Dheeraj Diwakar, student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow, India, analyzes the new private member bill introduced in the Parliament of Ghana which aims to criminalize the LGBTQ+ community...
Ghana, one of the most successful democracies in Africa, is now being criticized widely at the hands of human rights defenders all over the world. After Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, and Hungary, this African country is all set to criminalize homosexuality. Eight members of Parliament have proposed a bill that criminalizes the LGBTQ+ community in the country. The bill was introduced on August 2. The allies of such a community will also be criminalized under the proposed legislation if passed. The conservative party has strongly welcomed the bill and showed its full support; yet, on the other hand, the bill has also tarnished the image of Ghana globally.
The rights related to LGBTQ+ persons have always been critical in Ghana. The concept of “non-natural intercourse” and “same-sex marriage/relationship” has been a crime under the criminal code since 1960. Gay sex is already punishable by up to three years of imprisonment. The implementation of that law was uneven; even then these sexual minorities were subjected to physical and mental harassment. The proposed legislation further scratches their decades-long wound as it makes the LGBTQ+ community and their advocacy completely illegal and also imposes longer imprisonment.
The proposed legislation aims to provide for proper human sexual rights and “Ghanaian family values.” The bill also restricts LGBTQ+ communities and any activities related to them. People advocating the rights of these sexual minorities will also be penalized. Campaigning for LGBTQ+ persons on social media or online platforms is prohibited under the bill.
Section 5(1) of the bill makes it a duty of a person to report under whose presence the offense has been committed. It states:
“A person in whose presence an offense is committed under this act shall report the commission of the offense to a police officer, or in the absence of a police officer to a political leader, opinion leader or the customary authorities of the community in which the offense is committed.”
Reporting an offense to a political leader might lead to an increase in the cases of mob justice. However, extrajudicial treatment has been prohibited under Section 22 of the bill. Section 6 of the bill completely prohibits LGBTQ+ relations and any related activity. The section also prohibits any surgery for sex or gender reassignment or any other procedure that can create a sexual category other than the sexual category of a person assigned at birth. Any person who commits an offense under this section is entitled to imprisonment ranging from three to five years or a fine or both. Section 12 of the bill completely prohibits any propaganda of, promotion of, and advocacy for activities prohibited under the proposed legislation.
Any form of assistance provided for an activity that is prohibited under this legislation is illegal and will be treated as a criminal act. If a person commits an act prohibited in this section, they will be liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than ten years. Section 14 of the bill makes funding or sponsorship of any LGBTQ+ activities completely illegal. If anyone is found to do so, then the person will be subjected to imprisonment ranging from five to ten years. Section 15 calls for the disbandment of any LGBTQ+ organization. It states, “Any group, society, association, club or organization in existence before the coming into force of this act, whose purpose whether partly, overtly or covertly, is to promote, facilitate, support or sustain in any way an act prohibited under this act is disbanded.” Section 16 prohibits its further formation in the future.
Since the draft of the bill has come into the public domain it has ignited a great debate. People have been divided into groups i.e. one in favor of the bill and others who condemn it. The draft bill has the full support of the cross-party. Alban Bagbin, a parliamentarian speaker, has clearly shown his support for the bill. Sam George in his interview with DW said, “We are just bringing our laws up to speed to ensure that so long as our national position has not changed and still homosexuality is an illegality, let’s make the laws reflective of that.” He further said that there is no room for any negotiation in the fight against the LGBTQ+ community. According to him, homosexuality poses a challenge for public health and morals. The bill is expected to get enough votes in the parliament to become law as Ghana is a deeply religious country and people are generally intolerant about any kind of homosexuality. Conservative religious ideology is the main reason for the bill’s enormous support.
Various international human rights organizations have shown their dissent with regards to the proposed bill. United Nations experts have severely criticized the bill and said that the bill is violative of many international conventions to which Ghana is a signatory, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN’s letter to Ghana’s mission stated, “We express our grave concern about the draft bill, which seems to establish a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ person of great magnitude.” LGBTQ+ and human rights organizations in Ghana are in the hope that the UN statement might persuade parliamentarians to cast their votes against the bill.
Minorities in every part of the world are subjected to great discrimination, but the number tolls up when it comes to sexual minorities. According to Human Rights Watch Report 2018, members of the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana are subjected to frequent physical and mental assault. The fear of getting exposed prevents them from approaching the police for help and justice. Sexual deviancy is common in every part of the globe. Criminalizing it completely is a clear violation of basic human rights. The bill is more likely to become law due to its overwhelming support from various political parties. Even if it gets dismissed somehow, it has caused great fear among sexual minorities and their chances of getting assaulted have risen dramatically.
Dheeraj Diwakar is a Law Student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow, batch of 2025.
Suggested citation: Dheeraj Diwakar, Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill Makes LGBTQ+ Community Illegal, JURIST – Student Commentary, August 23, 2021, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/08/dheeraj-diwakar-human-sexual-rights-bill-ghana-lgbtq-illegal/.
This article was prepared for publication by Sambhav Sharma, a JURIST Staff Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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