Activists in Ghana say that a group of LGBTI+ individuals were not only beaten and robbed by a mob at a party but were then arrested by the police, instead of the criminals.
According to the organisation Rightify Ghana, the incident took place on 26 June at a house party in Gbawe, Accra.
At around 2 am, the celebration was violently interrupted when thugs broke into the venue and attacked the revellers with machetes and sticks, robbing them of their personal belongings, including mobile phones.
The police were called to help but when the attackers told officers that the event was “a gay party”, they chose to instead arrest 29 male victims, with others managing to flee over a wall.
“The 29 persons arrested were taken to the Gbawe North Police Station. They were held in an unoccupied female cell. Some of them sustained injuries as a result of the rough and tumble situation during the attack by the homophobic men as well as the police,” said Rightify Ghana in a statement.
A transgender woman was also arrested on her way to the party. “I was just about arriving at the location when I saw people running and I realised that something was wrong,” she told Rightify Ghana in a phone call from the jail.
“I told my Uber driver to quickly turn the car and leave the area immediately. But unfortunately, they noticed and chased us in a motorbike, until we stopped on a highway,” she said.
The woman claims that a police officer demanded a bribe to free her. As she could not pay it, she was also taken to the police station.
After activists from various human rights groups intervened, the arrestees were all released on bail on Sunday and Monday. One of the arrested individuals sustained injuries during the incident and couldn’t walk on his own.
“Following the incident, some of those arrested have been outed to and disowned by their families and have been told not to return home,” said Rightify Ghana. They victims have been provided with emergency safe housing for two weeks.
Human rights organisations and activists are calling on the Ghana Police Service to arrest and prosecute the men who attacked the partygoers for assault, trespassing, robbery and theft.
“Also, the authorities of the Ghana Police Service should identify and punish officers who participated in the abuse, including those who allegedly demanded a bride,” said Rightify Ghana.
Same-sex sexual relations are criminalised with up to three years in prison under Ghana’s existing Criminal Code. Despite this, the country’s parliament is considering the appalling new Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill.
If passed, the bill will not only criminalise all LGBTIQ+ people, identities and relationships but will also make it illegal to advocate for LGBTQI+ rights in any way with up to ten years in prison.