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HRW: Ghana's LGBT individuals are effectively 'second-class' citizens

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a 72-page report [text] on Monday documenting widespread discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) individuals in Ghana both in public and private or family settings.

The report, titled "No Choice but to Deny Who I Am: Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People in Ghana," highlights that § 104(1)(b) of the Criminal Offences Act of 1960 [text, PDF] prohibiting and punishing "unnatural carnal knowledge," criminalizes same-sex activity and fails to actively address violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals to the point of relegating them to second-class citizens. According to the report, while the colonial-era law is rarely enforced in Ghana, LGBT individuals continue to be frequent victims of physical violence and psychological abuse, extortion, and discrimination because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The report added that discriminatory and intolerant statements by legislators, religious leaders and other public officials make matters worse, pointing specifically to Ghana Speaker of Parliament's branding of homosexuality as an abomination and his calls for stricter laws against same-sex conduct in July. According to the report, the speaker, Mike Ocquaye, equated homosexuality with bestiality. The report further expressed concern over the view in Ghana's religious communities that homosexuality is an abomination and contrary to religious beliefs and teachings, and the fact that 96 percent of Ghana's population belong to some religious domination.

An HRW rights researcher stated [press release]: "Having a law on the books that criminalizes adult consensual same-sex conduct contributes to a climate in which LGBT people are frequently victims of violence and discrimination ... Homophobic statements by local and national government officials, traditional elders, and senior religious leaders foment discrimination and in some cases, incite violence."

The report concluded with a series of recommendations to the president, the parliament, the Inspector General of Police, and various other parties to address the situation. These recommendations include, among other things: 1) the repealing of § 104(1)(b) of the Criminal Offences Act of 1960; 2) public condemnation of all threats and acts of violence against LGBT individuals including violence perpetrated by family members; 3) holding all public officials who make homophobic statements accountable; 4) proposing comprehensive legislation that prohibits all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity; 5) amending Chapter 5 of the 1992 Constitution on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms to include a specific prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; 6) ensure that police stations provide a safe environment for LGBT persons to report cases of violence, including by establishing a human rights desk and a reporting hotline for cases of domestic violence; and 7) ensure that law enforcement officials undertake prompt, independent, and effective investigations into allegations of acts of violence against LGBT people—whether in public spaces or in the home—always taking into account that such crimes may be motivated by hatred of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

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