Aberrant Maia

Will Ghana ever embrace non-heterosexuals?

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According to Ghana’s Criminal Code, 1960 (ACT 29) in Section 104 (1) (b), it states: “Whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge of any person of sixteen years or over with his consent is guilty of a misdemeanour. In Section 104 (1) (2), unnatural carnal knowledge is explained as “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal.” This law can be best described as vague, and as a result, anal sex and non-heterosexual coitus are often used to describe ‘unnatural carnal knowledge.’

The LGBTQI+ community is not a new phenomenon in Ghana. In fact, before the slave trade occurred in Ghana, lesbianism was rampant among unmarried Akan women which sometimes resulted in marriage. At times, these women would even purchase large beds to indulge in orgies with about six persons.[1] Furthermore, between 1920-1940, some Akan men dressed as women and also participated in same-sex relationships but were not stigmatised for their actions. In Nzema, homosexual and lesbian relationships were also normalised to the point that marriage was even allowed. The husband would pay the bride price to the parents of the male, just as he would have for a female, and after, their amalgamation was celebrated with a wedding banquet.[2] Ironically, the criminalisation of homosexuality was a result of Ghana’s colonisation by the British. In the common law of the British, the first anti-sodomy law was passed in 1533 and reinstated as a capital offence in 1558. In the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, sodomy as a crime became punishable by a penal servitude of about 10 years imprisonment and life imprisonment. These laws transcended into British colonies such as Ghana, and hence, the criminalisation of homosexuality in Ghana began.[3]

Till this day, negative sentiments are harboured against the LGBTQI+ community in Ghana. Prolific figures have aired their opposition towards sexual inclusivity. Moses Foh-Amoaning, the General Secretary for the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights, stated, “Any politician or journalist who would accept money to promote the activities of the LGBT would be cursed by God.”[4] Moreover, the Women’s Organiser of the National Democratic Congress (a political party in Ghana) classified homosexuality as a disease. Similarly, the Ashanti regional chief Imam said, “Our prophet Mohammed said that if we see people who practice that behaviour, we should arrest them and kill them.”

Ghana’s conservative environment conflated with its religious outlook, are causes of such ill-sentiments among its people. Christianity makes up 71.2% of the Ghanaian population, with Islam accounting for 17.6% and traditionalists and other religions constituting the remaining 11.2%. The Bible views same-sex relations as sinful. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, it states, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men…will inherit the kingdom of God.” For Islam, it is stated in the Hadith, “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done” (Sunan Abu Dawood, 38:4447).

As a result, members of the LGBTQI+ community face various challenges in their daily lives. They have become victims of violence, psychological abuse, extortion and discrimination. Earlier this month, some individuals of the LGBTQI+ community were interviewed on a television station in the country. This sparked public outrage and prompted some people to march to the station and demand that they go off the air. In 2016, a man was raped by another man, but could not report the incident to the police for fear of being arrested for having ‘gay sex.’ Others have the misconception that any divergence from a straight sexual orientation means that the person is a rapist. Some are taken to prayer camps in hopes that they would be ‘cured’ of their sexual preference. Consequently, many LGBTQI+ persons, are closeted, and some even marry persons of the opposite sex to camouflage with societal standards.

However, there is still some hope. There are advocacy groups which are springing up to fight for the rights of the LGBTQI+ community. The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice has been providing human rights training workshops to help ensure their protection. The Solace Brothers Foundation, founded by a gay man known as Abu, is an NGO that advances the human and sexual reproductive rights for LGBTQI+ persons in Ghana. Moreover, the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights focuses on the health of the LGBTQI+ community and provides health and social services, especially in regards to HIV. There are also groups like the Gay Traditional Council, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Ghana, LGBT+ Rights Ghana, among others.

So back to the main question: “Will Ghana ever embrace non-heterosexuals?” Using all this information as a backdrop, it saddens me to say that a widespread embrace of the LGBTQ+ in Ghana would not be any time soon. The anti-LGBTQI+ sentiments festering in the hearts of many people influence the laws and policies which restrict these individuals. Hopefully, in about 100 years, there would be more empathy towards this group of people. In the interim, some steps can be taken. First, there should be an increased public awareness of the harmful effects of homophobia. Secondly, a legislation should be passed to prohibit all kinds of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Thirdly, the police stations should become safe environments where LGBTQI+ persons can report cases of violence and discrimination. Lastly, perhaps in the long term, Section 104 (1) (b) of Ghana’s Criminal Code may become repealed after people have been thoroughly educated about the rights of the LGBTQI+ community and the destructive effects of homophobic behaviours.

Till then, I would continue to love and embrace the LGBTQI+ community in the little ways that I can.

[1] Greenberg, David F. 1988. The construction of homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[2] Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe. (1998). Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities. New York: Palgrave.

[3] Atuguba, R.A. (2019). Homosexuality in Ghana: Morality, Law, Human Rights. Journal of Politics and Law, 113-126.

[4] https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/God-will-curse-you-and-your-generation-if-you-promote-LGBT-Amoaning-to-politicians-journalists-891343

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