UN human rights experts have warned that a proposed ‘family values’ bill in Ghana will establish a system of “state-sponsored discrimination and violence” against LGBTIQ+ people.
The first reading of the Promotion Of Proper Human Sexual Rights And Ghanaian Family Values Bill took place on 2 August, and its consideration is expected to resume in October.
If passed, it 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.
“The draft legislation argues that any person who deviates from an arbitrary standard of sexual orientation or gender identity is immediately to be considered dangerous, sick or anti-social,” said the UN experts in a statement. “Such laws are a textbook example of discrimination.
“The proposed law promotes deeply harmful practices that amount to ill-treatment and are conducive to torture, such as so-called ‘conversion therapy’ and other heinous violations like unnecessary medical procedures on intersex children, and so-called corrective rape for women,” they added.
The independent experts, appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, presented an analysis of the draft bill to the Ghanaian Government; concluding that adopting the legislation in its current or any partial form would be tantamount to a violation of several human rights standards, including the absolute prohibition of torture.
They argued that, for example, attempts to prevent human rights defenders from organising themselves to defend LGBTI people, and the absolute prohibition of public debate on sexual orientation and gender identity raises grave concerns about rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and of association.
Moreover, noted the experts, the bill in question would essentially legitimise violence against LBTI women and reinforce existing gender stereotypes and discrimination against women, which are both cause and consequence of violence against women and girls.
“The consideration of this legislation is deeply perplexing in a country that has been regarded as a champion of democracy in Africa, with an impressive record of achieving certain Millennium Development Goals by 2015,” they said. They cited specific concerns about the MDG goals on health, education, employment, housing and gender justice.
“The draft legislation appears to be the result of a deep loathing toward the LGBTI community. It will not only criminalise LGBTI people, but anyone who supports their human rights, shows sympathy to them or is even remotely associated with them,” said the experts.
“Given that LGBTI people are present in every family and every community it is not very difficult to imagine how, if it were to be adopted, this legislation could create a recipe for conflict and violence.”
Same-sex sex acts are already illegal under the country’s colonial-era Criminal Offences Act, falling under the broad term of “unnatural carnal knowledge”.