A report on pending anti-LGBTIQ legislation in Ghana has found that it’s already resulted in a surge of violence and hostilities towards sexual and gender minorities.
The report is the outcome of an ongoing collaboration between OutRight Action International and Rightify Ghana, a local LGBTQI+ advocacy organisation.
The research included interviews with 44 LGBTIQ Ghanaians and concluded that the bill has created an unsafe environment for LGBTIQ persons, leading to severe human rights violations by law enforcement and members of the general public.
These include mob attacks, physical violence, arbitrary arrests, blackmail and online harassment, gang rape and other acts of sexual violence, conversion practices, forced evictions and homelessness, employment discrimination, and robbery.
The research found that in some cases, perpetrators of violence make videos of the attacks and circulate them on social media.
“We see incredibly barbaric acts against LGBT+ persons recorded and shared across social media; videos that are hard to watch and dehumanising. We try to trace victims of abuse in the videos. If we are able to find them, we support them by getting health workers to attend to them or foot hospital bills and look for ally therapists to provide psychosocial support,” Donkor, an activist in Accra, told OutRight.
“Before the bill, it was normal,” said Moses, a bisexual man who was interviewed for the report. “But now, people look at us like we’re satanic. Like, we are the cause of the issues happening in Ghana. We used to have safe places to go to, but now we don’t.”
The introduction of the draconian anti-LGBTIQ bill – titled the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021 – was sparked by a clampdown on LGBTIQ rights by political leaders and religious fundamentalists in the West African country.
The bill has been described as “the most expansive proposed legislation of its kind” and targets all sexual and gender minorities. Ghana already criminalises consensual same-sex relations in a law that dates to British colonialism.
“Ghana’s anti-LGBTIQ bill is unprecedented in its attacks on fundamental rights,” said Ohotuowo Ogbeche, global researcher for OutRight Action International.
“It institutionalises discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, mandates medical abuse of intersex people, and promotes harmful conversion practices. It even criminalises being an ally to sexual and gender minorities, and speaking out in support of human rights for all.”
Ogbeche called on Ghanaian politicians to reject the bill, “which puts all Ghanaians at risk of arbitrary arrest and will stain Ghana’s image as a rights-respecting democracy.”
Ebenezer Peegah, executive director of Rightify Ghana commented: “We always knew same-sex acts were criminalised by the Criminal Offences Act introduced during colonialism, but our communities tried to carve out spaces for us to exist freely. Now, the situation is fundamentally unsafe, as shown in this report.”
Peegah added: “The bill has caused so much harm and violence, and it hasn’t even been passed yet.”