Risking the wrath of African activists, UK gay rights group OutRage! has called on Ghana’s President Kufuor to legalise homosexuality in his country.
In an open letter issued on Monday – as the President visited London – Peter Tatchell, the organisation’s Coordinator, said that, “We hope that this year [Ghana’s 50th year of independence], as you celebrate Ghana’s freedom, you will extend that freedom to your lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender(LGBT) citizens.”
Tatchell goes on to write that Ghana’s continuing criminalisation of homosexuality is a relic of colonialism: “This anti-gay law was imposed on the people of Ghana by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century.”
“The prohibition of consenting adult same-sex relations violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which enshrine the principles of equal rights and non-discrimination for all human beings, adds Tatchell.”
He calls on Kufuor’s government to repeal legislation that criminalises same-sex relations, enact new laws to protect LGBT people against discrimination, include LGBT Ghanaians in HIV prevention programmes, arrest the perpetrators of homophobic violence , and begin a dialogue with the Gay and Lesbian Association of Ghana.
The letter cites the examples of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as strong supporters of lesbian and gay human rights in Africa.
In February this year, twenty African LGBTI rights groups issued a statement slamming the tactics of Outrage!.
This came after Tatchell called for a mass letter-writing campaign against the Nigerian government to protest proposed anti-gay laws. African activists said that this unilateral action by Outrage! could actually hamper their efforts and work.
The statement urged the public and the media to consult more “reliable sources”, adding that “Peter Tatchell and Outrage! are not reliable sources on LGBTI issues in Africa and information from them should not be trusted or used as a basis for action.”
While Tatchell refers in the letter to a previous request for protests by two Ghanaian groups, the leader of one of groups has expressed anger at being mentioned.
The man, who is the head of a human rights organisation in Ghana, has written in an e-mail to Tatchell that, “putting my name and my organisation on this list puts me and my organisation at risk in a hostile environment. I do not know people can make such cheap story in somewhere like the UK [sic] without contacting the people involved by email or phone.”
He adds that, “I am really disappointed in Outrage for going on with this without discussion on how and on which format it should take with me or any of my people here.”