Feature Article of Thursday, 6 January 2011
Columnist: Owusu, Stephen Atta
On the 1st of September 2006, Mr. Kwamena Bartels, Minister of Information in the Kufuor government, warned that government would like to make it absolutely clear that it would not permit a proposed gay conference anywhere in Ghana. He explained that unnatural carnal knowledge is illegal under the criminal code in Ghana. Homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality are, therefore, offences under the law.
The government succeeded in banning Prince McDonalds, the leader of the organisation of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans-sexuals in Ghana, to hold a gay conference at the Accra International Conference Centre and later in Koforidua.
Some people make the claim that homosexuality (sexual relations between people of the same sex) became known in Ghana when tourists, international workers and even missionaries flooded the country in the 70s. Those within the group who were homosexuals invited innocent boys to their houses, flushed them with gifts and money and promised to send them to the rich countries. This was one of the ways they used to have anal intercourse with the innocent boys. This continued and most of them became addicted to it. These children kept quiet over this for a very long time. Most students began to confess when a Peace Corp volunteer was deported from Ghana for wounding the anal cavity of a young student. Since then the homosexuals have been under severe social pressure since homosexuality is considered a taboo in Ghana. Many Ghanaians went abroad and returned as homosexuals. Many also went to prison and indulged in gay habits which became habitual, and followed them even after their release from prison.
Girls also pick it from boarding secondary schools. Senior girls have their "supi" and only God knows what they do with them. There are now gay prostitutes in Ghana.
Some people claim that homosexuality is not a disease and it cannot be cured. They claim, further, that even though somebody can entice you to have anal intercourse that cannot make you a homosexual. One is born that way. However, another school of thought insists that one can be addicted through being enticed to practice it.
There is a lot of prejudice against homosexuals in Ghana but our country is not alone in Africa with such attitudes. Mugabe was known to have said that "even dogs won't do such a thing". A Kenyan member of parliament was quoted as saying homosexuality is so unAfrican that we don't even have a name for it. The Ugandans have tightened the law against it even talking about death sentence for homosexuals and making it an offence for hiding a homosexual or knowing about such a person and not reporting it. As for the Arab countries in Africa, the less said about them the better. They do it in hiding even though their religion expressly forbids it. Also in Africa, many people believe that it is the person who is penetrated who is gay, not the penetrator.
The laws of Ghana do not accept homosexuality. These laws have generated general dislike among the citizens concerning homosexuals who are considered repugnant in the society. They are discriminated against. As a result of this, there are many gays in Ghana who are caught in a feeling of loneliness, shame and desperation. They are aware that their condition cannot be healed by any pastor. This sense of shame, desperation and discrimination, according to the British magazine Capital Gay, compelled a gay from Ghana on the 21st October 1994 to seek asylum in South Africa.
According to Gayghana.com, a website for Ghanaian homosexuals, out of the 200,000 gays in Ghana,forming about one percent of the total population in Ghana, only 40,000 gays have registered at the website. Homosexuality is on the increase in Ghana despite police brutality against homosexuals who are arrested and brought to the police stations.
Some people argue whether Ghana as a nation should not be dragged to the United Nations for human rights violation. Ghana’s laws make same-sex sexual activity officially illegal. Gay men can also be punished under provisions concerning assault and rape only if in public or with minors. This means anal sex practised in private between adults is not punishable. In Ghana's criminal code of 1960-chapter 6, sexual offences, Article 105 states: "whoever is guilty of unnatural carnal knowledge -a) of any person without his consent- is guilty of first degree felony. b) of any person with his consent or any animal, is guilty of a misdemeanour. This criminal code, embedded in the constitution of Ghana, is used by modern day prosecutors, who extend the 1960 law to include same-sex sexual practices.
Ghana is a democratic state that allows for freedom of expression but is careful not to link it with freedom of choice. The former is very much respected by all Ghanaians but the latter, which allows everyone to be what he is, is frowned upon by all. This attitude is in contravention of United Nation's declaration of human rights which states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The declaration continues that all human beings are endowed with reason and conscience.
I believe many will agree with me that no matter how many laws or declarations are made in favour of gays, Ghanaian laws will continue to make the activities of gays officially illegal.
To fall in line with the U.N declaration of human rights:
1. We should remove from our statutes, all laws that can be interpreted as making homosexuality a crime.
2. Discrimination against someone for his or her sexual preferences should be made illegal where the sex is between two consenting adults.
3. Public attitudes should change. For instance, teachers in state schools shall not be allowed to teach hatred based on a person's sexual preferences.
But attitudes are changing in Ghana too. Not long ago, there were no gay clubs, organisations, activities, etc. in our country. But now there are many with university students leading the way. Ghanaian youth have a more favourable attitude to gays than the old - the same trend found in other countries too. But it is today still difficult for prominent Ghanaian gays to come out and a politician who is known to be gay will never be voted for. But it cannot be so that there are no prominent men in Ghana who are gay. There must be as there are in all societies. After all, some of the most gifted and most brilliant persons in the world are gays. The well-known Ghanaian philosopher, cultural theorist and novelist, Anthony Kwame Appiah, currently the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosphy at Princeton University, is openly gay. What is wrong with that?
Even though homosexuality is still a crime in Ghana and across much of Africa, Ghanaians must be tolerant towards the homosexuals' freedom of choice as enshrined in the United Nation's declaration of human rights.
Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: DARK FACES AT CROSSROADS