ARTICLE 19 urges the Ghanaian government to reject the proposed “sexual rights and family values” Bill which, if passed into law, would not only continue to criminalise sexual and gender diverse minorities in the country but anyone who would remotely show their support to LGBTQI(1) rights. This is a grave attack to human rights including the right to freedom of expression.
On 2 August 2021, the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021 was introduced in the Ghanaian parliament. It is expected to be debated by national lawmakers this month. Attacks on sexual and gender minorities have been mounting in the country in recent years. Same-sex relationships are already punishable with up to three years in jail, and homophobic and transphobic persecutions are daily occurrences.
This new Bill would notably add a penalty of up to five years imprisonment for, among other things, engaging in same sex relationships, undergoing gender affirming surgery, as well as for identifying as a non-binary person or an ally(2). It goes far beyond the traditional proscription of activity to encompass identity or self-identification and further provides a penalty of up to 10 years for advocating for the rights of the LGBTQI community, even remotely, as well as funding such work. The Bill goes on to ban and disband any groups promoting or supporting such work ‘whether partly, overtly or covertly.’ Further, online platforms or media companies publishing information perceived as supporting LGBTQI people or challenging so-called values including traditional binary male and female identities could also be prosecuted.
This prohibition of public advocacy and debate on LGBTQI rights, is a worrying attack on the rights to freedom of association, opinion and expression. This will inevitably have devastating effects on individual lives, as well as civic space, access to public space and democracy.
ARTICLE 19 highlights that the Bill violates the Republic of Ghana’s Constitution which enshrines the right to freedom of expression (Chapter XII) and its international human rights agreements, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The ACHPR in its 275 Resolution on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity has urged member states to refrain from violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“No human being should ever be pushed away from public life,” said Quinn McKew, ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director. “All individuals have a right to a dignified and thriving life. ARTICLE 19 condemns all forms of attacks, hate speech, and discrimination against LGBTQI people.”
This situation has been worsening in recent years. LGBTQI people have been regularly persecuted and arrested, and NGOs often prescribed of defending their rights. This has been happening in a number of countries in the African continent and globally. Many countries have been fighting to defend a conservative notion of traditional values and religion against a supposedly “destructive Western LGBT+ ideology” over the last decade. This scapegoating of the LGBTQI community has caused a severe roll-back on human rights, and increased hostility, harassment, and violence against LGBTQI people.
ARTICLE 19 denounces such a widespread system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence and urges the Ghanaian government to protect all of its citizens.
For more details on developments in the political situation in Ghana with regards to LGBTQI rights, and international responses:
Ghana: The Unlawful Arrest of 21 Human Rights Defenders
Ghana’s anti-gay bill condemned as ‘state-sponsored’ violence
Ghana: Anti-LGBTI draft bill a “recipe for violence” – UN experts
1 This acronym is a shortened version for what the Bill specifically men7ons as the LGBTTQQIAAP+ community which refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transexual, Queer, Questioning, Agender, Asexual and Intersexl People.
2 The bill specifically makes it an offence to “hold() out as a lesbian, a gay,, a transexual, a transgender, a queer, a pansexual, an ally, a non-binary, or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female.”