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Ghana Anti-LGBTQ+ Bill should Be Banned

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) persons in Africa face high rates of sexual and gender based violence. They also face obstacles when accessing justice and rehabilitative mental health services at their point of need.

We have seen the LGBTQ+ community experience online abuse and violence and are often called discriminatory names amongst other injustices. They suffer stigma, discrimination, physical and verbal abuse, assault, harassment, eviction from their homes, job loss, suspension or expulsion from school etc. It remains unclear if and how they can safely report violations to the police.

Though it is often said that one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGIE) is a non-issue, the violence meted upon said person is undeniably a big issue as it affects their quality of health and life. .Violence is further perpetrated against LGBTQ+ persons given the existence of laws that criminalize sex between two consenting same sex adults.

LGBTQ+ Rights in Ghana continue to be threatened by attacks on LGBTQ+ Human Rights Defenders and community. Organizations serving LGBTQ+ persons have been attacked. LGBTQ persons arrested and detained for weeks as well as public ridicule and religious blackmail including attempts by the clergy to hold “national prayers” against the LGBTQ+ Community In Ghana.

These events culminated in the Draft Legislative submission to the clerk of parliament in June titled “Promotion of proper Human Sexual Rights And Ghanian Family Values Bill 2021” jointly sponsored as a private member’s Bill by  a Member of Parliament

The anti-LGBTQ+ bill will unfortunately legalize discrimination and conversation therapy which further inflicts on ones mental and psychological well-being. Advocating for sexual minorities, sympathising or offering any assistance would be an offence punishable with up to 10 years in jail.

This bill would make it a crime to be gay, bisexual or transgender has shocked the local LGBT+ community and raised fears over a possible surge in discrimination and violence against sexual minorities in the West African country. Gay sex is already punishable with up to three years in jail in Ghana, where homophobic persecution is widespread, but the draft law would go much further – making it illegal to be LGBT+ or advocate for LGBT+ rights, and imposing longer sentences.

If approved, the legislation would make it a crime punishable with up to five years imprisonment to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, pansexual and non-binary – someone who does not identify as male or female. Anyone advocating for their rights or helping them could get 10 years in jail. Online platforms or media companies publishing information deemed to support LGBT+ people or challenge traditional binary gender identity could be prosecuted.

On the other hand, the draft law promotes so-called conversion therapy by allowing flexible sentencing for an LGBT+ person if they request “treatment”, and encourages parents of intersex children to have them undergo surgical “realignment”.

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These laws create a misguided perception in society that lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer individuals are criminals and an outcast; a perception that subsets of the state and religious institutions advance to further perpetuate human rights violation and acts of violence.

It is worrying that LGBTQ+ persons in Ghana go through a lot of violence and discrimination just because of who they are. LGBTQ+ persons should be protected just like any other Ghanian citizen against all forms of violence and discrimination.

Being a lesbian or a gay man is a non issue. Being harmed because of who they are is a huge issue.

LGBTQ+  persons have a right to equality and freedom from discrimination of all forms. They require equal protection against any form of violence. The right to equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and fundamental freedoms.

The LGBTQ+ community does not want special rights: basic human rights are not special rights. The right to get and keep a job based on merit is not a special right; the right to be served food in a restaurant is not a special right; the right to have housing is not a special right; the right to walk down a street and not be attacked because of who you are and whom you love is not a special right.

Everyone was created equal and we all have the right to live with dignity and respect. The draft anti-LGBTQ+ Bill should be withdrawn, rejected and banned, otherwise it will further endanger the lives of Human Rights Defenders and the LGBTIQ+ Community in Ghana.

Alvin Mwangi

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Youth Expert

Nairobi, Kenya

Twitter: @alvinmwangi254

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