The Ho Circuit Court in Ghana on Tuesday denied bail to 21 LGBTQ rights activists who have been detained since May 20.
The 21 individuals, comprising 16 women and five men, will reappear in court on June 16 for their next hearing. The activists were arrested in a hotel on May 20 after a raid by the police and members of the press. They are accused of holding an unlawful assembly that was meant to promote the LGBTQ agenda. The activists had previously applied for bail, but their applications had been denied to allow prosecutors more time to investigate the matter. In their latest attempt, the circuit court denied their application for bail, stating its inability to overturn the ruling of the high court.
Members of the LGBTQ community often face discrimination in Ghana. Ghana’s criminal code prohibits gay sex. While Human Rights Watch reports that there have not been any convictions on the basis of section 104 of the criminal code, it notes that the law is often used to conduct arbitrary arrests of persons suspected to be homosexuals and extortion of money from them. Members of the LGBTQ community often face domestic violence and violence from members of the public.
Pressure continues to mount for the unconditional release of the activists. The hashtag #ReleaseThe21, demanding the release of the activists continues to trend online. At the same time other human rights groups have campaigned for the release of the activists. UN rights experts have also condemned the arbitrary arrest of the activists and urged their immediate release. They have termed the arrests a violation of their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The experts have also restated the key role of human rights defenders in protecting vulnerable groups from violence and discrimination.