You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2014 01 16Article 297965

Opinions of Thursday, 16 January 2014

Columnist: Peter Osei-Adjei

Is violence against the LGBT community the answer?

A few months ago, I visited Ghana on two occasions in a month’s span due to some family emergencies. While in the country, there were two major hot topics blurring on the airwaves, in the various newspapers and social network sites. First, there was pretty much a daily discussions on the 2012 general elections court petition as people waited anxiously for the supreme court judges’ decision, and second; the debate on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender; popularly known as the LGBT community.

When I left the shores of Ghana for my further studies abroad, about a decade ago, the issue of LGBT rights and the associated moral trepidations was not a concern to an average Ghanaian. Most Ghanaians at that time didn’t pay attention to those issues, even though we knew it was being practiced in some tertiary institutions and few other senior high schools in the cities. Ten years later, this has become a national debate, but unfortunately, shrouded with such a gore, venom, fury and hatred.

Though I’m a regular contributor of online radio programs and other newspapers in the US, I never tried to chip in these hilarious debates during my entire two-week stay in Ghana. The reason is that, I was too busy dealing with family emergencies and had very little or no time to voice out my personal opinion.

However, during my second visit, a friend of mine who generously hosted me in Accra, happened to give me and my niece a ride to my hometown to attend my late Mom’s burial and memorial service. Half way down the road, he tuned in his old fashioned stereo to one of the popular FM radio station which was having a discussion about the unfair treatment of homosexuals in Ghana (LGBT). When I looked at his usually smiling face, I knew intuitively that there was something wrong! I could see his frowned face as he nodded his head to signal his disappointment. So I politely asked him, “What is your opinion about the ongoing LGBT discussion in Ghana?” To my surprise, he was very furious and told me “I don’t want to talk about it, because it makes me mad anytime I hear about this nonsense. I wish we could round them up and lynch them just like armed robbers”.

I just couldn’t believe my ears hearing such spiteful and vindictive words coming out of a young man who is full of compassion, very kind and very entertaining. I greatly respect him due to his caring heart, honesty, perseverance and hardworking spirit. Immediately, I knew in my heart that I must do something. I responded that if such unforgiving words could come out of a young man, whom I highly respect and anticipated to be very compassionate, then we Ghanaians especially the youth (irrespective of your current status) really need education about human rights. I didn’t want to have a prolonged argument with him, so I had to end it by asserting that “I’ll be back with my reasons why the LGBT community needs love compassion and help rather than hatred”.

A day after my arrival in my hometown, a longtime friend of mine who accused me of not looking for him during my first visit came and picked me up to show me his new apartment which was about four blocks from my house. On our way, we could hear a loud radio discussions from the nearby grocery kiosks (at least about 3 of them) blurring all over the place. Once again, the discussion was about LGBT. This time, I decided to change my strategy of questioning. This friend has been a well-respected high school teacher, a journalist and a radio presenter for over a decade. So I asked him “What will you do if one of your kids becomes a gay or lesbian?” Right away, he told me “I’ll slash his or her head” In disbelieve, I replied him, “really”? He responded by saying “Let them try and see”. Unsatisfied by his answer, I then asked if he is aware that some very famous and notable journalists in the US are part of the LGBT community, and whether he will attack and lynch them if they visit Ghana. Surprisingly, he told me “oh no, I’ll never do that because I respect them a lot”. At that moment, I knew this is a serious issue that needs urgent attention. For many of us, I think it’s just a sheer ignorance. Again, I promised him that I will be back with my reasons why his strategy is wrong. And here we are today;

Please, let me be very clear; I’m not by no means endorsing, encouraging or clinching my support to legalize ‘homosexual practices’ in Ghana. I’ll leave that for the sole decision of the law makers and the Ghanaian populace. However, my main concern is the violence against the LGBT or the homosexuals in our community. Currently, the spiteful debates, the injustices and discrimination, the violence and the mob attacks, all boils down to two main topical issues: Religious prejudice and the eccentricity of our moral practices and culture in Ghana, which I completely understand.

First, I want to express my opinion why the LGBT needs our help based on the moral grounds. This is one of the main reasons why people are so furious at the moment. I’m a Ghanaian by birth, raised, and had most of my education in Ghana, so I’m no stranger to the norms and taboos in our society. At the same time, I’ve had the opportunity to live on three different continents (Africa, Europe and North America). In all these three continents, there is nowhere that lynching or violence is justified on any grounds. Let’s not forget the fact that, just as in Europe and America, violence and lynching are also illegal, unlawful and morally baseless in Ghana. Numbers don’t lie! Those with doubts may check the score board. The laws of the land clearly state that we cannot and must not take the laws into our own hands and punish those we feel are wrong. Excuse me to say that, this kind of behavior is typical of the ‘old stone age era’

Additionally, if people want to argue that “homosexual practice” is a taboo, offensive, unmentionable, forbidden, prohibited etc., to our culture, I have no problem with that and do perfectly agree. However, my question is very simple; does it mean that we must be so violent to the extent that we want to lynch those who go against those taboos and norms? Please, let’s not forget the fact that apart from ‘homosexualism’, infidelity, rapists, child molestation, sexual harassment mostly at work places, prostitution, kidnapping, tribalism, promiscuous sex , the widespread corruption, adultery, witchcraft, death penalty, teenage pregnancy, arm robbery, corn artists, swindlers and tricksters, fake religious leaders, quack doctors, corrupt politicians, child labor, widespread unemployment among the youth, neglect of the mentality deranged people in the streets, kids dying of hunger and curable diseases, indiscipline and lawlessness among the youth, carnage on our roads, drunk drivers etc, are all considered immoral practices in the Ghanaian society. Right? If so, why don’t we round all these people up and lynch them as some people claim? Of course, NO!

Let’s be honest with ourselves and answer this simple question; how many Ghanaians can boldly come out and declare that they are not guilty of any of these immoral practices? In one way or the other, we are all guilty of our own taboos and norms but that does not mean we turn into a society of violence and barbaric behavior. These are characteristics of the dark ages.

That’s why there are rules, laws, by-laws as well as leaders to guide and punish us when we go wrong. Until there are laws that ban that practice, under no circumstances should any homosexual person be lynched, discriminated against or punished unjustifiably. Even under those circumstances, then the laws must take its course. We all agree that two wrongs don’t make one right! The point here is that if violence meted against humanity can force people to comply, then Al Qaida should have transformed all of us to follow them and rule the world as well. Instead, violence brings more violence and ultimately results in resilience measures to withstand and counter those violence.

I know a couple of friends and loved ones whose family members are part of the LGBT community. What they do is frequently organizing counselling services for them, and praying for them in church services and on prayer lines. Some even go to the extent of doing a 21-day fasting and praying for their salvation. They haven’t abandoned them, because they really want the best of life for them. And some of them do change and live a straight life. That’s what we should be doing in Ghana. Violence against homosexuals will not take us anywhere. That’s rather a typical sign of a defeatist attitude.

In his famous book “The power of positive thinking” Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking and one of the most widely read inspirational writers of all time says; The best way to overcome your fears is to confront it with positive thinking and attitude with realities, not violence. This is very true because, my personal failures, struggles and experiences as an immigrant student in America have taught me that one of the best ways to change people without arousing resentment is to forgive and love them. We can win this battle easier than we think if we make the conscious effort to confront all these challenges through nonviolent means and prove that we care and want the best for them.

Second, as a Christian and someone born and raised as a catholic, I’ve decided not to go through the biblical details of what the bible says about homosexuality. The reason is that I find it very disheartening and disgusting why someone will question about the various warnings in the scriptures against homosexuality. It doesn’t make sense to organize some kind of Sunday school classes at this time to teach people when the evidence is overwhelmingly clear. To me, any argument about homosexuality being an abomination in the Ghanaian culture is absolutely preposterous! Majority of those of us who hold the Christian faith know that homosexuality is a sin just as all other sins (Galatians 5:19).

I’d prefer to leave the other religions alone and comment on my Christian faith about what the bible teaches about homosexuality. There are seven mentions of homosexual acts in the Bible.

  1. Two of these scriptures refer to rape (Genesis 19:5, Judges 19:22).

  2. One talks about prostitution (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

  3. The other four are however, nonspecific but still deals with sexual immorality (Leviticus 18:21-22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:8-10).

In the Old Testament, the first mention in the Bible is in Genesis 19:1-13, and I quote:

“The wicked men of Sodom attempted a homosexual rape of two messengers from God who had come to visit Lot. As a result of this and other widespread wickedness, God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in a storm of fire and brimstone”.

The next two mentions are in Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination”. (NKJ, Leviticus 18:22). If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them”. (NKJ, Leviticus 20:13).

Let’s not forget the fact that life indeed was very harsh in early Old Testament times. The wanderings and struggle for survival of the Israelites did not permit prisons or rehabilitation. Anyone who deviated seriously from the norm was either stoned to death or exiled. The Old Testament prescribed the death penalty for the crimes of murder, attacking or cursing a parent, kidnapping, failure to confine a dangerous animal resulting in death, witchcraft and sorcery, sex with an animal, doing work on the Sabbath, incest, adultery, homosexual acts, prostitution by a priest's daughter, blasphemy, false prophecy, perjury in capital cases and false claim of a woman's virginity at the time of marriage.

However, when it comes to the New Testament, Jesus Christ never mentioned the word “homosexuality”. It was Apostle Paul who used the word “homosexuals”. However, Jesus did condemn all forms of sexual immorality:

“What comes out of you is what defiles you. For from within, out of your hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile you”. (TNIV, Mark 7:20-23).

The Apostle Paul, in one of his letters to the Corinthians, wrote the verses most often quoted on this subject:

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”. (NIV, I Corinthians 6:9-11). Remember, this verse has been translated in many different ways because of the different versions of the bible but I don’t want to go through the technicalities, at least for now. My point is that, the word translated in all the different bible versions is "homosexual offender" which is the Greek word ‘arsenokoites’ which means a sodomite, a person who engages in any kind of unnatural sex, especially homosexual intercourse.

What’s the point here? This is very clear; the good Lord undoubtedly, hates homosexual practices, but at the same time, does not encourage or suggest violence and lynching as the ultimate solution. Of course, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorra after they refused to heed to all the numerous warnings. Believe it or not, there is nowhere in the scriptures that Jesus Christ rounded up all homosexuals (LGBT) and lynched them. I’ll challenge anybody who knows this to come forward and prove my absolute ignorance, with reference to the scriptures.

I was really sad to see so many kids (mostly female teenagers) raising kids in my village. I talked to a couple of them why they didn’t concentrate on their education but decided to have kids when they are kids themselves. Their heartfelt responses that “nobody cares for our welfare and development” is part of the reason why I want to bring the attention of the authorities to equally important moral responsibilities in our society. We are all guilty when it comes to moral, norm and ethical issues. Two of the young girls that I talked to in my village are my relatives and I felt ashamed, because I wished I knew about their situation and had done more to help. These are some of the practical challenges we face in our society today.

My message is simple and straight forward! Armed robbers are lynched, shot to death or jailed on a daily basis in Ghana, but unfortunately, armed robbery continues to be a lucrative business to some people in Ghana. Is violence the answer? Absolutely NO! When we adopt violence against homosexuals as a solution to the problem, we are just behaving like ostriches hiding from predators in the desert. Violence is not the answer. We risk encouraging rather than curbing it.

Some Practical Steps to deal with Homosexuality in Ghana

There are no laws in Ghana at the moment that bans homosexualism. Taboos are not laws, but there is no doubt we all abide and respect them. That is the mistake some people make, thinking that taboos, norms, and ethics are laws. We just need laws, therapy, prayers, and counselling services to deal with it.

First, this is the time that our leaders must be proactive, come out with the practical laws to deal with this problem ASAP! There’s no procrastination in this kind of matters of urgency. We cannot eat our cake and wake up the next morning looking for the same cake. This is a challenge to our politicians, chiefs/kings, queens, other traditional leaders and the various religious leaders. As a matter of urgency, they should put heads together and decide the appropriate laws to deal with this kind of very sensitive issue. I strongly suggest a nationwide referendum concerning the appropriate laws. We shouldn’t wait and challenge this kind of threat in court as it’s happening in the western world.

Second, our Mayors and city managers (MDCEs, DCEs, DCDs, Assemblymen, etc.,) should consult their local communities and seek their opinions and come out with the best consensus in the interest of their communities on the best ways to handle this. I don’t want to be specific with my own personal feelings, because this is strictly a moral issue, and not a single person has the answer. My personal feeling is that, it should be a majority decision. However, after careful review of our cultural and religious settings, I think homosexualism should not be encouraged and entertained in Ghana.

Third, I’m pretty sure that currently, Ghana does not have the necessary resources for counselling and other social welfare services. But we can still do something about it. All it takes is to channel a sizable percentage of the state’s resources that go into the pockets of our leaders and invest in the fight against the stability of LBGT community in the country. The strategies used by the Ghanaian community here in the US has really educated me on these issues. There’s no doubt in my mind that the counselling services and psychotherapy treatment will be very beneficial. Remember, laws alone won’t be enough to stop it. Laws and counselling services should be our focus. All it takes is for our leaders to stand firm and set our priorities right, and that’s it!

I do not want to recommend the involvement of churches in the ‘fight’ against homosexual practices in Ghana simply because, Ghana is famous and known for being among the few nations full of faith and prayers, but at the same time, a well-known nation of corruption and other immoral practices. When it comes to the issues of morality, our churches have completely failed us. However, I strongly suggest that those of us with Christian faith should intensify our prayers on individual basis not as a church. Amazingly, I personally believe that ‘prayer’ is the answer to this menace!

Finally, I plead with my fellow Ghanaians to handle this issue in a humane and civilized manner. Let’s prove to the world that this time, Africans and for that matter Ghanaians, know better. This is not a technology issue, so please, let’s get it and get it right! I do have hope, and can see the future so bright. It’s not going to be an easy fight, but I can see clearly that we will succeed, and trust me; all other cultures will emulate us. And guess what? The success story will then be told by proud Ghanaians! Thank you.

By: Peter Osei-Adjei

Dallas, TX