Ghana: Human Rights Groups Speak Out Against Imminent Anti-LGBTIQ+ Bill

A coalition of human rights groups in Ghana held a press conference on Tuesday to condemn a pending anti-LGBTIQ+ bill as a threat to democracy (Photo: CDD)

In a last-ditch united show of opposition, a coalition of human rights groups has urged the Parliament of Ghana to reconsider its imminent passage of an oppressive bill targeting the country’s LGBTIQ+ community.

Led by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), the groups held a press conference in Accra on Tuesday to express alarm at the upcoming final vote on the draconian Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill.

MPs have in recent days been debating the bill and rejected a proposed amendment to substitute the imprisonment of individuals based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity with community service.

A Violation of Ghana’s Constitution

The groups argue that the Anti-LGBTIQ+ bill violates key fundamental human rights provisions in Ghana’s 1992 Constitution, infringing on the rights to dignity, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to partake in processions, academic freedom, equality and non-discrimination, among others.

“These rights and freedoms constitute the bedrock of any constitutional democracy and any attempt to tinker with them will set a dangerous precedent for our democracy and must be of great concern to all Ghanaians,” said Professor Audrey Gadzekpo, Board Chair of the CDD.

The coalition also pointed out that human rights are not dependent on majority approval or disapproval, and therefore, the assertion by proponents of the Anti-LGBTIQ+ bill that because the majority of Ghanaians are allegedly in favour of the bill justifies its passage into law, is untenable.

Culture and Religion No Justification

The groups noted that Ghana is a secular and multi-religious country with over 50 ethnic groups with different cultural practices and beliefs, stating: “Any attempt to create a single cultural value system for Ghana erases the beautiful cultural mosaic that makes us a unique people. It is for this reason that the Constitution abolishes all practices and laws detrimental to people’s health and well-being, even in the name of culture and tradition.”

And while the coalition believes that religious communities are free to classify LGBTIQ+ activities as sinful, trying to use these religious beliefs as a basis to infringe on the rights of others violates the long-standing principle of separation of Church and State.

“It would also constitute a state-sanctioned imposition of the religious views of one segment of Ghanaian society onto those who may not share them,” said Professor Gadzekpo.

She further remarked that the crusade against LGBTIQ+ persons that’s been championed by many religious communities in Ghana, “has not been one of compassion, contrary to what their professed religious doctrines constantly preach.”

A Clampdown on Media and Press Freedoms

In addition, if passed, the bill will violate media and press freedoms as it would punish any citizen who broadcasts or posts publications, stories or reports that are said to be related to LGBTIQ+ activities. Any person who uses the media to broadcast and/or advocate on this topic faces a prison sentence of up to three years.

“This places a heavy restriction on journalists, bloggers, influencers, and various social media users who produce or publish content, especially those who work in the field of human rights,” asserted Gadzekpo.

The coalition called on President Nana Akufo-Addo not to assent to the bill should it be passed by lawmakers in Parliament.

“This bill criminalises a person’s identity and strips away the rights of many groups in Ghana, including the media,” said Gadzekpo. “If it becomes law, not only will it mark a sharp departure from both domestic and international human rights standards, but it will also undermine the fundamental rights journalists have to do their work without fear of being held criminally liable.”

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