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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Columnist: Redeemer Buatsi, member Amnesty International Ghana

Are LGBTI persons Human beings?

LGBT IMAGE FILE File photo

Almost everyone in Ghana claims to be religious, with majority belonging to the Christian and Islamic faiths (Acila Survey, 2018).
These two religions pride themselves in "love", teaching their followers to love all unconditionally.

Earlier this year, a group of Christians launched a 47-page booklet titled: 'The Homosexuality Debate: A Response from the Methodist Church Ghana, Accra Diocese', by the Accra Diocesan Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, Rt Rev. Samuel Kofi Osabutey.

The book among other things, sought to condemn LGBTI persons, and in essence, court hatred for the already despised group in Ghana. This is the beacon of hope for other African countries.

What makes this action strange is the fact that a government representative in the person of Mrs. Cynthia Morrison, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection was at the ceremony as the special guest of honour.

This is in direct contradiction of what government of Ghana stands for, as the state has accepted to take measures to protect LGBTI persons from violence and discrimination.

Under the 1960 Ghanaian Criminal Code, same-sex sexual conduct is a criminal offence. This
law is used to threaten, arrest and punish individuals for engaging in same-sex sexual conduct.
Chapter 6 Section 104 of Ghana’s Criminal Code states:
“(1) Whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge –
(a) of any person of the age of sixteen years or over without his consent shall be guilty of a first degree felony and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than
twenty-five years; or
(b) Of any person of sixteen years or over with his consent is guilty of a
misdemeanour; or
(c) Of any animal is guilty of a misdemeanour.
(2) Unnatural carnal knowledge is sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural
manner or with an animal.”
Subsection (1) (b) of Section 104 of Ghana’s Criminal Code criminalizes consensual “unnatural carnal knowledge.”

Because “unnatural carnal knowledge” is used to refer to same-sex sexual conduct, the criminalization of such conduct singles out and discriminates against individuals based on their sexual orientation.

Articles 2(1) and 26 of the Covenant require all States Parties to respect and ensure non-discrimination and equality under the law.

Any discrimination based upon attributes such as
race, colour, sex and “other status” is prohibited.

Article 17 Section 1 of the Covenant states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or
unlawful interference with his privacy, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his
honour and reputation.”

Section 2 goes on to specify: “Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

Section 104(1) (b) of Ghana’s Criminal Code violates these articles of the Covenant.

By criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct, it singles out and discriminates against individuals based on their sexual orientation, and it violates the privacy, honour and reputation of the affected individuals.

Article 9(1) of the Covenant affirms that everyone has the right to liberty and that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.”

Article 9(1) is violated when individuals are arrested or detained for engaging in consensual same-sex sexual conduct.

Individuals in Ghana are often arrested on the basis of conduct relating to their sexual orientation, even though their actions are not violating other Ghanaian laws.

These arrests discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and violate the prohibitions against arbitrary arrests and unlawful attacks upon privacy, honour and reputation.

Homophobia is very common in Ghana, and transphobia would likely be as well but for the fact that the social climate is so bad that transgender individuals keep their gender identity hidden. LGBT individuals and their supporters are targets of homophobia.

Disdain and resentment against the LGBT community have grown in recent years and often lead to violence.

Adam Moore (not real name), a 21-year-old Ghanaian, did not dare tell anyone that he is gay. When his mother found out from his schoolmate that he was gay, “she packed his bags and threw him out of the house, disowning her son for what she saw as an evil act.” His mother told him “because of what he chose to be, he was no longer her son.”

On August 28, 2010, the online Ghanaian news source, The Mirror, published an article entitled “Homosexuality is deviant behaviour,” which stated that homosexuals “need therapy” and are “dangerous armed gangs who demand freedom to operate but cannot be given space at all.”

The article continued to urge Ghanaians not to look to European or American tolerance of homosexuality and instead to consider homosexuality a “deviant behaviour.” Also, the author, like most others in Ghana, finds same-sex marriage to be “immoral, selfish, and unacceptable.”

Articles 19(2), 21, and 22 of the Covenant protect the freedom to express ideas and impart information, the freedom to peacefully assemble, and the freedom to associate with others.

In Ghana, LGBT individuals and LGBT rights advocates are subject to violent attacks and hostility. The following incidents are examples of how the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association have been abridged:

In April 2013, Opoku Ware Senior High School and Wesley Girls Senior High School expelled and dismissed students for homosexuality. Nineteen students from Opoku Ware in Ashanti Region were expelled for practicing and allegedly recruiting students to practice same- sex acts.

Later on, 43 girls were dismissed from Wesley in Kumasi for engaging in “lesbianism.”

The LGBT community is not alone in facing violent aggression.

LGBT-rights advocates and educators who teach about sexual health are met with similar hostility. For example, in May 2012, a group of schoolboys from the Volta Region assaulted an educator from an NGO who was on his way to teach a workshop on sexual health.

He was carrying educational materials about safe sex, such as condoms and pamphlets, when he was attacked.

Instead of charging the group of boys who were guilty of the attack, the police detained the educator.

Miss Grey, a transgender woman was nearly burnt alive when she he was suspected of being a lesbian, and is influencing the youth into lesbianism.

Beyond the statutory provisions which protect all citizens including LGBTI persons in Ghana, there are international provisions which also layout the same provisions of protection.

For example, Ghana appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2017 for its human rights situation to be assessed under the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism.

The UPR is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 UN Member States.

Under the mechanism, the human rights situation of all UN member states is reviewed every five years.

Three main recommendations were made to Ghana.

One was that Ghana should legalise same sex marriage, which Ghana rejected.

The second was that Ghana should decriminalise consensual same sex relations.

This relates to portions in the criminal code, criminal offences act; which criminalises unnatural carnal knowledge; which does not necessarily criminalise homosexuality or lesbianism but criminalises unnatural carnal knowledge(sex through unnatural carnal).

Again, Ghana rejected this recommendation.

However, Ghana accepted recommendations to take steps to protect LGBTI persons from violence and discrimination and to offer equal protection for all persons especially LGBTI persons.

If Ghana has accepted to protect LGBTI persons against violence and discrimination, why has Ghana's representative, in the person of Mrs Cynthia Morrison (Gender Minister) supervised the launch of a document meant to promote and worsen the already destructive atmosphere of hate and violence against these marginalised group of persons?