Out and proud but in crisis in Ghana

Written by Davis Mac-Iyalla, Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA)

Fellow Comrades and Allies, I want to share my journey with you. It involves my mission for LGBT+ inclusion in eleven West African countries.  While I would have enjoyed sharing some of the pleasant parts of my story, now is not the time. We are at crisis point.

I need your help to fight the proposed Ghana Anti LGBT+ Bill.

The proposed Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill seeks to criminalize people identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, non-binary, queer, an ally “or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female”.

Advocating for the rights of anyone in those categories — through speech, printed material, electronic media, or other means — could result in sentence of up 10 years in prison.

The bill, which was submitted to parliament last month, also explicitly bans same-sex marriage and adoption, and LGBT+ focused associations.  It also bans gender-affirming surgery “except where the procedure is intended to correct a biological anomaly including intersex.”

The draft bill promotes conversion therapy by allowing flexible sentencing for an LGBT+ person if they request ‘treatment’ and encourages parents of intersex children to have them undergo surgical realignment.

Gross indecency, which according to the bill, would include cross-dressing and public displays of same-sex affection, would be considered a misdemeanour with a jail sentence of between six months and a year.

The new bill is part of a rising backlash against gay rights in Ghana, after the country’s first LGBT+ community centre opened at the end of January in Accra. Condemned by neighbours, church leaders and politicians, the centre was raided and forced to close after just a few weeks

In May, 21 gay and lesbian activists were arrested for attending a human rights advocacy training session in the southern city of Ho. Police said the gathering was unlawful even though Article 21 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and association.

This bill has sparked fear and confusion among the LGBT+ community who have been living with police and vigilante crackdown and blackmail for a long time.  LGBT+ persons are worried about how this new bill will be interpreted at the workplace where you could be dismissed from work by the mere rumour that you are gay or dismissed because someone has pointed out that as male you look too feminine. LGBT+ workers in Ghana have no job protection.

This is against basic human rights, against common decency, and everything we have worked against for so long. I am calling upon you to use every medium available to you to express your concerns and to call on the Government of Ghana to protect its LGBT+ people – not to persecute and jail them.

I came to Ghana to fulfil a mission.  A mission of inclusion for all people irrespective of their belief, their sexual orientation, their tribe, or their ethnicity. and now, because of this bill, I might end up in jail. Locked up like as a criminal simply for my beliefs.

Let us show Ghana that this is not an acceptable view and that this is not an acceptable bill.

Sign the petition