Nana Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana, has come under fire after he said that it’s a matter of time until homosexuality is accepted in his country.
Akufo-Addo made the controversial statement in a wide-ranging interview with Al Jazeera. He admitted that there was currently little social or political appetite to accept LGBT equality in Ghana.
“At the moment, I don’t feel and I don’t see that in Ghana there is that strong current of opinion that is saying that this is something that we need even deal with. It is not so far a matter which is on the agenda,” Akufo-Addo said.
He continued: “These social, cultural issues… I don’t believe that in Ghana so far, a sufficiently strong coalition has emerged to change public opinion, and have a new paradigm in Ghana.”
Akufo-Addo added, however: “I think that it is something that is bound to happen.”
He explained that over time social norms can change, as had happened in England, which still outlawed homosexuality when he studied there as a child.
“…the activities of individuals, of groups, a certain awareness, a certain development grew and grew and grew stronger and it forced a change in law. I believe those are the same processes that will bring about changes in our situation.”
Akufo-Addo’s comments were pounced on by the Ghanaian media as well as outraged religious organisations and other politicians.
The General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, Dr. Kwabena Opuni, condemned any suggestion that homosexuality could become accepted in Ghana, insisting that it was a matter of “survival”.
“It threatens Africa’s social protection which is embedded in family and children,” he said. “That is our cultural identity and uniqueness, and we want Akufo-Addo to state that he cannot and will not accept homosexuality no matter the pressure.”
The furore forced the government to clarify that that it has no intention of legalising homosexuality.
Information Minister, Mustapha Hamid, told Joy News: “Since law is premised on customs, what it means is that we cannot make it legal at this stage considering that the customs and traditions of the people abhor homosexuality.”
Consensual male homosexuality, described as “unnatural carnal knowledge”, is illegal in Ghana, with penalties including three years’ imprisonment.
A 2012 US Department of State Human Rights Report found that “LGBT persons faced widespread discrimination, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts” in Ghana.