Feature Article of Friday, 1 February 2013
Columnist: Atugiya, David
It was quite refreshing watching the display of intellect, frankness and confidence from Nana Oye Lithur, when she took her turn as the Minister designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection in a two hour or more gruelling session before the Appointments Committee of Parliament on 29 January 2013.
Contrary to the accusation by few subjective individuals, including some clergy and some members of the Appointments Committee that she was evasive in some of her answers to the questions put to her, I am of the view that Nana Lither excelled and acquitted herself very well. Any person who has been involved in conducting interviews, without sounding disrespectful to the those who are accusing Nana Lither of evasiveness particularly to the question of gay, lesbian and homosexuality, would agree with me that the accusations are trivial and baseless.
As a human rights campaigner, I was interested in hearing what Nana Lithur had to say on the subject of homosexuality, so I made time to watch the live deliberations of the Appointments Committee courtesy of Myjoyonline.com when Nana Oye took her turn to answer questions.
In answering a number of questions on her views on gay rights before the Appointments Committee on Wednesday 29 January 2013, Nana Oye Lithur said “my stand on the actual practice of gay and lesbianism is personal and the issue of homosexuality is a societal issue which I believe our society should discuss, debate and deliberate upon and come to a conclusion as to whether they want to accept it or not. My focus is on defending the rights of everyone who finds himself or herself in Ghana.”
When she was repeated pressed further by a number questioners she was equivocal in one of her answers and I quote “Mr. Chair, I have never said that homosexuality should be promoted or that I will promote homosexuality and I have never said that homosexuality should be legalized. I am a human rights lawyer, activist and advocate. I stand for justice for everybody and what I said was that the rights of everybody including homosexuals should be protected...” In all fairness and honesty can anyone including the Presby Church Moderator Prof. Emmanuel Martey, the NUGS and some of the hypocritical clergy men point to me or any objective minded person what is dishonest, evasive and dangerous about the above answers. What is morally wrong or criminal about protecting the rights of vulnerable or disadvantaged members of our society? Nana Oye accepts the fact that the Constitutions of Ghana frowns upon the practice and promotion of gay, lesbian and homosexuality and that as a person who believes in the rule of law she will always uphold and defend the Constitution. What she said, however, which every human being must accept and practice, is that, she will defend and protect the rights of every person irrespective of one’s gender, sexual orientation, colour, ethnicity, class, religion, creed and social background. How can any right thinking person including Prof Martey and the so called Concerned Clergy Association kick against the right of protection for gays’ lesbians, homosexuals as a basic fundamental human right. It is preposterous and hypocritical for Prof. Martey and the likes to hold the view or say that the stance of Nana Oye to defend and protect the rights of gays, lesbians and homosexuals is very dangerous to the moral health of the society. A man of God like Prof. Martey and his ilk to call Nana Oye, the human rights advocate a coward and liar without substantiating anything on her submissions before the Parliamentary Appointment Committee is beyond comprehension, hypocritical, offensive and highly regrettable.
Prof. Martey as a man of God has had his congregations members come to him to confess all manners of wrong doing or sins. The question is, has he ever gone to report these people to the authorities for the law to take its course? The answer is emphatically no, so why this double standards and name calling. The call by Prof Emmanuel Martey and the likes for the Appointments Committee and Parliament not to approve the nomination of Nana Oye Lithur as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection is unfair, unjust and in bad taste. This is because Nana Oye as a human rights advocate and lawyer, in her submission to Appointment Committee made it abundantly clear that her work and public statements has always been to uphold the principles of rule of law and in particular Article 17(1 and 2) of the 1992 Constitution which says: “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" to ground his argument”.
The writer is not in any way questioning the rights of the petitioners, the Appointment Committee and other Ghanaians to seek clarifications or assurances from Nana Oye that when given the nod as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, she will not seek to undermine the constitution and rule of law on the practice and promotion of gay, lesbian and homosexuality. What is unacceptable is the needless vilification of President Mahama’s nominee, when she had been honest, frank and truthful to the issue of gay, lesbian and homosexuality.
Ghana is a tolerant country with respectable, loving and God fearing people. So while we accept the fact that human beings are equal but not the same, and that some people in our society are more vulnerable than others and need protection; we should strive to come to the aid of these people without prejudice and sometimes misplaced religious and traditional believes or views.
It is unfortunate that the subject of gay, lesbian and homosexuality dominated the discussions in the airwaves and the electronic media in the after mouth of Nana Oye’s vetting, that we did not equally give weight to her laudable proposal of establishing an independent body (an idea the writer has long advocated for, refer to article “NGOs and Civil Society Organisations needs an independent regulatory body ” on Ghanaweb.com, 12 March 2012) to ensure accountability and transparency in the operations of Civil Society Organisations.
To Nana Oye Lithur I say bravo and to the Appointments Committee and Parliament I urge you to judge Nana Lithur on the merits of her capabilities, competence, skills and abilities.
David Atugiya The author is a Human Rights and Social Justice Campaigner, Finance and Management Consultant; Specialist in NGO; Chartered Fellow CMI and Millennium Awards Fellow