activists that the passage of the bill into law would embolden anti-gay groups and homophobes in targeting queer or effeminate and innocent people perceived to be gay, who are already victims of hate crimes, extortions, and abuse.
For a nation that touts itself as a beacon for democracy, activists and pro-gay groups have urged tolerance and inclusiveness of society and respect for minority groups, including LGBTQ+ people regardless of their sexuality.
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Source: Yen Ghana