After spending three weeks in jail, 21 activists unlawfully arrested in Ghana for simply discussing LGBTIQ+ rights have been granted bail.
Ghanaian police arrested the 16 women and five men who were conducting paralegal training for the protection of the human rights of sexual minorities in the city of Ho on 20 May.
They were remanded in police custody by the Ho Circuit Court and charged with unlawful assembly. Despite the charges being relatively minor, they were denied bail three times.
On Friday, the prosecutor confirmed that the activists were finally granted bail of 5,000 Ghana cedi ($864 / R11,800) bail,
“This is good news,” commented Pan Africa ILGA, but added that “the struggle to demand their justice continues.”
The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (COD-Ghana) condemned not only the arrests as unlawful but also criticised the handling of the matter by the courts.
While same-sex sexual acts are illegal in Ghana, the organisation said in a statement “that gathering to educate people at a hotel venue on LGBT+ issues is not a criminal act or crime under the Constitution or any statute.”
COD-Ghana pointed out that: “At the time of their arrest, the arrestees were not engaged in or found to have engaged in any unlawful act or [be] in possession of any unlawful or prohibited items. Their arrest and subsequent mistreatment are therefore a clear violation of their constitutional right to freedom of assembly and association.”
The group further noted that the charge against them is at worst a misdemeanour and that the “court’s refusal to grant bail on three different occasions unfairly prejudices the accused persons even before their trial.”
In Ghana, same-sex sexual activity falls under the definition of “unnatural carnal knowledge”, under section 104 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, which imposes a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.