Draft anti-gay legislation submitted to Ghana’s parliament could propose up to 10 years in jail for LGBTQ+ people, as well as groups and individuals who advocate for their rights, express sympathy or offer social or medical support, in one of the most draconian and sweeping anti-gay laws proposed around the world.
Support for intersex people would also be criminalized and the government could direct intersex people to receive “gender realignment” surgery, the draft legislation says.
A leaked copy of the promotion of proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values bill, widely circulated online and confirmed as authentic by diplomats with access to the draft bill, has sparked outrage and growing fear among human rights activists.
The bill would be the first major step in criminalizing the sexual minorities and their supporters since independence from colonial rule.
The prospect of harsh new laws has been hailed by numerous Ghanaian lawmakers and supported by figures in Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government.
It follows a wave of repression against LGBTQ+ people in the west African country since January. In February, a community space offering support for sexual minorities was forced to close amid a backlash from politicians, civil and religious groups, and the media, and also led to a rise in arrests and abuse against people perceived to be gay or queer.
Ghanaian lawmaker Sam Nartey George Sam Nartey George, who has described gay rights as a “perversion” and led a group of lawmakers who drafted the bill, on Friday dismissed online condemnation of the bill as “uninformed.”
“Homosexuality is not a human right. It is a sexual preference,” he wrote on Twitter. “We shall pass this bill through.”
Foreign diplomats said that they have expressed significant concern over the bill to Ghana’s government.
Ghanaian officials have privately sought to allay fears that the bill would pass.
The parliament has not yet appointed a committee to review the draft legislation and the bill would likely be subject to amendments before it is passed.
Nana Ama Agyemang Asante, a journalist and activist in the capital, Accra, said that she was “stunned by the contents, the crudeness of the language, and the cruelty behind the intent” of the bill.
“I have spent all my time as a journalist advocating for gay rights, so I can’t believe that we have arrived at this point where they want to criminalize everything and everyone including the existence of allies, intersex and asexual folks,” she said.
Among other aspects of the bill that have sparked condemnation, groups or individuals found to be funding groups deemed as advocating for LGBTQ+ rights or offering support could be prosecuted. Marriage would be clearly defined in Ghanaian law as being between a male and female.
Media companies, online platforms and accounts which publish information that could be deemed to encourage children to explore any gender or sex outside of the binary categories of male and female could face 10 years in prison.
Since January, groups across public life, from politicians to journalists, civil and religious leaders, have led fierce condemnation of LGBTQ+ rights and support networks in Ghana.
Ghana’s government promised new laws to prohibit pro-gay advocacy, amid hysteria over bolder efforts to establish support for sexual minorities. A group of eight lawmakers submitted the draft legislation to the parliament on June 29.
“Unnatural carnal knowledge” — often interpreted as non-heterosexual sex — is unlawful in Ghana. Prosecutions are rare, yet many gay and queer people have reported experiencing abuse by citizens and law enforcement agencies.
Amid growing clamor for a clampdown on those perceived to be promoting LGBTQ+ rights, 21 people were arrested in the city of Ho in March, at a training event for paralegals and other professionals working on supporting vulnerable groups.
They were released on bail last month, but many of the defendants are living in safe houses for fear of the safety, with some disowned by family members and having lost their jobs.
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