Ghana’s legal chief signals support for anti-LGBTIQ bill in coup for equality

Ghana’s attorney general and justice minister, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has criticized parts of the country’s anti-LGBTIQ bill as “unnecessary” and “unconstitutional”.

but the lady legal opinion on Promoting Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghana’s Family Values ​​Bill, released yesterday, has come under fire from LGBTIQ rights advocates as it appears largely in line with the bill’s goals. law, and even suggests a broader definition of “unnatural carnal knowledge.” ‘ to include sexual intercourse between women, which is not criminalized under current Ghanaian law.

Activists fear it could signal Ghana’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) will back the bill when it comes to a vote. The proposed law originated with eight opposition MPs, and NPP Chairman Freddie Blay has even spoken againstSaying, “Leave the gays alone.”

The bill, introduced in June 2021, is the culmination of a violent response to the opening of Ghana’s first LGBTIQ community center earlier the same year. The proposed law is considered so long range that Human Rights Watch has said is incredible”.

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It would require anyone who knows an LGBTIQ person to report them to the police. Also, identifying as LGBTIQ would attract a prison sentence of three to five years. Homosexuality is already punishable under a colonial-era law in Ghana, but there have been no prosecutions in years. The bill could also force people to submit to so-called ‘conversion therapy‘. an open democracy research this year found that supporters of the bill, including top doctors, were using misinformation to train nurses and psychologists in these practices.

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“Parts of the bill in its current form violate some fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution, including the right to freedom of expression, thought and conscience and non-discrimination,” Dame said in a document released Thursday and directed to the chairperson of the Ghana Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Caution is necessary, she added, “since any unconstitutionality or illegality exposes the State to unjustified civil actions.”

But a spokesperson for Rightify Ghana, one of the LGBTIQ organizations at the forefront of the campaign against the bill, said: “It is disappointing that the attorney general has not been bold in rejecting the entire proposed law.”

Dame’s analysis criticizes a line in the bill that seeks to criminalize “any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of man and woman.” She says this could violate the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression, thought, conscience and belief for Ghanaians. “In essence, a person has the right to have personal ideologies,” she wrote.

He also singled out another clause targeting intersex people, saying it would violate the right to “human dignity.”

But he supported clauses that criminalize the “promotion” of LGBTIQ activities in the media and calls for the dissolution of LGBTIQ organizations and groups, saying that freedom of expression and association “may be restricted in the interest of defense, public safety or security.” public health” under the constitution.

Upset

Alex Kofi Donkor, director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, told openDemocracy that he was disappointed by Dame’s legal opinion.

He said that Dame had missed an opportunity to be “unequivocal, unambiguous and confident about the unconstitutionality, illegality and unnecessary targeting of LGBTQIA Ghanaians by fundamentalist groups”. “This was an opportunity to completely abort the bill from the government’s perspective, but it allowed space for some aspects of the bill to remain,” he added.

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Dame’s opinion also expresses concern about the cost of the bill to the government. Ghana is currently facing financial difficultieswith inflation registered above 37% in September, which caused protests calling for the resignation of the president.

“We encourage the attorney general to take a strong stand against the anti-LGBTQI bill and stop trying to please both sides,” said the Rightify Ghana spokesperson. “You can’t be neutral if you really care about human rights and justice.”