“Unnatural carnal knowledge” – often interpreted as non-heterosexual sex – is unlawful in Ghana. Draft anti-gay legislation submitted to Ghana’s parliament could propose up to 10 years in jail for LGBTQ+ people as well as groups and individuals who advocate for their rights, express sympathy or offer social or medical support, in one of the most draconian and sweeping anti-gay laws proposed around the world.
Support for intersex people would also be criminalised and the government could direct intersex people to receive “gender realignment” surgery, said the draft legislation.
Among other aspects of the bill that has sparked condemnation, groups or individuals found to be funding groups deemed as advocating for LGBTQ+ rights or offering support could be prosecuted. Marriage would be clearly defined in Ghanaian law as being between a male and female. Media companies, online platforms and accounts which publish information that could be deemed to encourage children to explore any gender or sex outside of the binary categories of male and female could face 10 years in prison.
The prospect of harsh new laws has been hailed by numerous MPs and supported by figures in President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government. It follows a wave of repression against LGBTQ+ people amid a backlash from politicians, civil and religious groups and the media, and also led to a rise in arrests and abuse against people perceived to be gay or queer.
Sam Nartey George, an MP who has described gay rights as a “perversion” and led a group of lawmakers who drafted the bill, dismissed online condemnation of the bill as “uninformed”.
“Homosexuality is not a human right. It is a sexual preference,” he said in a post on Twitter. “We shall pass this bill through.”
Groups across public life, from politicians to journalists, civil and religious leaders, have led fierce condemnation of LGBTQ+ rights and support networks in Ghana. Ghana’s government promised new laws to prohibit pro-gay advocacy, amid hysteria over bolder efforts to establish support for sexual minorities. 21 people were arrested in the city of Ho in March, at a training event for paralegals and other professionals working on supporting vulnerable groups. They were released on bail last month yet many of the defendants are living in safehouses for fear of the safety, with some disowned by family members and having lost their jobs.
Nana Ama Agyemang Asante, a journalist and activist in Accra, said she was “stunned by the contents, the crudeness of the language, and the cruelty behind the intent” of the bill. “I have spent all my time as a journalist advocating for gay rights so I can’t believe that we have arrived at this point where they want to criminalise everything and everyone including the existence of allies, intersex and asexual folks.”