In a welcome move, police in Ghana have arrested two individuals accused of luring and blackmailing gay men via dating apps.
According to Citi News, the suspects would pose as gay men on Grindr to find their targets in the town of Kasoa, in the central region of the country.
The duo then set up meetings with the victims with the promise of sex and robbed them at knife-point. The criminals would also take naked photos of their prey and then threaten to release the pictures on social media unless they were paid.
“They use these photos and videos as bait to demand for money occasionally from their victims,” said Kasoa Divisional Police Commander David Agyemang Agyem.
It’s believed that the men who were arrested are part of a gang whose ringleaders, named Gadaffi and Sparta, are now on the run.
Agyemang warned gay men to be wary of blackmailers. “Those who visit the ‘grindr’ website which is an LGBTI site must be careful and must watch out for criminals since they are looking for people to devour” he said.
Consensual male homosexuality, described as “unnatural carnal knowledge”, is illegal in Ghana, with penalties including three years’ imprisonment. The fear of being outed, stimgatised and possibly arrested makes LGBTI people especially vulnerable to extortion.
A January 2018 Human Rights Watch report highlighted the devastating scale of discrimination and abuse experienced by LGBTI people in Ghana, both in public and in family settings. It found that violence and discrimination against LGBTI people are common.
In the report, Human Rights Watch acknowledged that the Ghana Police Service has at times responded appropriately to abuses against LGBTI people, for example in cases of false accusation and blackmail of gay men.
In December 2017, Nana Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana, said that while there is currently little social or political appetite for LGBTI equality in his country, “it is something that is bound to happen.”