Feature Article of Monday, 4 February 2013
Columnist: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi
Life-boy ‘swagger’ former Adenta MP, Adu Asare, calls it a sickness. Christian baptised and Muslim converted journalist, Malik Kweku Baako, calls it disgusting. The Venerable Prof Martey of the Presbyterian Church calls it morally corrupt and a breach of commonsense. Our constitution calls unnatural canal knowledge criminal. However, legal Guru John Ndebugri says the constitution limits the definition of canal knowledge to sexual activity involving penetration, particularly with the male sexual organ. Many Ghanaians call homosexuality inconceivable, and pretend they would hastily support the annihilation of all gays and lesbians in the republic.
Is homosexuality the biggest sexual issue confronting Ghanaians today, CPP Communications Director, Nii Akomfrah, has asked? There were homosexuals in Ghana before Nana Oye Lithur graduated from law school and decided to commit herself to defending human rights. So, why are we electing Nana Oye as the best person who qualifies to bear the collective Golgotha of all 24 million of us? Adu Asare was spot on: Ghanaians are today indulging in threesomes and foursomes, employing sexual tools and other kinky accoutrements for depraved sexual rendezvous. Yet, the whole society would descend on any businessman who decides to set up a sex shop to sell these items to locals. We would rather they imported them from London and America, so we can lay the blame on foreign influence.
Newly approved Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hannah Tetteh, gave a very intelligent answer at the vetting regarding the issue of homosexuality. She said western countries have accepted the practice, but she doesn’t think Ghanaians have come to that acceptance yet. That was diplomatic. Those western countries started off like us, thinking it unthinkable until they came to terms with the not-so ugly reality. France just amended their constitution to approve gay marriage. Presently David Cameron’s Tory party is divided on the issue. They may soon follow other countries to legalise the practice.
There are a lot of gays in Ghana. Even now, I continue to receive emails from young Ghanaian men and women imploring me to introduce them to pornography business. They had read an article I penned years ago about pornography in Ghana, where actors speak Twi, and without bothering to consume a single syllable of the content, hurriedly satisfied themselves that the article was an advertisement for Ghanaian porn actors. Many of them attach nude photographs, never caring what the recipient could use them for. Some of them gave their profiles as gays, bisexuals and lesbians. They don’t actually care about labels; they are eager for sex, and ever ready to be recorded for global consumption. These are Ghanaians, church-going Ghanaians next door who share our faith and break our bread.
Being gay is not a particularly horrendous adventure. A man decided that he wants to love another man. That is how they see it. Choose ye this day whom thy shall love, they would tell you. If it is a sickness, they are happy to be sick. Why should that be the worry of conventional society, when many people are decidedly unconventional in several other ways, other than their sex lives? Did I not write about a Ghanaian woman who had to flee her matrimonial home in Ghana to London because her husband, an elder in a popular church in Ghana, preferred to have her in the anus several times a day? It is fashionable for young Ghanaian girls to request ‘Bogga sex’ from their partners. Well, ‘Bogga sex’ is anal sex. The people in a particular Kumasi suburb termed it as such after three Amsterdam-based Ghanaians visited their locality and nearly shattered the anal regions of all the females they bedded. The term sounds better when spoken in Twi: “Mr Akoto, di me bogga foo die no bi”, a 17 year old asked her sugar daddy.
Nobody expects Prof Martey to endorse an act that is against the Bible. But why rise against Nana Oye. Why Andrew Solomon? Does it matter whether President Mahama knew about his gay status or not? We expect every Ghanaian president to speak against homosexuality. It is alien to our culture. Yes, very alien. That is where the problem lies. The people practicing the act are not aliens. They are Ghanaians working in banks and government establishments. They are part of the culture we have all built together. Maybe we failed to notice their input. Has Prof Martey sent circulars to any Presbyterian school prescribing punitive measures for students who may be gays? Indeed, even if a student was identified as gay, the school authorities would only be able to enforce any rule when he is caught in the act. For, we have always been aware that they are in our midst. They have a right to life, just like anybody else. By her training, Nana Oye has a duty to protect them.
Do I hate gay people? Why should I? I loved Anderson Cooper before he came out from the closet and announced that he is gay. I loved him not because he is a fine journalist, but because of how he became a journalist. He wanted it so bad he had to make a press ID for himself to cover a story, pretending to be a reporter on assignment. The media house he had always wanted to work for loved the report. They signed him on. I loved that audacity. His reports are accurate and spot on. Should I stop watching him because he is gay? No. He remains a great journalist.
None of my friends has the tendency of ever becoming gay. Well, not that I know of; there are many events in the womb of time. Would it change anything if I found out one of them is gay? Well, we would talk and eat salad in our usual pub, but he would cease to be part of my circle of trust. And that is because gays have no place in my church. But you see, that is where I just became a hypocrite. I am still loyal to my friends in church whose wives have reported issues of amorous dalliances with their concubines. Scandals rock charismatic churches everyday. Big pastors have fallen because of their secret lives and young couples are divorcing for very funny reasons. So, we need to revisit Akomfrah’s query again: Is homosexuality the biggest problem we have as a country?
Mark that I did say my Christian friends. I wrote about my friends in church in the preceding paragraph. Joy Fm was so dutiful to have given prominence to Bishop Dag Heward-Mills’s opinion of our recent elections. The Bishop calls us thieves. Nearly 70% of Ghanaians subscribe to the Christian faith, and some 17% of us are Muslim, and the rest are traditionalists who share our value systems and cultural beliefs. Yet our elections are fraught with problems of cheating and multiplication of alien votes. The Bishop questions our commitment to our various faiths if we cannot hold fair elections.
Still, the Ghanaian people in international circles are considered peace-loving, sincere and fair minded religion lovers. Our national football team is christened the team that prays together. Every meeting in any government office about a requisition for new carpets starts with a prayer. We even have a Catholic Cardinal and boast of branches of Ghanaian churches in unlikely countries (Heward-Mills has branches of Lighthouse in Fiji and Ukraine). We are quick to outdoor our commitment to things that are deemed good, but it doesn’t mean we are good people. We are part of a world that is moving very fast, a world that will not wait while we tarry to come to terms with the fierce urgency of the reality that gays have the same rights as us.
So, where does the bus stop? Well, it stopped at the junction where Nana Oye also stopped. The lawyer was emphatic that she would leave the issue of homosexuality for the society to decide what we would want to do with them. Is she the best person for the ministry of Gender, Children and Social protection? Aye, methinks. And so do most Ghanaians, including gays.
Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin is an Ottawa based journalist.