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Opinions of Monday, 18 October 2021

Columnist: Kufuor Appiah Danquah

My contribution to LGBTQ+ debate

The LGBTQ+ flag The LGBTQ+ flag

NOT IN MY NAME: GHANA PARLIAMENT: BIGOTED LGBTQ+ BILL

The current debate on the criminalization of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) activities in Ghana has sadly turned into “for” and “against”, us and them, good and evil.

How did we as a people managed to get ourselves into such a quagmire? A political and economic fiasco. Let us examine in a few sentences what the (LGBTQ) + bill is about.

Anti-LGBTQ+BILL

Sam Nartey George MP led an eight-member legislative group to draft a Private Members Bill titled ”The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values, Bill 2021, which seeks to comprehensively outlaw activities of the LGBTQ+ community. Currently, the bill has been laid before the house and referred to the appropriate committee for consideration.

Without going into the merits or demerits of the bill, I would quote the views of a cross-section of the populace including the clergy in Ghana:

- “Homosexuality is not a human right and we reject it in all uncertain terms Council” (Christian Council of Ghana”);

- “Let us not entertain this foolishness .......we are living on our country and have made laws to prohibit the thing”(Dr Benjamin Otchere Ankrah Lecturer, Central University Accra);

- Now, if you want to have sex with a beast, they say it is okay; if you want to have sex with a pig they say it is okay......(The Chairman of the Church of Pentecost, Apostle Eric Nyamekye);

- Gay and lesbianism is the biggest threat to human existence”(Bernard Okoe-Boye, former Deputy Minister of Health);

- “The scripture tells us that in the beginning, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adamson” (Rev.Samuel Noi Mensah, National Executive Member of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic church);

- “God made it clear that on judgement day he won’t even look at you, once you get there straight to hell. God will give no considerations”.(Baba Jamal former Member of Parliament for Akwatia Constituency);

- “That my 8-yer old daughter is now going to learn touching femaleness, maleness? Come on she knows that by her features she is female,” period! (Dr Vladimir Antwi Danso, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Ghana Medical Forces Command and Staff College);

- “We further state that aside Christianity, the Ghanaian tradition and culture do not permit such act”(The House of Bishops representing the Anglican Church, Ghana (Internal Province of Ghana)

- “Some claim they have been schooled but they are fools...They are learned but very retarded...They are passing a law against homosexuality and some people are against it (Dormaahene, Osagyefo Oseadeeyo Agyemang Badu 11);

The speeches above shows the virulent, insensitive, abusive, downright hateful and views of a cross section of the populace in Ghana. Others have argued that the implementation of the bill would violate the fundamental human rights of a section of the population and it is unconstitutional.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education(CSE)

Many Ghanaians would be aware of the sharp divisions that occurred among the political elite over the proposed introduction of guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) into the school curriculum in Ghana.

The proposal was ultimately shelved, which in my humble opinion empowered and encouraged the “anti-gay and lesbian” warriors to step up their campaign. This capitulation and shelving of the (CSE) may have encouraged the “grey hounds” of hate and bigotry to introduce the LGBTQ+ bill.

UNACCEPTABLE BIGOTRY

I do not intend to discuss the contents of the LGBTQ+ bill currently before our parliamentarians as there is an ongoing debate on the approval or disapproval of the bill. My primary concerns are about the tone of the debate which has created fear and panic among the LGBT community in Ghana in particular and “straight” individuals who are against the passing of the bill.

The fact that one disapproves of the lifestyle of a particular group of people does not mean you should stay silent when Ghanaians from all walks of life descend into extreme venom, hatred, and spews out unspeakable things about the LGBTQ community.

Some senior religious, political, educational, media figures have gone on to describe the gay community as unholy, unbiblical, un-African, and abnormal and filthy-folks. In simple language that is totally unacceptable.

The hate and venom that have been and is continuing to emanate from the majority of the populace in Ghana, including threat to life and property to the members of the LGBTQ fraternity and the “hang them high” populace of Ghana is a total and utter disgrace. It reminded me of the writings of the British imperialist Rudyard Kipling.

In his poem “The White Man’s Burden”, Mr Kipling used words such as ‘half-devil and half child’ to refer to the conquered black people on the Philippine Islands. Mr Kipling was wrong in his description of black people equally my country folks are wrong to use emotional, uncharitable, unchristian and unIslamic words to describe homosexuals.

PROGRESSIVE GHANAIANS SPEAK OUT

Why am I bothered? Readers may ask- are you, homosexual? What is your beef? The simple answer is first, there is no law on our statutes that requires me to reveal my sexual orientation. Second, as a Ghanaian, if lawmakers intend to enact into law measures and policies (in my name) that are fundamentally bigoted, then I have an equal right to challenge those beliefs.

Third, I have every right to express my views on topics bothering on national identity and cohesiveness. Pastor Niemoeller, a victim of the Nazi Holocaust got it right when he said:

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew; then they came for the communist and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist; then they came for the trade unionist and I did not speak out- because I was not a trade unionist; then they came for me –and there was no one left to speak for me. Let us be clear all forms of discrimination is against the will of God and Allah.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

Many readers will be fully aware that until the mid-1960s legal barriers prevented blacks and other racial minorities in the United States from entering many jobs and educational institutions. President John F. Kennedy (JFK) was the first President to use the term affirmative action.

It was used by President John F. Kennedy in a 1961 executive order designed to encourage contractors on projects financed with federal funds to racially integrate their workforces.

Kennedy's executive order declared that federal contractors should 'take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during their employment, without regard to race, creed, colour or national origin.' JFK was right to promote affirmative action.

Discrimination on any grounds is evil, unchristian, unislamic and morally wrong. Prejudice and discrimination must be opposed by all progressive democrats. The short story of Mr Bicks from Alabama illustrates the folly of prejudice and discrimination.

Mr Bicks

Mr Tony Bicks served in the US Army during the Second World War in Alabama. He was fighting the Nazis to ensure that his children and grandchildren and all Americans both black and white would inherit a free world-a world free of prejudice, hate and bigotry.

One night Mr Bicks went to a military bar in Alabama to buy a pint of lager and was told he cannot be served because of his colour. The “bitterest pint” of all was that, there were German prisoners of war being served beer. What was Mr. Bicks crime? He was black.

Role of Religion in Gay-Bashing

Maybe, our African brothers and sisters need reminding of a very basic simple truth- Majority of Europeans at the time of the slave trade perceived and genuinely believed that our ancestors were “primitive and sub-human people” and were only fit to be enslaved.

Some prominent preachers at the time quoted the scriptures to justify their actions. Ironically, the wealth of many churches was accumulated on the sweat of black slave labour.

I am neither a theologian nor a fundamentalist Christian evangelical soul; I am just a mere mortal, an ordinary Christian who passionately believes in the compassionate nature of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Whereas religion cannot be blamed for all the ills of society, there is empirical and strong anecdotal evidence to prove that religion, in general, has a strong effect on people having gay- negative attitudes.

There are particular features in Christian and Muslim, theology, institutions and practices that foster anti-homosexual beliefs and actions including gay-bashing.

Ghanaians cannot afford to gamble with the dangerous notion of “moral equivalence” by whisking evil away and claiming, in effect the majority of Ghanaians are on the bandwagon so we must as well get on it. No, some of us will stand up and be counted.

Cultural Beliefs

As a Ghanaian, I was brought up with the same cultural values as all the gay-bashers. I am also fully aware that the majority of Ghanaians have strong religious beliefs buttressed by a cultural identity that disapproves of homosexuality.

For example, my late grandmother did not even believe one could be gay. Bless Her Soul. I fully respected her views and absolutely adored and loved her. Like most of my contemporaries in Ghana, we were told to frown on LGBTQ activities and taught to see its practical manifestations as pure evil and an aberration of human civilisation.

I have no issue with the teaching of Islam or the Church or any individual disagreeing and disapproving with the sexual orientation of homosexuals on religious, cultural and moral grounds. The problem arises when “democratic disagreements” turns into stigmatisation and downright prejudicial acts.

My worry is, in a democratic nation all citizens must be free to go about their daily business without religious bigots entering the democratic space.

Nigeria is in danger of being torn apart by religious zealots who are hell-bent on implementing sharia law. See how the beliefs and actions of Boko Haram have turned the North East of Nigeria into a famine zone. (An oil-producing country/Member of OPEC).

Our Responsibility and Duty

When Martin Luther King made his powerful speech, I had a dream his aim and goal was those of the original civil rights movement advocates. He was arguing for laws which were ‘colour-blind'.

He believed that no one should be judged by the colour of his skin and that opportunities should be opened to all. Equally, no one should be judged by his sexual preference.

As individuals, we must have a substantial change in attitudes and the church, in particular, must start preaching tolerance, forgiveness and compassion. The church must take a lead in stopping the stigmatisation of homosexuality and learn to use “Christian language and terminology” in their description of homosexuals. In the end, “no one is without sin”.

Second, young people must be taught to effectively tackle issues of homophobic and address prejudicial attitudes and discrimination.

Third, the Government must enact a law that makes incitement to hatred and discrimination on all grounds illegal and a criminal act. It must pass progressive legislation that protects the rights of lesbians and gay people and that decriminalise homosexuality not this diabolical LGBTQ+ law that is being pushed by Mr Sam George.

Fourth, the Press must act as the fourth estate. It must not publish speeches and statements that are clearly prejudicial, discriminatory, and offensive and which may lead to hate crimes.

Fifth, we must stop hiding behind this phantom umbrella of “African-identity” to create havoc and mayhem among the homosexual community in Africa. There is nothing unique or African, about gay-bashing.

Other Pressing Issues

I am African and fully support the democratic rights of homosexuals. Africans including religious leaders have no monopoly over moral issues- far from it.
It is just the selective bankrupt choice of topical and important issues that our opinion leaders tend to pick on. For example:

- Where the churches in Ghana are when old ladies are being burnt to death purely because of some of us think they are witches?

- Where is the voice of the Church when children are treated as slaves in some areas of our country?

- Where are the voices of the church and mosques when women are treated as doormats?

- Where are the voices of the do-gooders when vast majority of our pupils attend school under tress?

In concluding, l wish our MP’s and religious leaders would start re-focusing and stop spewing out hatred and venom against a particular group of people simply because their lifestyle is an affront to their beliefs.

Would it not be better for the future generation of Ghanaians if:


- Sanctimonious religious, traditional chiefs, parliamentarians, civic leaders take up arms against the corrupt and bankrupt leaders that siphon of millions of our hard earned foreign currencies meant for the poor.

- Would Heaven not rejoice if the press, elite, opinion leaders and church leaders of Africa spend their time and energies campaigning day and night to eliminate child labour; promoting the rights of women, the disabled, witches and the have-nots?

- Would Christian and Moslem leaders join hands and begin to preach against the huge disparity between the poor and rich, advocate for change and fight the extreme poverty that exists in our country rather than expending your energies on the gay and lesbian community.

- Would it not benefit society if Church leaders wage a moral war against members of their fraternity for stealing from the poor and getting rich on the back of the wretched and dispossessed;

- Would the young not give a pat on the back of the Clergy if they start campaigning against their fraternity who live filthy and opulent lifestyles thereby bringing the gospel into disrepute

In concluding, I wish our African preachers, would start preaching about the gospel which liberates the poor and empowers the millions of people living in the shantytowns.

The role of the Church all over the world is to join hands with progressive elements in society to work hard to create a society that is free of prejudice, hate and discrimination not to be the propagators of hate.

I will plead with the President that if even the majority of our Parliamentarians pass the anti-LGBTQ+ he should not sign this hateful, bigoted, shameful bill into law.