Demonstrators outside the Consulate General of Ghana in New York City (Pic: Pidgincinema)
A court in Ghana has dismissed all charges against 21 LGBTIQ+ activists whose lives were devastated after they were unlawfully arrested.
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 charged with unlawful assembly. Human rights groups pointed out that while gay sex is illegal in Ghana, there is currently no legal barrier to citizens gathering to discuss LGBTIQ+ rights.
Despite the relatively minor charges, the activists were repeatedly denied bail and were jailed for three weeks before finally being released in June pending their prosecution.
The attorney general, however, concluded that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the individuals, leading the judge to completely throw out the case on Thursday.
“They are now free to live and continue with their lives. Most of them have lost homes, employment, friends and families as a result of this case,” said the organisation Rightify Ghana.
The activists’ release follows the introduction of a harsh new anti-LGBTIQ+ bill in parliament this week.
If passed, the bill will not only further criminalise all LGBTIQ+ people but will also make it illegal to advocate for LGBTIQ+ rights in any way with up to ten years in prison.
The bill further outlaws any medical gender affirmation treatment, gay adoption and same-sex marriage, as well as banning any transgender person from getting married.
Patrick Brenny, Regional Director, West & Central Africa at UNAIDS, told Reuters that the proposed legislation “is a gross violation of the human rights of Ghana’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, who already face high levels of violence, abuse, stigma and discrimination.”
On Thursday, a small group of protestors demonstrated against the bill outside the Consulate General of Ghana in New York City.
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