Feature Article of Saturday, 2 February 2013
Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, February 1, 2013
Folks, there is so much dust being raised about the nomination, vetting, and consequent confirmation of Nana Oye Lithur as Minister of Children, Gender, and Social Promotion that we must discuss this matter thoroughly.
Over the past few days, several identifiable groups and individuals have risen up against her and blamed President Mahama for even daring to nominate her for that office.
We have heard threats and outright condemnation from the Concerned Clergy, National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (Prof. Emmanuel Martey), and others who don’t want Nana Oye in office because of her stance on homosexuality. Their fear is that she might use her position to promote the immoral act.
The latest voice of dissension has come from a law lecturer at the Ghana School of Law, Moses Foh-Amoaning, who is reported to have taken a swipe at the Majority side in Parliament for approving her.
He accused them of betraying all Ghanaians and will remain in Ghana’s history books as people who failed to defend the rich Ghanaian traditional norms and values.
Foh-Amoaning said he will soon launch an anti-gay advocacy group called Forum for True Social Protection which will be a watchdog over any institution that wants to push the homosexual agenda (MyJoyOnline, Feb. 1, 2013).
Nana Oye is not the only human rights activist that the country has produced. There are many others, including the NPP’s Akufo-Addo who is often credited with accomplishments in human rights advocacy. Have we ever paused to question whether he will promote homosexuality? Or even since his quest to become the President of Ghana would empower him to do more than a Minister of State could, have we ever used his human rights advocacy against him in his political quests?
With all the high incidence of immorality in every sector of national life (including the clergy), what have all these opponents of Nana Oye done? Is it only homosexuality that is the canker to be so vigorously opposed?
You see, Nana Oye may be a human rights activist, but I don’t think that promoting homosexuality is her agenda. Homosexuals have other human rights than the right to enjoy their sexual orientation, not so?
If Nana Oye were that much fond of homosexuality, why didn’t she become one herself but would marry and produce children? Being a human rights advocate doesn’t necessarily mean being a promoter of homosexuality. That’s a fact to deal with.
Her confirmation will definitely be the turning point for more furore. We wait to see whether the NUGS will take to the streets as earlier threatened; or whether other civil society groupings will use her appointment as a political weapon to attack the government.
We expect some organized groups to go on “massive demonstrations” against Nana Oye and the government. I will only watch to see how many of them will be NPP members seeking to take advantage of this situation to intensify their anti-Mahama rabble-rousing campaign or those who will openly declare themselves as NDC members just angry at her being appointed as a Minister in charge of that portfolio.
You see, if people begin using demonstrations as a ploy, we have to look further ahead to know where they are coming from. Will they include the very NPP people who don't regard President Mahama as the legitimate leader of the country? What justification will they have to oppose anybody he appoints into office, anyway? Even when their Minority MPs refused to participate in the vetting of such people? Very intriguing moments ahead!!
Knowing very well how touchy this Nana Oye issue is, why did the Majority in Parliament go ahead to approve her nomination? With her confirmation putting much at stake, there is a heavy price to pay.
Now, we know what awaits Nana Oye. She will be entering office as someone whose appointment has divided the society in respect of homosexuality. The open re-affirmation by President Mahama that homosexuality is a criminal offence in Ghana will definitely keep her on her toes.
Contrary to all this fuss about Nana Oye’s appointment, I hold the opinion that she is fit for that Ministry. I don’t think that her being a human rights advocate is necessarily her promoting homosexuality.
Fighting for the rights of people has nothing to do with promoting the activities of those people. In other words, we must separate her advocacy from the practical activities that the homosexuals engage in.
Of course, one may wonder whether if homosexuals are taken to task for violating the laws of the land she won’t step forward to defend them, which is invariably an endorsement of their practical sexual activities.
We may have to understand her role as an advocate and juxtapose it with the sexual (mis)conduct for which homosexuals have become pariahs in our African/Ghanaian context. We should see the difference and not begin imputing to her what lies in the future. How many of us has the gift of accurately seeing what the future holds in human affairs to be able to say with all certainty that she will use her office to promote homosexuality?
Of course, there is a genuine lingering fear that her being a Minister gives her the exposure and clout that she needs to influence opinions and attitudes toward what Ghanaians consider a moral deviation (homosexuality); but I don’t think that Nana Oye is ignorant of the implications of abusing her office as such. In any case, how much can she alone do to over-ride the national hatred for homosexuality?
I think we are missing the mark if we focus on her. The overarching question to ask is: Why haven’t we been able to stamp out homosexuality despite all the opprobrium that we seem to have against it? What are the measures in place to eradicate it from the society? Are we doing anything at all to that effect?
If we know for how long homosexuality has existed in Ghana but haven’t done anything to stamp it out, why should we begin to point gossipping fingers at this one person whose expertise is to be tapped for national development? Is homosexuality our worst national canker, anyway?
Is Nana Oye herself not aware of the huge public outcry against her nomination and confirmation? That awareness alone should tell her that she stands to lose if she does anything to promote homosexuality.
Once the President has come out openly to declare and reinforce the fact that homosexuality is CRIMINAL in Ghana, Nana Oye will not be so naïve or treacherous as to use her position to promote it. Eyes will be watching her closely and immediate steps taken to deal with her if she goes out of her way to do the very thing that she has said she won’t.
But then, because the government doesn’t want to lose face because of anything untoward coming from her, it will ensure that she doesn’t use her status to promote homosexuality. The onus is on her, and we must give her the benefit of the doubt as she prepares to step into the groove.
I have no doubt in my mind that she has the requisite acumen to do the assignments pertaining to her portfolio in the Ministry of Children, Gender, and Social Promotion. I join others like human rights lawyer Prof. Ken Attafuah, to endorse her as well.
As Prof. Attafuah has explained, our Constitution guarantees the fundamental human rights of every individual, irrespective of the person’s sexual orientation, as is stipulated in Article 17(1) of the 1992 Constitution, which says: “(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" to ground his argument.”
Furthermore, “The rights, duties, declarations and guarantees relating to the fundamental human rights and freedoms specifically mentioned in this Chapter shall not be regarded as excluding others not specifically mentioned which are considered to be inherent in a democracy and intended to secure the freedom and dignity of man”.
What is difficult to understand about Nana Oye’s role as a human rights advocate and not a promoter of homosexuality? She chose human rights as the path to pursue in her career as a lawyer. That’s what we have to understand and put her expertise above all other considerations. She deserves our support.
I shall return…
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