Ghana: Catholic Church flip-flops on LGBTQ+ rights



Bishops of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (Photo: Facebook)

The Catholic Church in Ghana is sending conflicting signals about the criminalisation of homosexuality and the country’s impending anti-LGBTQ+ bill.

The church was left scrambling following recent comments made by Ghanaian-born Cardinal Peter Turkson in a BBC interview in which he spoke out against the criminalisation of homosexuality.

According to local media, the Rev Matthew Gyamfi, who is the President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, has since appeared to support Turkson’s stance.

Gyamfi said on TV3 on Tuesday that it has always been the position of the Catholic Church to not criminalise homosexuality. “It may be a moral aberration but does not rise to the level where homosexuals… are considered as criminals,” he stated.

Gyamfi then perplexingingly went on to explain that what the Ghanaian Catholic church is against is the “legalisation” of homosexuality. “The church does not accept that, Muslims do not accept that, Africans do not accept that. So, it should not be legalised for it to become a norm as part of our culture, that is different from saying it is a crime,” he asserted.

Conflicting Positions on Homosexuality

However, just days earlier, the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference issued a formal statement applauding lawmakers for their initial passage of the Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill.

The bill, if made law, would further criminalise homosexuality. Merely identifying as LGBTQ+ or as an LGBTQ+ ally would carry a penalty of three to five years in prison. Advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in any way would carry a potential prison sentence of up to ten years.

“We wish to thank Parliament for the work done so far on the bill, particularly the commitment of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Alban S.K. Bagbin to ensure the successful passing of the bill,” said the Bishops in their November 18 statement. “We urge that they expedite action on the passage, and we call on the President to assent to the Bill as soon as it is passed by Parliament.”

Under Ghana’s existing Criminal Code, consensual same-sex sexual relations are already criminalised with up to three years in prison.

The latest developments have infuriated MP Sam George, one of the architects of the anti-LGBTQ+ bill.

“What is going on with the Catholic Bishop Conference, why the flip-flopping? We need to question our spiritual authority and men of the clerk; they are not beyond questioning…” he said in an interview with Star FM.

The generally conservative Catholic Church in Africa is grappling with the more liberal views of the current Pope. In January, Pope Francis said that laws criminalising homosexuality are “unjust” and that the church should campaign to end them.

He also recently backed a Vatican document affirming that transgender individuals, including those who have undergone medical transitions, can be baptised as Catholics and are eligible to serve as godparents and witnesses.

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