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General News of Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Source: The Finder

30,000 Homosexuals in Ghana; 17% living with HIV/AIDS

Even though the country’s laws criminalizes unnatural carnal knowledge, the practice of men who have sex with men (MSM), popularly called gay, is on an alarming rise.

It is estimated that MSM in Ghana are over 30,000 and they can be found in all 10 regions of the country.

The figure is contained in a report titled integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance (IBBS) survey, which was commissioned by the Ghana AIDS Commission in 2011.

According to the report, 17% of men who sleep with men (MSM) are living with HIV.

Officials of the Ghana AIDS Commission told The Finder that though the act is unlawful, the Commission needed information on them in order to target them for HIV/AIDS education.

The Ghana AIDS Commission partners non-governmental organizations (NGO) that focus on MSM by educating them on preventive strategies to ensure that they do not spread the disease.

The Commission supplies condoms to the NGOs, who place the condoms at vantage points for the MSM to pick them up and use, as well as anti-retroviral drugs for infected persons.

Section 104 (1) (b) of the Criminal Code makes the act of unnatural carnal knowledge a criminal offence.

Section 104 (1) (b) of the Criminal code state, “Whoever has an unnatural carnal knowledge of any person of 16 years or over with his consent is guilty of a misdemeanor,” while (1) (a) of the same code, which makes reference to sodomy, states, “whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge of any person of the age 16 or over without his consent shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than 25 years.”

The law is, however, silent on any form of punishment for lesbianism that is, sexual relationship between two females.

Persons who engage in lesbianism fall foul of the law, but compared to sodomy and homosexuality, such conduct carries a less severe sentence as far as the Criminal Code is concerned. Ghanaian laws prohibit unnatural carnal acts – a definition which is widely understood to include homosexuality, although in practice, very few have been prosecuted for homosexual acts.

In 2003, an Accra Circuit Court jailed four gay men for engaging in homosexual activities.

In a highly religious country like Ghana, homosexuality is seen as an imported foreign lifestyle choice and a moral aberration.

While churches and mosque have been at the forefront of leading a crusade against what they describe as a moral canker, some human right activists in the country consider the subject a human rights issue.

Others are averse to it, describing it as alien to Ghanaian culture and way of living.

Unlike in Western countries, where homosexuals practice their act in the open, gays and lesbians in Ghana maintain their relationship underground because of the social stigma associated with their sexual orientation.

While politicians remain vocal on almost all issues, few in Ghana are willing to take the political risk of advocating tolerance for the rights of homosexuals.

In 2006, the government banned a conference for gay men and lesbians that was to be held in the country.

Gay marriages may be legal in South Africa, but across the continent, many devout and traditional Africans view homosexuality with horror.

In February this year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill that toughens penalties against gay people and defines some homosexual acts as a crime punishable by life in prison.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda, and Museveni had gone back and forth recently about whether he would sign the controversial bill in the face of vocal opposition from Western countries.

At the public signing of the bill, a defiant Museveni declared that he would not allow the West to impose its values on Uganda.

In Uganda, a homosexual act is punishable by 14 years to life in prison even before the controversial bill was signed into law.

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