Feature Article of Saturday, 5 November 2011
Columnist: Sidibe, Abdul Musah
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor polite, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tell him it is right,” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron warned African leaders to be prepared to face a slash in British Aid if they fail to adhere to what he called “proper human rights.” The Prime Minister was obviously concerned about the recent anti-gay hysteria in some African countries, including Ghana, Uganda, and Malawi. The UK had already suspended its budgetary support to Malawi over the same concerns. Before the Commonwealth summit in Perth, Australia last week, the British High Commission in Accra circulated a document warning Ghanaian officials of similar faith if it government official do not stop the threat on the life of gay, lesbian and transgendered people in the country.
This prompted a strong response from Ghana’s President Atta Mills who have declare himself as the divine leaders sent by God to rule his country. At an event earlier this year the President of Ghana declared that “God is the President of Ghana” and since he is the current President, by implication he is God. Therefore he decides who live or die, who should have rights and who should not. The President’s anti-gay rhetoric is based purely on his Christian religion. It is devoid of facts, logic or science.
In his response to the British Prime Minister, he asserts Ghana’s sovereign right to adopt its own laws and reminded the Prime Minister that we are no longer under colonial rule. He also invoked Ghanaian culture and suggested that homosexuality is totally inconsistent with Ghanaian cultural values. This prompted some MPs in the Ghanaian Parliament to call for stiffer punishment on anyone homosexual in Ghana. Since the President responded to David Cameron, the entire media landscape in Ghana has become dominated by anti-gay bigotry and disrespect for foreign leaders whose only crime was to point out some flaws in the thinking of officialdom on homosexuality.
But wait a moment; was it not the same President Mills who literally ban the Ghanaian cultural practice of pouring libation at national events and limited prayer in such events to only Muslims and Christian prayers? It is important to note that successive Ghanaian leaders (all Christians) have allowed the cultural practice at national events since the nation’s founding in 1957. On the one hand the President is promoting bigotry base on Ghanaian indigenous culture and on the other hand he is disgusted by indigenous cultural practices and won’t even acknowledge them at national events. Has President Mills become a hypocrite in just three years? Your guess is as right as mine.
For a President who has his own cobwebs for bearing a child outside marriage, which we do not fault him for because it is none of our business, one would expect him to be a little circumspect when it comes to the sex life of others. Where is President Mills’ moral impetus for once upon a time having child without marriage? Is it not inconsistent with our cultural values to have children before marriage? Again your guess is as right as mine.
Ghana is a republic, the last time I checked. President Mills dare not impose his religious believes on a democracy this young. Christianity is not a national religion in Ghana. In fact it was introduced to us under very dubious and violent circumstances. The ship that brought the slave masters, colonizers and imperialists also brought the President’s religion. To put it more lightly, Christians came to our part of world with the bible on one hand, and the gun on the other. Shave down our throat like a bitter pill. And now we are trying to out-Christina the Christians themselves? Christian must and should learn to tolerated every Ghanaian citizen, gay or straight.
In the anti-gay debate or bashing, the President Mills gained some a very unlikely allies; the Catholic Church!!!. The church that is drowning in its moral iniquities; whose moral quality is sinking like a dropping rock in a pool of water. The Church involved in the molestation of hundreds little boys and girls by Bishops in every corner of the world imaginable. The church that spent years covering up the moral ills of its Bishops. Prompting the seating Pope to apologize to its victims and seek forgiveness. I will dare call on the Ghanaian Catholic Church to shut up. It has neither the moral right nor standing to lectures us about the morality of sex. The behavior of the Catholic Church just confirms the finding of a study at the University of Georgia that the more homophobic a person, the more likely he or she is to engage in gay sex. Read this links. http://www.philosophy-religion.org/handouts/homophobia.htm https://my.psychologytoday.com/files/u47/Henry_et_al.pdf The Catholic Church harbors closeted gays in the towers of their cathedrals while at the same time contemning others to death.
Is David Cameron right in threatening to cut aid to Ghana and risk his countries diplomatic relation with UK’s former colony? He is right both on morality and science. As a young man growing up in England in 1970s and 1980s, Cameron might have witness the discrimination and abuse homosexual suffered in his country. He might have heard or read of gay and lesbian children commit suicide because they couldn’t bear with the bullying from their peers in school for being gay. Cameron might have had gay friends who are good and generous human beings. He might have seen his society change and adopt as the science and evidence of the naturalness of homosexual evolve. On these scores David Cameron is right in sympathizing with the gay, lesbian and transgendered community in Ghana by making it clear that UK would support human rights in the country. He perhaps does not want similar predicament in Ghana. He wants Ghana to void being label a human right violating nation and scorned for the manner it treat its fellow citizens and human beings.
But the only problem with David Cameron’s threat is that he miscalculated the local political dynamics in Ghana. Thus he made matters worse for same community he is trying frantically to help. By nature, Ghanaians are very apprehensive to foreign intervention in their domestic matters, especially coming from their former European colonial bosses. Ghanaians take their independence seriously and will fight to death any attempt at controlling them again. There are still people who resent the English for their abuses in the colonial days. Besides, with the rise China, the country has realized that it could look elsewhere for aid and support. Support for the gay, lesbian, and transgendered people in Ghana could be better achieved by courting the press and the human rights community in Ghana. Mr. Cameron should have used the carrots more than the stick.
Is homosexuality natural or a learned behavior? As a human rights activist I started commenting on this issue first by reading academic sources to educate myself and talking to people who are familiar with the subject. I am yet to read any credible study that suggested that homosexuality is a learned behavior or a disease that can be cured. In fact homosexuality is as old as sex itself. Those familiar with ancient Greek and Latin literature will attest to this fact. In fact in the ancient days, before the advent of Christianity and Islam, it was an acceptable sexual orientation. It is common in ancient text to read about princess and princes acknowledge that they prefer and engage in same sex acts. It is also proven by thousands of studies by numerous academic institutions that some people are naturally not attracted to people of their opposite gender. Below are some of the links I found just by going on wikipia while writing this article: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/261/5119/321.long http://www.pnas.org/content/89/15/7199.long http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/09/science/09cnd-smell.html?ei=5065&en=bf437458d36709cf&ex=1116302400&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print https://my.psychologytoday.com/files/u47/Henry_et_al.pdf http://esciencenews.com/articles/2008/06/28/homosexual.behavior.due.genetics.and.environmental.factors http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1925 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/03/09/60minutes/main1385230.shtml
Base on personal experience in Canada for almost a decade, gays, lesbians, and transgendered people are not wicked. They are not out there to destroy our society or our culture. They are fellow human beings. Whether you like their sexual orientation or not is not the issue. The issue is whether as a society, we in Ghana should despise others so much that we are willing to outlaw them not for what have done but for who they are. We should not be afraid of what we do not understand. We should rather seek to understand these people, what makes them who they are, and how best we could accommodate them. Outlawing homosexuality will not let the gays go away. If someone is gay, he or she is not going to stop being gay because we passed some laws. In the same vein that those of us attracted to opposite sex would not change our behavior because of laws enacted by parliament. Let us allow reason, and not dogma to determine destiny.
I will conclude by entreating on Ghanaians never to allow Governments in their bedrooms for we do that to our peril. Never allow governments to dictate morality or they will lead you to disaster. Assert your individuality, place limits on the extent to which a government can go on your personal matters. And finally, see the violation of other’s rights as a violation of your rights for you will never regret that decision. Pastor Martin Niemoller, a German during the Nazi purges wrote the following after the Second World War;
“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionist, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist Then they came for the jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
I don’t want to be a Pastor Niemoller. I will speak out against those seeking to violate the rights of others purely on their religious dogma. So when the time come for me, there will people left to speak out for me.
Keep a keen eye on those in power; they might not have your interest at heart. It could be that this anti-gay bigotry is all politics. Politicians can play with our emotions just to win political power. Trust your leaders, but always verify what they tell you.
Abdul Musah Sidibe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Abdul Musah Sidibe is a human right activists and keen observer of African and Ghanaian politics. He is currently resident in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.