WILL THERE EVER BE SUFFICIENT COALITION FOR GAY RIGHTS IN GHANA? A ONE-DOLLAR QUESTION BY ALEX AGYEMANG AMOATENG

Homosexuality is a very sensitive issue amongst Africans and there is usually no middle ground as Christians, Muslims and believers of African traditional worship system are vehemently united against it.

Regardless of the religious denominations, it is often described as an ungodly and demonic act. Hence people perceived to be lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) are rarely welcomedby their families or to any community within the shores of Ghana.

Due to the criminalization of anything other than penile penetration, people whose sexual orientation differ from the norm have no option but to conform to family and societal expectations lest they suffer discrimination and physical violence.

According to section 104 of Ghana’s constitution: “whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge of (a) any person of the age of sixteen years or over without his consent shall be guilty of a first-degree felony and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than twenty-five years.

This issue is particularly menacing in most culturally sensitive communities around the world and when it comes to Ghana,Muslim communities popularly known as Zongos are a no-go area for homosexuality.

The rise of vigilante groups like Safety Empire whose notoriety includes extracting confession from perceived homosexuals, brutal assault, intimidation and extortion has made it dangerous for gays to live as law abiding citizens in their communities.

In such areas, even a mere suspicion of being gay is a huge liability and those suspected would rather live double lives by marrying to hide their sexuality or flee their home communities to safe or favourable destinations.

In that vein, in February this year, A local clericby name Rashid Ahmed Abdul Wahab at Aboabo a predominantly Muslim community in the Ashanti Region during a Friday sermon admonished the youth to chase out homosexuals even if they were dear relatives.

According to him Allah frowns upon such devilish acts and the silence of the people only means encouraging it to persist which he said is punishable by hell fire on the day of judgment.

The Imam narrated the Qur’anic story of the city Sodom and Gomorrahwhich practisedhomosexuality openly bringing upon themselves Allah’s wrath at the height of their sins.

He said the story follows a similar pattern in the Muslim community where the inhabitants refuse to listen and warned that Allah’s punishment will be severe on such people.

Just like the fate suffered by previous gays caught in the community, the cleric mentioned that as part of information that was filtered within the community, a suspect by name Issah Abdul Karim has been on the run for nearly four months after he was caught pants down with a known gay in the area by a relative. The Imam said it was unfortunate that he had managed to escape and said such behaviors must be subjected to the strictest form of Shariah (Islamic law) which when interpreted could mean stoning or death sentence.

According to him, the suspect fled the community with the help of another perceived homosexual by name Mubarak Adam when the news broke out and urged the youth of the community who love Allah and the community to find them so that appropriate justice can be prescribed on them according to Islamic law. The Imam stated that his own nephew Mohammed RabiuSeibouwas also a suspected homosexual who has since gone missing after he personally confronted him about his suspicions.

He noted that many Muslim youth were being drawn into such abominable acts because parents do not control the media content of their children and condemned the media for pushing unwholesome content to the Muslim youth.

He therefore called on parents and guardians to be vigilant and report suspected Muslim relatives to the local committee of the community for action to be taken.

It must be noted that such utterances have strengthened the action of these so-called vigilante groups who operate without recourse to the law. One of such attacks in recent memory is that of entrepreneur Albert Appiah popularly known as Kinto, who was attacked at Nimaby members of a vigilante group who accused him of being a homosexual. The perpetrators have not been prosecuted and continue to live their normal lives.

Similarly, other past incidents such as the 2016 arrest of an 18-year-old Senior High School student and his alleged gay partner at a local guesthouse for indulging in homosexual acts is another stark reminder of a stewing issue that will probably not be solved.

Another incident of a man believed to be in his early thirties was severely assaulted at Alabah, a suburb of Kumasi after he was accused of attempting to have sex with a male co- worker. No one has been held responsible for the assault.

In Accra two other men Benjamin Ashietey, a trader and Gideon Kporzu, an unemployed were arrested by the youth of Amasaman community and handed over to the police after they were caught engaged in homosexuality on a school compound.

While some Human Rights Organisations and activists have argued that the law which criminalises ‘unnatural carnal knowledge’ should be expunged from the constitution as it has outlived its usefulness in a modern world, its opponents have declared a strong stance against such moves.

Amongst them is the Speaker of Parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye who recently warned that Ghana would not countenance the aggressive push by western countries to accept homosexuality. He even vowed to resign rather than preside over “gay debate” in parliament of which he received teeming praise and support from a large section of the population.

The Christian Council of Ghana have also been avowed denouncers of homosexuality calling it a threat to Africa’s social setup and will stop any move to legalise it.

However one looks at it, the aggressive posture of African societies does not seem likely to bend anytime soon despite foreign agencies and lobbyist groups attempts to push for the acceptance of the LGBT community and the protection of their rights. Sometimes the methods are not so covert but take a more direct form.

In 2011, then UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, threatened to cut aid to countries which failed to respect gay rights.

In 2016 some Members of the Scottish Parliament confronted former President John Mahama on Ghana’s alleged abuses of the LGBT community after he was invited to address (MPs) in the Scottish Parliament.

This year, The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, while addressing the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in London reportedly told President Akufo-Addo that the UK was ready to help Ghana rewrite its laws to accommodate homosexuality.

These series of attempts have done very little to soften the extreme position of the larger population although on the political front many Ghanaian politicians are careful to support the cause for fear that it may harm their political aspirations. Ghanaian politicians have come under increased pressure from lobbyists who have taken the presidents word for a sufficient coalition as grounds for such calls.

Nana OyeLithur, the former Minister of Gender and Social Protection incurred the ire of Ghanaians when she suggested during her vetting that homosexuals have rights thus needed protection from the state against violence.

President Akufo-Addo is believed to be flexible with the idea for the acceptance of the LGBT community as he indicated during an recent interview onAljazeera that legalizing homosexuality is bound to happen when right groups have gathered sufficient momentum to push for such calls. His position drew calls from the section of the population who threatened to vote him out if he attempts to voice his support for the LGBT community.

Where do you stand? It remains to be seen whether Ghanaians will ever be open to such ideas in the future like the president indicated. But whether that will happen or not will depend on the international lobby of the LGBT community who are striving for acceptance in all parts of the world. Ghana is however not ready for the LGBT community, not in another decade.

 

The Writer is Lead African Human Rights Advocate

Temple of Justice

Kumasi- Ashanti Region

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