Amnesty International has warned that Ghana’s appalling new anti-LGBTI bill is a grave violation of human rights including the prohibition of torture.
In a statement, the organisation called on the Ghanaian Parliament and the government to immediately withdraw the proposed Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021 from consideration.
Amnesty said that the bill “encourages hatred and intolerance and promotes persecution against people on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity simply because they do not or cannot conform to dominant social and gender norms.”
If passed into law, the bill will impose restrictions and criminal penalties against LGBTI people and anyone who expresses support or sympathy towards them.
It also places an obligation on everyone in Ghana to report any conduct perceived to be of an ‘LGBTI nature’ to the police, or to a list of people in the community in the absence of the police.
The proposed law would impose a penalty of up to five years imprisonment for being LGBTI and a penalty of up to ten years imprisonment for anyone who engages or participates “in an activity that promotes, supports sympathy for, or a change of public opinion towards an act prohibited under the bill”.
Amnesty said that “this vague and overbroad provision potentially places anyone in Ghana at risk of being accused under the bill, and creates an environment of hostility, discrimination, and active stigmatising of people who are LGBTI or perceived to be such; or anyone linked to them socially, through family, professionally, or otherwise.”
Human rights defenders or anyone registering, operating or participating in an activity to support an organisation working on LGBTI people’s rights could also be sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. The bill also criminalises any production and dissemination of so-called LGBTI “propaganda” with imprisonment of between 5 to 10 years.
It further encourages harmful practices such as non-emergency, invasive and irreversible medical interventions on intersex children to “realign” the child to an “appropriate binary designation”.
The bill promotes conversion therapy, which is a very dangerous practice that causes great psychological distress and harm to the recipient, and can constitute torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.
If enacted into law, the bill would restrict transgender people from accessing gender-affirming treatment. Medical professionals would be at risk of three to five years imprisonment for providing medical services for gender affirmation procedures.
“This is deeply worrying because it makes it impossible for transgender people from accessing the gender-affirming care they need from health professionals,” said the human rights group.
These provisions, argues Amnesty, are in clear violation of the Ghanaian Constitution and international law.
After its first reading on 2 August, Ghana’s Parliament is expected to consider the bill for adoption in October. Amnesty pointed out that the legislation is being considered in a context of already existing discrimination, intolerance and criminalisation against LGBTI people.
Under Ghana’s Criminal Code, consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalised and LGBTI people are subjected to hate speech and threats and live in a climate of fear, hostility and intolerance.
“At a time when other countries around the world, including Angola and Gabon are lifting discriminatory laws targeting people for their real or perceived sexual orientation, Ghana must not go in the opposite direction,” said Amnesty. “The Ghanaian authorities are encouraged to protect equality and non-discrimination and other fundamental human rights of all people in Ghana.”