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Feature Article of Monday, 1 August 2011

Columnist: Sidibe, Abdul Musah

War on Homosexuals in Ghana

By Abdul Musah Sidibe

The Ghanaian government has declared a war on gays, lesbians and transexual in Ghana. The hidden but very small LGBT community in Ghana is now under threat from Ghanaian officials whose duty and responsibility is it to protect and preserve the rights of every citizen.

“All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in the society,” Paul Evans Aidoo, Ghana’s Western Regional Minister said in a statement referring to the homosexual community in Ghana. The minister asked landlords and residence of western region to report anyone deem homosexual to the police for arrest.

The rage on the homosexual community is not just from officialdom. Both Christian and Muslim communities in Ghana have both issue statement condemning homosexuals and calling on the state to crack down on them. “If homosexuality is tolerated, very soon the human race will be extinct,” Reverend Stephen Wengan, a religious leader, said in an op-ed he wrote for the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.

Apart from a very few people such as Lawyer Akoto Ampaw who spoke very passionately against the on-going persecution of the LGBT community, no one is asking for calm. Not even the numerous Ghanaian human rights groups. It seems anyone who attempts to speak out against the apparent human rights violation and the seeming unconstitutional rallying cry is labelled a homosexual. And in a very homophobic society, that is enough to silent critics and continue the rage.

The deafening silence of the human rights community in Ghana on this issue is hippocratic and unprincipled. As human rights activists, they can not and must not pick and choose the rights they will defend. The human right community, especially the Commission for Human Rights and Administration Justice (CHRAJ) must come out with an official position on this matter. They must not wait for lives to be lost before they scramble for answers.

There is also a deliberate lack of balance in public debate and information on this issue, especially radio and television. While excessive air time is provided religious bigots, some of whom have never met a homosexual in their life, to gay bash and most often engage in misinformation and disinformation. There is neither an attempt to do ample research that will inform the debate nor provide an equivalent air for opposing views on the issue.

In Ghanaian society, religion and not science and evidence, is the yardstick for determining sexual orientation. The recent public rage against the homosexual community could be very dangerous. In a recent Facebook chat, it was very surprising to read the bombardment of insults and castigations, and the call for public lynching of homosexual from the most educated of Ghanaians who should know better.

It is also very mind boggling that in the age of information technology, when information about just anything is easily accessible, people still think like medieval serfs. The facts of the naturalness of homosexuals, transgendered people, and bisexuals are available online. There are also numerous scientific researches by very credible institutions debunking the religious explanation of this issue. And just as religion was wrong on the shape of the earth and the evolution of mankind, it can not be relied upon for explanation on the facts of homosexuality because neither the Pope nor his followers can pin point the location of Sodom and Gomorra.

There is a tendency among the religious extremist in Ghana to claim that because they are the majority, state policy and decision must reflect their religious believes. Whiles democracy is indisputably the rule of the majority, minority rights and restrain on majority powers are indispensably a part of democratic tradition. Ghana can either be a viable democracy or subjugate itself to whims of an overbearing religious extremist.

The call for the discrimination and arrest of homosexuals in Ghana is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of article 17 of the 1992 constitution, which state as follows; (1) All persons shall be equal before the law. (2) A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status. (3) For the purposes of this article, "discriminate" means to give different treatment to different persons attributable only or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, gender, occupation, religion or creed, whereby persons of one description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another description are not made subject or are granted privileges or advantages which are not granted to persons of another description.

The anti-homosexual posture is also inconsistent with the privacy provision of article 18 of the 1992 constitution. The article granted every Ghanaian, straight and gay alike, the right to privacy. The constitution sought to free Ghanaians from excessive state intrusion in their private lives. The framers of constitutions were conscious of the excessive use of state powers into the very private lives of individuals. It is not business of governments to police the private bedrooms of individuals.

Besides, Ghana is no better than the numerous countries that have already legalized homosexual rights. In December 2004, the Supreme Court of Canadian ruled in favour of homosexuals to get married. Civilization did not cease. The sun did not rise from the north neither did the earth stop orbiting the sun. A majority of Canadians did not even notice that there was such a ruling. Everyone went about their business.

In conclusion, all Ghanaians should be guided by the thoughtful words of Lawyer Akoto Ampaw that “the constitution is hinged firmly on a fair secular democratic republic,” and the argument that homosexuality is unnatural is philosophically wrong because homosexuality is happening within nature and anything happening within nature can not be deemed unnatural. Religious institutions and personality must be careful not to impose their religious inclination on a secular nation. We must cease fire on our fellow citizens. Let us agree to tolerate the rights of others even if we disapprove of their acts.

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