President John Atta Mills
President John Atta Mills, who died this week, has been widely described in obituaries and tributes as a supporter of human rights in Ghana, despite his having repeatedly stated that he opposed LGBT equality.
Mills, elected President of Ghana from 2009 until his death, died suddenly on 24 July at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra.
Reports about the late president’s life have highlighted how the country has vastly improved its economic and political position under his tenure. They have also lauded his commitment to democracy and human rights.
In a statement following his death, President Obama said that Mills was “a strong advocate for human rights and for the fair treatment of all Ghanaians.”
Prime Minister David Cameron also said that “President Mills was a tireless defender of democracy in west Africa and across the continent…”
Little, however, has been mentioned about the fact that homosexuality remains illegal in Ghana. In 2010, The US Department of State’s Human Rights Report on Ghana stated: “LGBT persons faced widespread discrimination, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts. Gay men in prison often were subjected to sexual and other physical abuse.”
Mills himself was openly homophobic and railed against Cameron’s threat that anti-gay countries could face cuts in financial aid from Britain.
“I, as president of this nation, will never initiate or support any attempts to legalise homosexuality in Ghana,” Mills told reporters in November 2011.
He added that Cameron “…does not have the right to direct other sovereign nations as to what they should do especially where their societal norms and ideals are different from those that exist” in Britain.
“We recognise the assistance we receive from donors but we will not accept aid coming with strings attached,” he said.
In February 2012, Mills, reiterated his position on homosexuality saying: “Ghanaian society frowns on homosexuality, if the people’s interest is that we do not legalize homosexuality, I don’t see how any responsible leader can decide to go against the wishes of his people.”
The Constitution Review Commission (CRC) of Ghana recently undertook a consultative public process on the issue of legalising homosexuality. According to Gay Star News, over 98% of submissions from the public opposed LGBT rights. The CRC decided that the matter should ultimately be ruled on by the country’s Supreme Court.