Everything You Need To Know About Ghana’s Terrifying Anti-LGBTQIA+ Bill And Its Roots In American Conservative Lobbyism

The bill not only lays down grounds for punishment for queer folk but also encourages the public to report members of the LGBTQIA+ community to authorities for "necessary action". This opens up a whole new space for prosecuting people just because they are clocked as queer.

On the heels of the International Day of Zero Discrimination on March 1, comes news from Accra, Ghana, that a bill first introduced in the country’s Parliament in 2021 titled, ’Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill’ has been passed. Gay sex is already illegal in the Christian-majoritarian West African nation, and while discrimination against LGBTQ people is common, no one has ever been prosecuted under the colonial-era law.

The law in question is the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 that first criminalized homosexuality in Ghana, when the country was still under British rule. Post-independence, Section 104 of the Ghanaian Criminal Code of 1960 criminalized “unnatural carnal knowledge”.

That was until this bill, which is currently awaiting President’s assent to become a law.

Under this harmful anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, a prison sentence for up to 3 years for anyone convicted of identifying as LGBTQIA+ and a maximum prison sentence of 5 years for  “wilful promotion, sponsorship, or support of LGBTQ+ activities” has been proposed. Through this, it also seeks to punish allies who support or advocate for LGBTQIA+ people, including human rights defenders, medical professionals, journalists, teachers, and landlords with a prison term.

This is a violation of the human right to freedom of expression and association!

But wait, because it gets worse, because the bill further proposes a jail term of up to 10 years for anyone involved in LGBTQIA+ advocacy campaigns aimed at children. A coalition of elected representative of different faiths sponsored the legislation in the Parliament, which was then voted upon.

Usually, President Nana Akufo-Addo would have 7 days to decide whether to assent or refuse, according to Ghana’s constitution. However, since the news broke out, an update from the President’s office states that the bill has not reached his desk yet as it was challenged in the Supreme Court. Due to this they have decided to wait for the Court’s decision.

Or so they say, because according to an internal government memo, the delay in the decision comes from fear of losing international aid! The finance ministry said that the bill could lead to a loss of $3.8 billion in World Bank financing over the next few years as well as derailing a $3 billion loan package issued by the International Monetary Fund.

President Akufo-Addo’s personal views on LGBTQIA+ rights remain a mystery as he has refused to comment publicly on the topic, even when previously asked about the bill. He said he would wait for the decision of the parliament.

Although international coverage of this bill has brought light to the long term human rights violations it could cause, local news has celebrated this bill as a step in the right direction. Publications like the Modern Ghana have shared opinions in favor of the bill while also criticizing the international response towards the same.

The bill not only lays down grounds for punishment for queer folk but also encourages the public to report members of the LGBTQIA+ community to authorities for “necessary action”. This opens up a whole new space for prosecuting people just because they are clocked as queer.

Bill a response to Ghana’s first LGBTQIA+ community center opening in 2021

Members of Parliament confirmed that the bill was a direct response to the opening of Ghana’s first LGBTQIA+ community center in the capital, Accra, in January 2021.[5]  The center was shut down by police following public protests, and pressure from religious bodies and traditional leaders in the largely Christian nation. At the time, the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council said in a joint statement that being queer was “alien to the Ghanaian culture and family value system and, as such, the citizens of this nation cannot accept it”.

Angel Maxine, Ghana’s first openly trans musician and LGBTQIA+ activist told Reuters, “My heart is broken and devastated at the moment, that’s all I can say for now”.

Most activists in Ghana fear that there will now be a witch-hunt against members of the LGBTQIA+ community and those who campaign for their rights, and say some will have to go into hiding.

One cannot help but wonder about the recent rise of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation coming from the African continent. Just last year, days before Pride Month in June,, an anti-homosexuality law was passed in Uganda. The roots of this ideological stance take us further West to the USA, where over 510 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills were introduced in 2023 alone. The connection between the two comes from a tweet shared by Janet Museveni, first lady of Uganda alongside Sharon Slater of Family Watchers International, which has been accused of being actively responsible for spreading hate and homophobia in African countries. According to the organization’s website, it is in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Slater’s husband, Greg Slater, is also a high-ranking management position at Intel Corporation, exercising considerable social and economic influence.

The US has always played a hand in shaping the way it’s allies run, the anti-LGBTQIA+ stance adopted by the Trump-led Republican party. As a result, we have witnessed hate crimes against members of the community rise exponentially. Similar worrying trends are being observed in Africa too where the year started off with a young gay man being stripped naked and physically assaulted at the Legon campus of University of Ghana.

Also read: Nex Benedict’s Life Mattered!

This isn’t only true for African countries because back home in India, hate crimes against queer people are all over social media! As parts of the Global North world make slow progress towards becoming a safer space for queer individuals, such as Greece legalizing same sex marriage or France appointing a gay man, Gabriel Attal to the position of Prime Minister, or even Angola, a central African country, making discrimination based on sexuality punishable by law, the opposite is being witnessed in many other countries, where anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric have taken centre stage.

This gives us an insight into how queer rights are deeply woven into the dynamics of foreign relations, and how various state and non-state actors influence local socio-political movements.

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Yashaswiny Dinkar is like fire. She is a psychologist, writer and a Koda enthusiast. (Koda = pet dog = soulmate). Her laugh, energy and enthusiasm are infectious. The high decibels of her voice are comparable only to her affection and consideration. It is evident in the way she educates people about feminism, pushes for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and spreads awareness about mental health. If someone tries to hurt people she cares about, her fire can burn them to ashes. She is driven to achieve her goal of becoming a published author and does not let any opportunity pass by. But she does not push other people down in the process but instead illuminates the path for them. Yashaswiny Dinkar is a happy bonfire, a soft candle flame, a protective flamethrower and a guiding torch. Yashaswiny Dinkar is fire.

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