A peek into the gay Ghanaian closet
July 20, 2003
Cam is a South African who travels to Ghana on business and had this to say about gay life there. "I had visited Ghana six times (in the last five years), on business and pleasure, and had never really explored gay life in that country, because of my demanding business schedule. I had, however, communicated by e-mail with a young gay Ghanaian man over the last year. On my visit to Ghana in June 2003, I finally met with my "new" young gay Ghanaian friend, who then introduced me to the "not so closeted" gay Ghanaian life."
So what is gay life like in Ghana? "There are no gay clubs in Ghana, as there are in South Africa. Gay life is mostly private and most gay people meet at house parties organised by friends all around the country." Can told BTM.
"In the capital city, Accra, there are basically two nightspots, namely, Strawberry’s in Adabraka and Chesters in Nyaniba Estates, both situated fairly near the city centre. They are both straight clubs but are frequented by both gays and heterosexuals. Both nightspots are only really lively after 10pm on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Most of the gays that frequent these night spots are not restrained either in dress or behaviour and definitely seem to be out of the closet, at least whilst they are at these venues."
But Cam has a warning for tourists visiting these venues. "Gay tourists to Ghana should beware of heterosexual young men posing as gay men. They frequent these and various nightspots offering their "services" to the unsuspecting tourist and then end up blackmailing the tourist, taking advantage of the illegal status of the being gay in Ghana." On the topic of lesbian relationships, Cam was told that they are more acceptable to the heterosexual community than are gay relationships between two men, but no reason was given for this.
For men however there are more details about the kind of pressure put upon them. "There is the usual pressure from parents on young men in their late 20’s to settle down, marry (the opposite sex) and to father children." Cam told BTM. "One of the young gay men, 27 years of age, that I became good friends with, has been married for a just over a month, and is ready to "father" his first child. His mother, brother and sisters, and wife know that he is gay. His wife is most understanding, and actually lives apart from him. He is quite relaxed with the whole arrangement, and has fully accepted that he is gay and not a heterosexual who is confused sexually or a bi-sexual!
My other good young gay friend is basically in the same boat. He, however, is only 22 years of age and told me that even though his mother knows that he is gay, he will probably be pressurised in about five years time to marry and father a child. His mother has told him that she will raise the child as her own. He is also at peace with his sexuality and accepts himself as a gay young man. Both these young men are however "crying out" for a loving gay relationship."
So what options are there for young gay and lesbian Ghanaians who wish to organise? "Quite a few gay Ghanaians are talking about forming Lesbian and Gay Associations and have admired and held South African Gay activists in high esteem over many years. Hopefully the gays in Ghana will emulate their South African sisters and brothers and "break open their closet doors" for good within the next few years."
November 23, 2003
Ghanaian rule: Gays be silent–Discrimination is alive and well south of the Sahara
by G. Pascal Zachary
Accra, Ghana – The lead story in a recent issue of the Daily Graphic, the most influential newspaper in this West African nation, was designed to shock: "Four Gay Men Jailed." The crime committed by these anonymous Africans was homosexuality. The evidence against the men included their own photographs and confessions. Homosexual acts are crimes in Ghana – and across much of sub-Saharan Africa. The great movement to fight discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS – a movement which President Bush has joined by promising $15 billion in aid for Africa over the next five years – has not elicited any sympathies for homosexuals in Ghana.
As the BBC, the most cited English-language news source on Africa, recently reported, it remains "tough to be gay" south of the Sahara. In Ghana, a homosexual society thrives in the gray area between law and justice, which is why the recent arrests shocked both gay and straight. A country of 20 million people, Ghana is an unusually tolerant place. People of different religions, ethnic groups and races (there is a significant number of whites, Asians and Middle Easterners in the country) mix well. Ghana has never had a civil war: a badge of honor in conflict-prone sub-Saharan Africa. Three years ago, Ghana witnessed a peaceful transfer of power from one popularly elected government to the next.
Human rights are widely discussed, and increasingly taken seriously. There are major campaigns to promote the rights of women and children. Acceptance of people living with HIV/AIDS has steadily grown. Homosexuality remains a taboo, but gays seem to be safe. Physical attacks against them are rare. In the capital city of Accra, a trendy street club named Strawberries is well-known as a gay hangout, and there are a few prominent, if still discreet, clubs where homosexual men and women party. One gay man even has his own television show, and while he is publicly in the closet his sexual preferences are no secret. Precisely because gays seem so accepted in Ghana, the sensational report on homosexual arrests in the Graphic – it is owned by the government and sells more copies than all other newspapers combined – sent a disturbing message.
Even more worrisome was the newspaper’s main editorial the following day, which blamed Europeans and Americans for "all the reported cases of homosexuality" in the country. The four African gays illustrated the problem, the newspaper insisted. The men had been enticed into such practices by a Norwegian, who gave them money and gifts in exchange for photos of them engaged in homosexual acts. The Norwegian posted the photos on the Web and, allegedly, mailed printouts to his Ghanaian friends. I am neither gay, nor Ghanaian, but I was a foreigner in Ghana and reject the argument – heard in other parts of Africa as well – that Western notions of sexuality have poisoned traditional practices.
In my experiences, Africans simply have a moral blind spot on the subject of homosexuality. For the past six months I have worked in Ghana as country director of Journalists for Human Rights, a Canadian outfit that helps African journalists give voice to the voiceless in their society while raising awareness of human rights abuses. The editor of the Graphic is a supporter of my organization, and I have held training sessions for his reporters and editors. The sessions have resulted in more stories that highlight mistreatment of women and children and the failures of government agencies to deliver promised services – the entitlements of taxpayers. Yet the status of gays and lesbians seems to be an entirely different matter.
When I complained to the editor about bias against gays, I added that perhaps I had failed to explain the concept of "civic journalism" and the role of rights for all in a just society. He disagreed. Gays don’t deserve any sort of protection, he countered. Nor do they or their defenders deserve any right of reply. In the newspaper’s stories, the accused men were not quoted; neither were their attorneys nor any defenders of gay rights. The implication, of course, is that Africans are united against homosexuality. But they are not; gay advocates are simply terrified of speaking out, frightened that their support of gays will be interpreted as an admission that they themselves are homosexual.
Two years ago, the silence was broken briefly by Ken Attafuah, who directs Ghana’s truth and reconciliation commission, charged with investigating rights violations during more than two decades of dictatorships. "It should not be left to gays alone to fight for gay rights because we are talking about fundamental violations of justice," Attafuah said on a radio program. "You do not have to be a child to defend the rights of children." The point is lost in Ghana, however. After the gay arrests, I spoke about media coverage of homosexuals at a graduate course in communications at the University of Ghana. No one objected to the coverage by the Daily Graphic. But no one denounced homosexuality either. Instead I received a short dissertation from one of the female students on how older married women often proposition her in clubs.
Two other females said the same happens to them, that lesbianism is widely practiced and accepted, if publicly unacknowledged. The professor, a well-known feminist who is unmarried and about 40 years old, then interrupted the class to complain – not about the views she was hearing, but about her failure to attract any lesbian lovers. "Why aren’t these women propositioning me?" she asked. One female student shoos back, "At your age, you’re supposed to be asking me to have sex with you!"
Lesbianism is, of course, less threatening to the men who run Ghana than is male homosexuality. Yet men display an attraction to other men that is often dismissed as a show of camaraderie. At a recent traditional ceremony, in which a young child received a tribal name, the proud father and a half dozen male friends danced together before a large group. Their movements were sexually suggestive, and at times they touched, even held hands. I watched the festivities with one of my European friends, who happens to be gay, and he explained that such dancing is lauded – so long as the contact between the men is left undefined. "Speak no evil," my friend advises.
In Ghana and in much of Africa, a culture of silence exists around same-sex love – a culture that many Americans, raised on a belief in rights and the need to "speak truth to power," find unacceptable. "In the closet," which would describe the lives of virtually every homosexual in Ghana, is meant as a term of derision.
Yet "coming out" may not be a solution for everyone – at least not everyone in sub-Saharan Africa. Americans should no longer be surprised that their notions of "hypocrisy" are viewed as quaint – even wrong-headed. In many parts of the world, there is no solid line between good and evil, and notions of "right" and "wrong" collapse under irreconcilable tensions between tradition and modernity, the individual and the community. In Ghana, then, I am reminded why even American children are sometimes told that silence is golden. Under the cover of silence, Africans are finding space to express their sexual freedoms – and without provoking the conflicts that a more vocal advocacy of homosexuality would surely yield. .
G. Pascal Zachary lives in Berkeley and is the author of "The Diversity Advantage: Multicultural Identity in the New World Economy" (2003, Westview Press).
May 6, 2004
Ghana–ready for gay rights?
Accra is asleep at 10 pm on a Saturday night, but in and around the suburb of Adabraka, men are gathering at Strawberry, a well-known gay (homosexual) friendly nightspot. The men mingle discreetly, aware that if they are discovered they could face discrimination, blackmail, imprisonment and torture. Ghana’s criminal code, in sexual offences article 105, states that "whoever is guilty of unnatural carnal knowledge – (a) of any person without his consent, is guilty of first degree felony; or (b) of any person with his consent, or of any animal, is guilty of a misdemeanor." This law, a relic of repressive British sodomy laws, groups homosexuality with bestiality, assault and rape, and brings a minimum misdemeanor charge for gay activity.
The Acting Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mrs. Anna Bossman, said the government should look at decriminalizing homosexuality. "Engaging in these practices is not currently legal. It may be said that this is a form of discrimination. Why would you criminalize actions between two consenting adults?" she asked. Mrs. Bossman believes that the laws concerning homosexual rights in Ghana have not progressed. " The more advanced societies just softened their laws on homosexuality, our laws are lagging behind," she said. According to the International Gay and Lesbian Association, some gay men are abused while in prison. In 1993, a gay Ghanaian who was repeatedly a victim of violent harassment was awarded asylum in Britain. In 1994, London’s Capital Gay, a publication for homosexuals, reported that a gay man from Ghana was granted interim asylum in South Africa, because of his claim that gays in Ghana were persecuted.
More recently, on August 8, 2003, four gay men were arrested for "indecent exposure" and "unlawful carnal knowledge." According to the government newspaper, the Daily Graphic, the men were arrested while picking up a package that customs officers determined contained photos of the men in "compromising homosexual acts." The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), in its preamble, recognizes the "equal and unalienable rights of all members of the human family." Article 2 of the UDHR entitles all people to the rights and freedoms, "without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion."
Article 5 states that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." "Though there are general laws guaranteeing fundamental human rights in the society, they don’t protect gays," said Mrs. Bossman. Amnesty International (AI), in Decision 7 of its 1979 International Council Meeting, recognized that "the persecution of persons for their homosexuality is a violation of their fundamental rights." According to Mrs. Bossman, it is not constitutional for homosexuals to be discriminated against because of their sexual preferences. "If a complaint of that nature is brought to our outfit we would definitely deal with it," she said.
"If one is thrown out of his house for being gay then it’s a clear violation of the person’s basic human rights," she added. A recent AI report stated that, "Governments around the world deploy an array of repressive laws and practices to deprive their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (people who have undergone a sex change) citizens of their dignity and to deny them their basic human rights." The report goes on to state that lesbian and gay people are routinely imprisoned, tortured to extract confessions, raped, and executed by state death squads.
Mrs. Bossman said that among Ghanaians, homosexuality is taboo, thus making the issue of decriminalization very touchy.
"Most people, religious leaders and even judges, will probably say ‘no way,’" she said. Dr. Ken Attafuah, currently Executive Secretary of the National Reconciliation Commission, is one of the few high-profile public figures who has spoken in support of gay rights. "It should not be left to gays alone to fight for gay rights because we are talking about fundamental violations of justice," Dr. Attafuah said on a radio program two years ago. "You do not have to be a child to defend the rights of children," he added.
Mrs. Bossman agrees with Dr. Attafuah. "The point is that you may not be pro-gay but it doesn’t mean that they should not be protected." One gay man who has managed to live a happy life in Ghana is 36-year-old Nana Kwame, an educator. "I would not say I’m full gay because I still have some orientation towards women," Nana said. Nana is bisexual and was married for almost 17 years. He is now divorced and has three children. Nana realized his preference for men when he was in secondary school form four. " When I went to the university in Cape Coast, I realized that it was not me alone who was gay, but that there were many other people," Nana said.
" I have not encountered any problems with the community or the law because I have a permanent partner that I have been living with for the past three years. The problem arises when people have to go hunting for partners, " he said Nevertheless, Nana feels that he must hide his lifestyle for fear of discrimination. "When someone in Ghana gets to know you are gay, his mindset changes. He looks at you as if you were evil." Nana also admits that he is afraid of losing his job as an educator if he were to come out in the open. "I need to hide that part of me. I have been extra careful," he said. Nana stressed that being gay or bisexual is not a choice. "They think we are evil, but I think it is neither here nor there. If a child is born that way, it is not the fault of the child," he said.
Nana’s family does not know he is gay, except for his younger sister. "My younger sister knows and accepts it. She supports me," he said. "People who are gay in Ghana need to be given the freedom to do what they want, free from discrimination. They have a lot of scriptures to lambast you. It takes somebody with an open mind to accept you for who you are." Another gay man, called Prince, 27 years old, is the founder of the Center for Popular Education and Human Development (CPEHD). Prince said the group started informally in 1995 with small meetings. They officially registered last year, with the mission of improving human rights awareness, gender sensitization, and issues that affect gay men, such as STIs, STDs and AIDS.
" We started by looking at the sexual health needs of gays and lesbians in Ghana," he said. The CPEHD recently conducted a survey on the health needs of gay men in Ghana. According to Prince, the survey helped to reveal some of the misconceptions among gays in Ghana. "The main problem we are looking at is HIV/AIDS. Some people think you won’t get HIV/AIDS from gay sex," he said. Like Nana Kwame, Prince does not wish to reveal his sexual orientation. "I don’t say I’m gay, even in the media. I see it like you live all your life trying to gain acceptance from society. You have to live a different life and put up a different picture," he said.
According to Prince, gay men suffer "a lot of discrimination and abuse" in Ghana. "I was ejected from my room because of the male visitors, and because I wasn’t interested in women," he said. "People take advantage of the illegality and they use it to blackmail people," he added.
In a recent 32-page report concerning homosexuality and human rights abuses in different African countries, Prince relates how he was lured by a man he met to visit his store the next day. When he arrived he found that the man had left, only to return with a group of men who beat Prince and robbed him of his mobile phone and wallet. According to Prince, the police refused to pursue the matter. Prince said gays made easy victims for theft and blackmail because they were reluctant to go to the police. "People take advantage of the illegality and they use it to blackmail people," he said.
Like Mrs. Bossman, Prince agrees that changes need to be made in the current legislation. "South Africa has a clause in their constitution which legalizes homosexual acts. The Ghanaian Foreign Minister recently said, "we need to emulate South Africa when it comes to human rights. They don’t think of sexual rights as being a human right also." "Looking at our tradition, it is something that we see as an abomination and a taboo. Ghanaians are not interested in such behavior," said Dominic Jale, a Ghanaian journalist.
According to Prince, this is the prevailing attitude amongst most Ghanaians. But he disagrees that homosexuality is alien to Ghanaian and African cultures. "Our research shows clearly that homosexuality did not come from the West. When you go deep into the villages, where it is dark, there are men having sex with men and they have never met a white man before," he said. "If you go to Jamestown and Bukom, where there are gay men who have never been with whites, clearly this is not true," he added. Nana Kwame agrees. "What pains me, they will tell you it is a foreign culture. But me, I did not know any white men when I started in my village," he said.
Mrs. Bossman also refutes the claim that homosexuality is a Western import. "Homosexuality expresses itself in different ways in different cultures," she said. "For example, in traditional Yoruba culture a man was permitted to marry a man, although perhaps not with the intention of having sex," she added. Prince looks forward to a time when his support group could function in public, so that he could reach more people who needed help. " The law is against it even though we are helping people. Society needs to accept that gay life is not learned, but from when you were born," he said. According to Mrs. Bossman, change will be difficult, but it will come. "With the world movement for gay rights, we will probably be faced with a lobbying group soon. It will be an uphill task, but not impossible. It may come much faster than we think," she said.
June 7, 2004
Interactive theatre exposes attitudes in Ghana
An interactive theatre performance at The National Theatre in Ghana on May 28, 2004 illustrates how young people are still prejudice against gay images. The programme was organised by Theatre for a Change in collaboration with 14 NGO’s working on HIV/Aids infection rate and behavioural change among young people in Ghana and was sponsored by Action Aid Ghana office with kind support from the British Council of Ghana and the Guardian Newspaper UK Ltd.
The aim of Interactive Project is to contribute to the national objective in Ghana of reducing new HIV infection among young people aged between 12 – 24 years by 30% by the end of 2005.The programme started in January 2004 with 14 NGO’s working in the field of HIV/Aids in Ghana for six months. All the various NGO’s selected 15 young people in their communities to be trained (focus group) as they receive training from Mr. Patrick Young an Interactive Theatre expect from the UK.One of the unique techniques of interactive theatre is the touch tag improvisation; whereby the audience are invited on to the stage where they can change the behaviour of the protagonist or main character.
The changes should be action and critical moment in the life of the protagonist or the main character life. You look for the action that he or she should avoid to prevent him or her from the HIV infection.During performances between May 26, 2004 to May 30, 2004 The National Theatre focus group performed a piece of theatre whereby a gay man contacted a young man in need, had sex with him and gave him money.This young man went round having unprotected sex with young women who fall in love with him. Later, one of the women gets sick and goes to the hospital and it is discovered that she is HIV positive. The virus was linked to the sex the gay man had with the young man and the audience started making funny comments about the gay man’s character/role.
When it came to the touch tag improvisation, all the crowed cried for the scene of the gay man to be changed and the people who came in to bring that change portrayed scenes to show that the young man in need shouldn’t have gone with the gay man; while some others showed that he should have gone with him but should have used condoms to protect himself.Others came on stage only to insult the gay man character and asked if God made the arse (anus) for sex? The comment I got from people I spoke to was clear that these young people who have come to watch the theatre performance are still in school and most these schools are Christian or Muslim schools that teach that gay life made God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and for them, they all want to go to heaven and so will have to work out their salvation this way.
June 9, 2004
Gay life and death in prisons
For the first time in Ghana’s prison service, clinical psychologists have been employed to counsel prisoners on life in the prisons and matters relating to their health. The move is intended to stem the spread of HIV among prison populations but prejudice, intolerance, violence and corruption still run high. In addition to the introduction of clinical psychologists, the service will soon acquire more television sets for prisons in the country to help with education. These measures are in response to what some are calling, "a belief that some prisoners cannot close their zips or lock them and have become homosexuals and lesbians who put themselves and other inmates at risk of contracting dangerous diseases such as HIV/Aids."
While these improvements are likely to bring many benefits for inmates they are part of a basically homophobic response to the problem of disease prevention among prison populations and homosexual activity is greeted with derision and often violence with no protection for gay inmates from authorities. According to the BTM correspondent in Ghana, investigations have revealed that some prisoners work in the cells as gay prostitutes in order to raise some money to meet their personal needs. A source in the prisons service claims that some homosexuals influence the other inmates with money and other things in order to have sexual relations with them.
" Those who are into it before coming to prison are known as predators. They usually find it difficult to control their sexual passions and sometimes attempt to coerce other people to sleep with them. Some inmates who felt threatened by the activities of the predators expressed their indignation by slashing the predators with sharp objects." The source said that when inmates see other prisoners engaged in a homosexual act, they shout "kpei, kpei, kpei" to notify the prison officers on duty, as well as the rest of the prisoners that something "unholy" is going on. When caught, they sometimes molest them out of sight their officers. The source admitted that most of the people in the prisons are young men and women likely to be sexually active.
The source revisited suggestions made by some sections of Ghanaian public that arrangement should be made for prisoners to have their sexual relations with their spouses periodically, saying they were worth debating. The source could not confirm or deny reports that some prison officers made arrangements for some influential and wealthy prisoners to have sexual relation with their partners. Meanwhile, statistics available show that HIV/Aids is the number one killer of prisoners in Ghana. It accounts for 17.5 % of all prisoner deaths in the country; about 22 of the 125 deaths last year were caused by the disease. In the light of this, the service is encouraging HIV/Aids voluntary testing to stem the spread of the disease in the prisons.
There have also been suggestions that all convicts should be tested before they are admitted to the prisons since some come in with the disease. The statistics shows that tuberculosis is another killer. It claimed 26 lives in 2002, representing 20.6 % of the total deaths. The other killer diseases in prison include anaemia, 15 %; pneumonia, 13 %; septicaemia, 11 %, hepatitis 6 %, and dehydration, 5 %. Others are malaria fever, 4 %; congestive cardiac failure, 4 %; meningitis, 3 %, hypertension renal failure and respiration failure, 2 % each; asthma, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, epilepsy, haemoptisis, hernia, paralysis and cachexia each accounted for 1 % of prisoners deaths.
June 24, 2004
Gay in Ghana–From gay-bashings to AIDS
Growing up as a gay man in Ghana is really hard. People imagine that gay people are pedophiles and criminals. You are taunted and harassed even as a child. At school, if people think you are gay, no one wants to play with you, or even talk to you unless it is to call you names. Anybody that does befriend you risks being harassed, too, at any age. I had a friend who was recently told that he was evil and would never go to heaven because he talked to me. Pentecostal churches perform exorcisms on people seen as being gay. We’re blamed for AIDS. You get the picture.
I was evicted from the first room that I rented because my landlord said no woman visited me and that meant I was gay. On the street once, when I defended myself to a woman who insulted me, I was beaten up by her husband. He wanted to know how I dared answer back, "Who are you, a homosexual, to talk to my wife like that?" Muggers and thieves prey on gay men because they know the police won’t do anything about it, and most victims are too ashamed to report it.
It happened to me a couple of years ago. I met this guy on the beach. When we hit it off, I agreed to meet him at the market where he sold shoes. There, several men and women accused me of forcing their friend to have sex. They beat me and took everything I had, while loudly blaming gay people for causing AIDS in Ghana. We were evil people, they said, who made God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. They would not allow this to happen in Ghana. They would beat out of me the evil spirit of homosexuality.
When others at the market asked what was going on, they told them that I was a thief, and they all wanted to beat me, too. I prayed to God to save me. I was sure I was going to die. Afterwards, I naively went to the police. My attackers told them I made a pass at their friend. The police took their statement, but sent them away when they couldn’t show any evidence. Then the officers offered to write my statement for me, but I quickly took the pen and started writing my own because I knew they might try to implicate me in some crime.
When I asked them to do something to get back my money and the other things that had been stolen, they threatened to lock me up. There aren’t any laws specifically against homosexuality in Ghana, but it is common for the police to use other laws against us, like one forbidding "unnatural sex." I let the matter drop, but then I was afraid to leave the police station. My attackers would probably have been waiting for me outside. The police let me leave by a back door. I was too ashamed to tell to anyone for a year that I had been beaten and robbed. I even tried to have "normal" sex, but it didn’t work.
Poverty and Violence
Every now and then, in a gay-friendly bar, I see the guy who arranged the bashing. I tried to talk to him, but he’s never apologized, even though he is gay, and what he did to me could easily happen to him. In Ghana, male homosexuality is lumped in with bestiality, and gay activity brings misdemeanor charges at minimum. The police have been known to arrest gay men, rape them, and let them go. Last year in August, four young men were convicted of "indecent exposure" and "unnatural carnal knowledge" and sentenced to two years each in prison.
Gay people in Ghana live in such a state of fear it is a form of violence. We are isolated, harassed, and beaten. Friends commit suicide from despair. Poverty is a big problem because a lot of us have been thrown out of our houses by our families. Many don’t have any education past elementary school. Those few gay men who do have good jobs are deep in the closet and won’t have anything to do with gay associations, though they still want gay sex. Almost one third of the population in Ghana is below the poverty line. People come to the capital, Accra, hoping there will be more opportunities. When they don’t find work they turn to prostitution. Some gay men become professional sex workers, but most do it to help ends meet.
AIDS is blamed on foreigners, gay men, and the devil. Last year, school children staged a demonstration in the New Juaben Municipality in which they demanded that all tourists visiting the country be forced to get an HIV test. Homosexuality itself is also blamed on foreigners, though most gay Ghanaians, if you can find them, will tell you their first experiences were with local friends, and sometimes relatives.
When the devil is seen as the cause of AIDS, God is seen as the solution. A significant amount of gay men believe they are protected from HIV by a combination of spiritual practices and herbal medicine. Last November, Joseph Amponsah, Chairman of Hope Association of Nkoranza, an association of persons living with HIV/AIDS, went public to beg pastors to quit making HIV/AIDS patients fast for days on end because it was killing some of them. Though a number of politicians and clergymen publicly blame gay men for AIDS, the only form of transmission the government mentions in official reports is heterosexual sex. There are few, if any, HIV prevention or awareness campaigns targeting the LGBT community, even though a substantial amount of work is directed to heterosexuals.
Because of the silence, a recent study found that while most gay men in Ghana knew HIV was sexually transmitted, many thought the risk was greatest with vaginal sex. As a result, they were more likely to use condoms with women than men, if they used them at all. Young men are especially at risk. If they have an older partner, they will do anything the adult says. Respect for your elders is an important part of Ghanaian culture. Besides, young men prefer older partners because they think they will get more presents or will be paid more.
When they do get sick, gay men in Ghana don’t go to the hospitals for health care, especially if they might have a sexually transmitted disease. One reason is that hospitals will not treat you unless you come in with your sex partner. Gay men who can’t afford a private doctor rely on over the counter drugs, or go to herbalists. Some have died of treatable STD’s because they were too embarrassed to see a doctor. Talking about HIV is almost impossible here. Since we are considered criminals, where can we feel safe getting tested? Even if there were health services specifically for gay men, many say they would be afraid to use them.
To those of us that struggle with self-hate, HIV seems like one more blow. If you tell a sick person to get tested, they get very angry at you and call you names like the devil and Satan. AIDS in Ghana is terrible even before death. Besides despair and illness, it can bring terrible poverty. We lose our incomes when we become ill. Already ostracised by our families, the only people we can rely on are our friends.
August 18, 2004
Same Sex Relations Remain a Crime in Ghana: LGBT in Ghana to boycott December polls
Ghana – This is our first letter to you to introduce our selves to you as gays/ lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people living in Ghana. We as gays, lesbians, bisexuals in Ghana have our rights in our constitution. We are discriminated upon because of our sexual orientation and no one dare talks for us. The police beat and punish people who are found to be gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender person. In our communities when found, you are treated as an outcast or lowered to beatings from people who call themselves straight. When we get an infection, we are asked to provide our partners before treatment. How can I provide my male partner in such a bad environment?
Since gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender lifestyle is criminalized in the criminal code of Ghana, The Ghana criminal code states that sexual offenses article 105, states that "whoever is guilty of unnatural carnal knowledge ˆ (a) of any person without his consent is guilty of first decree felony, or (b) of any person with his consent or of any animal, is guilty of a misdemeanor" this law, a relic of repressive British sodomy laws, groups homosexuality with bestiality, assault and rape, and brings a minimum misdemeanor charge for gay activity. Our people leave the hospital disappointed and go to drug stores for a drug they think will help with their problem or see a friend for what he / she uses to cure his / her sickness. This make us feel as if we are second class citizen in our own country.
In some cases, the drug stores will also ask you to go back to the hospitals for treatment you continue to suffer till you find a way to deal with your sickness or situation. Our embassies outside in the states keep deporting Ghanaians saying "gay men are not punished in Ghana". Even though the 1992 constitution of Ghana, also offer every Ghanaian the rights to associate with any group or organization of your choice and that there should be no discrimination based on sex, gender, religion, tribe etc. This does not work for us. Our criminal code which was written during the British rule in Ghana is still the same. It has no new or modernized laws. Even though its does not say it’s illegal for a man to have sex with another man nor the vice versa clearly, its states that such action is "unnatural" and when caught, you will be sentenced to prison. Now, there are lots and lots of people in our prison home who have been caught by this unfriendly law.
On the other hand, most my colleagues too are dying from the deadly HIV- AIDS unnoticed. We have no treatment access when sick. The doctors are not gay / lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender friendly. We believe we can’t wait any more for treatment for our people now!!!!. It’s election time and the president or the other political parties will not say because we are gay / lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, we should not vote. When they win, they forget we voted for them. They don’t say because we are gay / lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, we should not pay taxes but we pay and do every thing as good citizens. We are not criminals. We don’t kill, we don’t steal, we are not lawless, the only difference is our sexual orientation.
What we have decided doing is to only vote for the political party that has a policy to see to our sexual health needs. We are Ghanaians and need treatments now!!!!. No policy for our health, No votes!!!!. No treatment, No Votes!!!! We want the policy to be touching on issues such as: Care and Support, Peer Education, Advocacy, IEC Material, Condom / lubricant distribution, Capacity Building, Counseling.
We hope this will be read for the world to come our aid in Ghana
Thanks for reading and God Bless.
Yours in the struggle,
Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals of Ghana
Teshie – Nungua Estate,
Accra – Ghana.
West – Africa
Tel: (00233) 244 ˆ 808280
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana
box tn 1978,teshie-nungua estate
tel:233 – 244 – 808280
June 24, 2005
Ghana Gay and Lesbian group concerned–Fear of discrimination and legal complications
Ghana – AIDS Discrimination Debate
Fear of discrimination and legal complications may be discouraging homosexuals in Ghana from seeking adequate health care for STDs and AIDS, according to the Ghana Gay and Lesbian Group. Homosexuality is illegal in the African nation. Because HIV-positive patients are asked by their physicians to bring in their partners for treatment, many refuse or do not show up at all.
A spokesman from the AIDS commission has dismissed these claims, saying that homosexuals only have themselves to blame if they are afraid to be open about their sexuality. He stated that homosexuals and sex workers are ‘underground’, and therefore high-risk groups, more likely to spread the disease. The Ghana Gay and Lesbian group says their concern may have further consequences, as gay people or lesbians would rather consult friends in finding drugs to treat their ailments than going for prescriptions from health centres.
August 28, 2005
Accra, Ghana – New Gay spots
Sent by a reader:
For those visiting Accra there are several places you might want to check out, but beware, many of the boys are money boys, yet some are just nice guys. Be careful!
1. Chesters in Osu has been there for years. A general night club, but the back room is totally gay and most often dark.
2. Strawberry is in Adabraka. Outdoor seating. A general bar but this is the main pick-up area for this part of the city. Will have no problem meeting someone.
3. Lizzie’s in Osu, across the street from Papaye. All open seating, good music and cold beer. Busy every night and packed on weekends. There is a group of Nigerian gay boys available here. BUT be careful – get agreement on everything before you go anywhere with anyone.
4. Henry’s a new bar, totally gay. There is a parallel street to Ring Road to the north between Nkrumah Circle and Paloma. Henry’s is located on this street almost directly behind Busy Internet. When you leave Busy Internet turn left, go to the next street, Royale Castle Road, and turn left. At the next intersection turn left again [Cola Road] and walk along this street until you see the sign for Henry’s.
Accra Mail (Accra)
August 30, 2006
Joy FM had a homosexual on a programme and my oh my
by Yaa Broni
Last week, Joy FM had a homosexual on a programme and my oh my, the guy was literally chewed and spat out on air by many callers. While some rained hell and damnation on him, others wished him and his compatriots to disappear from the face of the Earth. Callers spewed and spluttered all manner of expletives to condemn this young man.
Let me also wade into the fray. I find it very interesting that many Ghanaians are behaving like ostriches with our heads buried so deep in the sand ; the realities have long evaporated into thin air. Homosexuality has come to stay, whether we like it or not. They live among us. Your son could be a closet homosexual for all you know. Now, which would you rather have, a closet homo or a declared one? Why are we behaving as if homosexuality is so unheard of in Ghana and has suddenly reared it’s ‘ugly head.
C’mon, the girls practice it in the girl’s schools and the boys practice it in their schools too. It’s a practice that’s been going on for years. But like the ostriches that we are, we either hoped it was all rumour, or only a few « warped minds » practiced it or just growing pains manifesting in an ugly form. The supi in girls’s schools and whatever the boys call themselves practiced in our schools is part of the transition to full blown homsexuality like the pupa to butterfly. The reality is that homosexuality is very rife in this country.
Like prostitution,you can’t get rid of it ; it has come to stay.And unless the closet ones come out, it is not so easy to spot one, unless they exhibit the effeminate tendencies, which is not wholly homosexual because some men are effeminate but not neccessarily homosexual. Gosh! I get confused myself trying to figure them out. Anyway, the bottom line here is, regardless of the religious implications, by way of it being sinful, they ‘aint gonna’ go away,chums! I personally can never get over seeing two men kiss or two women at it, if you catch my drift, but hey, it is their right to have a different sexual preference, no matter how uncomfortable one feels about it.
I don’t begin to understand the scientific, psychological, and genetic explanations given for men and women being this way. All I know is there is a community of homosexuals in this country, growing larger with every passing day. And now they want to be heard, recognised and their rights respected! That’s a tall order, I can hear the more liberal Ghanaians saying, but the radical ones among us would like to banish them to some land of ‘never,never". I dont know what is more frightening, the influx of homosexuals, or the fact some of these men and women adopt this practice as part of the foibles of the so-called hip society.You want to belong, you dabble in it. These days you go to parties you see women greeting each other by kissing each other on the lips. When did we get to this? Is it "sua tera" or ? We have abandoned the poor cheeks for the lips. It is hip they say. So people, homosexuality is here to stay, be it the straight ones or the bi-sexuals
"Ntafuo nti asem ase"
I have Northern blood ; Dagomba to be precise, but I don’t know what kind of blood runs in some of us because we really behave like mutants. It is almost as if we are always on a collision course or self-destruction. Just when you thought the Dagbon peace though quite fragile is coming along, bam! the madness starts all over again. We don’t seem to want to progress,or move on to better things for ourselves, our families and pur communities.The popular saying (with all due respects to my folk) "Ntafuo nti asem ase" manifests itself here. We seem to be riddled with myopia allowing ourselves to be caught in the tunnel vision syndrome.
We want to forever be in this state while civilisation passes us by. We have sons and daughters of this land with hefty degrees to their names but all most of them know how to do is to preen about like peacocks, for all to see and hear instead of making an effort to join in the peace effort and forge along the development of the region. It is about time the sons and daughters of the Northern Region woke up from their slumber and their pompous attitudes.
dreaded load shedding
Oh! The dreaded load shedding is back with a vengeance!The generators are back with their throaty noise,that can keep you awake the best part of the night. It really is a neccessary evil in these dark days ahead.But my problem is with the traffic control units. They should get their act together and post their men to the high points in the city or the mayhem in the next few weeks to a month will be horrific.Especially,when we have moronic drivers living among us. They should keep the traffic wardens at the busy traffic lights till traffic eases, and not run away when it is dead on six for the street vendors to take over, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
And as for ECG I hope they will keep stedfastly to their times for the lights going off and on. The expense of buying candles for those who can’t afford generators, the expense of those buying petrol or diesel for their generators is not funny at all. Not to mention the foods that would go off if ECG/VRA do not abide by their time schedules. It is all very bothersome even if we know it can’t be helped. I just hope and pray and I am sure everyone shares my sentiments, that the dam rises to the required level and we all go back to normalcy.
September 1, 2006
Ghanaian gay conference banned
Ghana’s government has banned a conference for gay men and lesbians due to take place there later this month. Information Minister Kwamena Bartels said as homosexuality was illegal in Ghana the gathering was not permitted. "Government does not condone any such activity which violently offends the culture, morality and heritage of the entire people of Ghana," he said. He warned that disciplinary action would be taken if anyone was found to have contravened the law. The BBC’s Kwaku Sakyi-Addo in the capital, Accra, says the conference was reportedly scheduled to take place on Monday at the Accra International Conference Centre and at a venue in the city of Koforidua.
It has been difficult to establish precisely who was organising the conference, and whether it had received any prior approval from any official quarter, he says. But in an unequivocal statement, Mr Bartels laid out the government’s position. "Government would like to make it absolutely clear that it shall not permit the proposed conference anywhere in Ghana. Unnatural carnal knowledge is illegal under our criminal code. Homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality are therefore offences under the laws of Ghana," he said.
Mr Bartels urged the interior minister to investigate and punish those who had given initial permission to the organisers. Managers of the International Conference Centre have denied that such a conference was due to take place at the premises. Our correspondent says gays and lesbians in Ghana maintain their relationships underground because of the social stigma associated with their sexual orientation. According to the Ghana News Agency, many members of the public and the clergy have spoken out against the conference. Some anonymous callers to radio phone-in programmes say the government’s reaction is an infringement of the fundamental freedoms of speech and association by gays and lesbians.
September 7, 2006
Ghanaian gay leader attacks media
by Dave McElhill
The President of the Gay and Lesbian Association Ghana (GLAG) has claimed that the media has made up its coverage of an event that was due to be held in Accra. Patrick McDonalds told The Crusading Guide newspaper that GLAG members were unaware of any international conference that was due to take place, and that the media had aggravated public hatred towards those with a same sex preference.
He also claimed that statements attributed to him by the media were untrue. Mr McDonalds told reporters that the media had created the story, and that debate concerning the conference was nothing but speculation had caused trouble in Ghana. The speculation appears to have begun last week when a spokesman claimed that the government was going to ban an international conference in Accra. The original report of McDonalds complaint about his treatment by the media in The Crusading Guide has no quotes from him. The Accra Mail claimed in August that GLAG allowed secondary school students to join, but Mr McDonalds denied this saying that membership to GLAG was only available to adults. GLAG has over 500 members and several offices throughout Ghana. Over the past few weeks the government has issued a claim that it would ban the conference, and has received backing for the move from both Christian and Muslim groups in Ghana.
September 12, 2006
Homosexuals and Lesbians in the Ghanaian Society
by Godwin Yaw Agboka
The attention of the nation has been inescapably drawn to the recent outpouring of concerns about homosexuals and lesbians in the Ghanaian society. One would have thought that this would not be a surprise considering that these happenings did not occur in a day. However, from concerns from public reactions among the citizenry and even among some politicians, the impression has been created as if the phenomenon is a new invention orchestrated by the McDonald-led organization, which is the reason people are playing the ostrich, pretending that a new demon has been unleashed unto the nation.
When it was reported in the media, sometime ago, that some male teenagers in the Tema metropolis had resorted to sleeping with one another what did we think was happening? Did it have to take the pronouncements from Mr. McDonald in his interview with JOYFM for us to know that the concept of homosexuality and lesbianism was clandestinely a part of the Ghanaian social fiber? If there is anything that should be new to Ghanaians, it should be that gays now do not want to stay in the closet of their rooms but want to be accepted into mainstream Ghanaian society, and, for that matter, be recognized so that they don’t suffer from the raised eyebrows that characterize their activities. The phenomenon is not new!
There is no denying the fact that the practice in many mixed or even single-sex boarding schools where senior students sleep with junior students they call their sons and daughters or even where students at the same level frequently make intimate passes at one another. The problem with the Ghanaian system is that terminologies such as “gay, “homosexual,” or “lesbian,” had not caught on with the Ghanaian system, thus, in the mental dictionary, discussions bordering on recent developments have not been given the treatments they have been.
If we will be honest with ourselves, such practices have gone on since Adam and because in the past there were not many media activities going on in some areas of the country, such practices were not reported and even when people were seen or caught in such acts, society quickly swept it under the carpet. With increasing level of education due to easy access to information in newspapers, and the internet, these terminologies have been common to the Ghanaian so when a Ghanaian sees two people in any intimate relationship, they know they are homosexuals or gay.
Let’s not deceive ourselves that the practice is a “Whiteman’s practice” and was brought into the country by some Whiteman or some Ghanaians who lived outside the country for some time who developed the culture and introduced it into the country. If there is anything that could be attributed to the influence of the Whiteman, then it is the fact that gays and lesbians don’t want to stay in their closet but this time they want to come public and be recognized as legitimate members of the society. The recognition of gays and lesbians in the USA was occasioned in the mid-70s and what gays and lesbians are fighting for, now, in the USA is not only a right to let them stay together but conjugal rights that will make them enjoy benefits that heterosexual couples do. This is what can be attributed to the influence of the Whiteman.
The Whiteman is open about his sexual orientation and this is what the usually, reserved Ghanaian (at least about sexual issues) has learnt very well, now. How many of the secondary school students who resorted to sleeping with the same sex in the past were exposed to the media or had that outside exposure to warrant their action? How many of those who are involved in the practice have traveled outside the country to the West? What we must know is that the practice did not start yesterday neither is it a Whiteman’s disease. What we must know is that from the pastor who officiated your son’s or daughter’s marriage to your next door neighbor, there are people with lesbian or homosexual orientation living around. Let’s not pretend these have not been going on in the closets for years.
Right or wrong?
The question we should be asking is if the practice is right or wrong? However, reducing the issue to such a mere asking of this question makes the issue as simplistic as having a planned night walk when, in fact, the issue is much more complex than that. For me, it is both a constitutional and moral issue. However, to discuss it at the constitutional level without looking at the moral angle will make all discussions of this issue one-sided. When it was reported that an international conference of people with gay orientations was going to be held in Ghana, I whined just like what the government and other legal brains have done. The practice not does have any space within the Ghanaian cultural context. Our culture frowns on these acts which is the reason all the ones reported have been so done in the closet.
Even in the Ghanaian statutory books, male homosexuality is officially illegal. The Criminal Code of 1960, Chapter six: sexual offences, Article 105 reads: “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 of any animal, is guilty of misdemeanor”. In the same books, there is no legal recognition of same sex couples. CAP 127 (Marriage Ordinance of 1951) and CAP 129 (Marriage of Mohammedans Ordinance of 1907) all concur that marriage should be between “man and wife” and a “bachelor and a spinster”. Where is the place of gays and lesbians under these ordinances? What this means is that in as much as gays and lesbians want a means of sexual expression the very constitution under which they should be servants has no place for their activities.
Thus, it is one thing having the orientation and another expressing it within a society in which the individual finds him or herself. What I know is that a society without laws will be anarchic; thus, the law will be in abeyance if everyone decides to do what pleases him or her. There are many individuals who have the penchant for drugs and take delight in smoking all forms of substances but it is one thing having the urge and another having the constitutional backing for a public expression of the inner need of smoking.
Freedom of association
Even the constitutional provision which guarantees freedom of association and assembly has limitations. Although the constitution guarantees freedom of association and assembly, one should not be myopic to think and believe that such a right is absolute. It is not! Chapter 12(2) of the Constitution places a limitation on the exercise of rights: “….. but subject to respect for the rights and freedom of others and for the public interest.” Congregation in furtherance or perpetuation of an illegality is criminal. It should be worth pointing out to the lobbyists and human rights activists that in the course of lobbying to get an existing legislation changed, one can be charged with criminality in so long as the lobby has not materialized.
Counseling and prayer
What is interesting and introduces some complexity into the debate is the question of genetic make up. Arguments are made that for many people who claim are gay or lesbian, their genetic make-up does not make them get attracted to people of the opposite sex and, however, absurd this might look and sound, we should not be quick to side step that argument. My question is: are people born gay or they develop into becoming one? This is because if people are born gay and will not be attracted to people of the opposite sex how can we legislate about their sexuality? If this argument makes any sense, will putting gays and lesbians behind bars make them change their sexual behavior after serving their jail terms?
The Minister of Information and National Orientation in his reaction to the proposed gay conference quoted the constitutional provision that makes the practice a crime but what he did not do was to call for the arrest or prosecution of the gays who were bold enough to come out. Why have none of them been arrested for such a criminal act at least as the constitution says? This is what makes the issue complex. A recent article posted on Ghanaweb.com indicated that while the phenomenon might be attributed to genes, there are others who develop into becoming gays and lesbians. In that feature article the author claims he developed into becoming gay and had practised
homosexuality for many years but stopped through counseling and prayer. So the practice can be stopped? Surely, it is an issue of nature and nurture, but how true are these positions? To date, I have not heard any psychologist or scientist in Ghana speak on the issue to authenticate or do otherwise on these arguments.
If, indeed, it is established that people are not born gay but develop into that, then, counseling and prayer can be very good weapons to help many of the people who might need such support. The examples of the author of the article are a good reference point for any such thing to be done. I have heard several Christian and other religious groups condemn the act, and, as a Christian, I think that is a good thing but it does not stop there. If it does, it will amount to treating the issue too simply, as it goes beyond that. The Rev. Lawrence Tetteh has even called for a public demonstration against people with homosexual or lesbian orientation, and I thought this begged the question. How do we make sure that other people do not develop into gays and lesbians, that is, if indeed, it is nurture as against nature? It is these that our society should work on and not just to show open resentment without putting in place measures to stem the tide.
Isn’t it the case that our cultural norms debar people from engaging in such acts and yet such acts go on? Isn’t it the case that the constitution criminalizes such acts and yet they go on? If the constitution which threatens prosecution is not enough to deter these people what will demonstrations do? Let’s not beg the question. We can resort to counseling and prayer, and these can be effective means of fighting this phenomenon, at to those for whom the practice is an after-development. There are several children who are wooed into the act in schools and other residential areas and how do we educate them so that they don’t fall victim to this act? Let’s get serious about this issue.
September 20, 2006
Ghana: Media leads anti-gay witch-hunt
Gays and lesbians in Ghana, where homosexuality is a crime, have been the target of a month-long campaign of homophobia in the media that continues—an attack abetted by homophobic declarations from the Ghanaian government. The climate of hate and fear is so great that the leader of Ghana’s only LGBT group has been forced to flee the country in fear of his life, after receiving a constant stream of threats of violence and death. The anti-gay campaign began when Ghanaian media began reporting in late August that an "international conference" of gays and lesbians would be held in Ghana, creating a firestorm of protest from newspapers, radio talk show hosts, and religious leaders.
On September 1, the government announced a ban on any such conference, and said criminal sanctions would be imposed on anyone involved in organizing it. Information Minister Kwamena Bartels said that because homosexuality was illegal in Ghana the gathering was not permitted. "Government does not condone any such activity which violently offends the culture, morality, and heritage of the entire people of Ghana," he said. "Government would like to make it absolutely clear that it shall not permit the proposed conference anywhere in Ghana. Unnatural carnal knowledge is illegal under our criminal code. Homosexuality, lesbianism, and bestiality are therefore offences under the laws of Ghana," the information minister added, calling on the interior minister to investigate and punish anyone involved in organizing or permitting the conference. (Right, a Ghanaian newspaper headline reading, "Four homosexuals jailed 2 years each")
But the "conference" which had unleashed weeks of homophobic media comment and religious calls-to-arms turned out to be a hoax. The Gay and Lesbian Association Ghana (GALAG) issued a statement saying it "has never discussed, nor have we ever organised, an international Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) conference in Ghana… We have no hand in—nor the faintest clue about—any such conference to be organised by any group anywhere; neither do we know of—nor have we heard of—any such event. All we know is what is being peddled irresponsibly in the media, apparently oblivious to the journalistic ethical code which calls for confirming such a potentially controversial event with at least two or three reliable sources before putting it on air or in print media as truth."
The gathering was allegedly going to take place at Accra’s International Conference Centre, but the BBC’s correspondent in Accra reported, "Managers of the International Conference Centre have denied that such a conference was due to take place at the premises." Prince Kweku MacDonald, the executive president of GALAG and an HIV-prevention educator, told me, "The truth of the matter is that our gay and lesbian association has not even thought of any conference in the coming months. We do not even have the money or the resources it takes to organize such a big conference as reported by the local media here in Ghana. The problem here is that, they are afraid there might be something of that magnitude coming on in future, and wanted to threaten or caution the LGBT community here in Ghana not to come out at all in future because the people of Ghana hate the association of gays and lesbians."
MacDonald told of the climate of fear created by the government’s declarations. "For them to come out to condemn the false conference and go on to condemn the practice of homosexuality in Ghana made it very difficult for gay people to meet these days," he reported. "The LGBT community in Ghana does not really feel safe to hold meetings and organize parties." MacDonald spoke to me from a neighboring African country, which I was asked not to name in order to protect his security. "I left Ghana because I was receiving threatening phone calls and physical threats where I am living and from the religious group in Ghana, " MacDonald said. "Would you believe I woke up one day only to find on our office vehicle an inscription that read, ‘burn it up?’ People would walk behind my house and shout, ‘We will stop you; the conference will happen only over our dead bodies,’ or holler, "Now we know you are behind all this and will put you where you deserve to be in this society.’ I felt it would be safest for me to leave Ghana before they do something to me."
On September 5, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) issued a statement condemning the homophobic media campaign and the government’s ban on the non-existent "conference," which it called "a red herring, introduced by an unknown source to galvanize resentment against Ghana’s increasingly visible gay and lesbian community."
"Newspapers and radio call-in shows in the West African country have been obsessed with the topic of homosexuality and the sentiment has been strongly negative and in many cases violent. A number of LGBT leaders have received death threats and many are in fear of their lives," IGLHRC said, adding, "The focus on the international nature of the conference, which according to the government ‘would have brought gays and lesbians from all over the world to Ghana,’ seems designed to play into nationalist sentiments and reinforce notions of the ‘unAfricanness’ of same-sex desire and behavior." (Left, Ghanaian flag)
The anti-gay hate campaign has continued in the time since IGLHRC’s statement. A week after the BBC exposed the "conference" as a hoax, the Accra Daily Mail reported on September 7 that major religious leaders had called a large public demonstration against "gay and lesbian activities in Ghana," with Vice President Alhaji Airu Mahama having agreed to help lead it. In calling the demonstration, the head of the Presbyterian Church in Ghana, Right Reverend Yaw Frempong Manso, denounced homosexuality as "detestable behavior… unnatural, abnormal, unBiblical and filthy;" while Reverend Dr. Lawrence Tetteh, head of the Protestant fundamentalist Worldwide Miracle Outreach sect, called gays and lesbians "sinful and shameful" and warned Ghanaians that "freedom for us in Ghana should not be a license to hell." The demonstration was also supported by Ghana’s national chief imam, Sheik Nuru Sharabutu, and by the Ga Mantse, or paramount chief of the Ga people, the large tribe after whom the country is named. Ghana’s population is about 63 percent Christian and16 percent Muslim, while 21% believe in indigenous religions.
A column on homosexuality in the September 14 Accra Daily Mail cited the laws against homosexuality and declared, "The practice does not have any space within the Ghanaian cultural context." The Mail’s columnist went on to say, "Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of association and assembly, one should not be myopic to think and believe that such a right is absolute," adding, "Congregation in furtherance or perpetuation of an illegality [like homosexuality] is criminal."
On September 11, the daily Ghanaian Chronicle in Accra prominently featured a major statement by the national president of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Augustine Sarkwah, who declared that " the news about a planned international gay conference that would be held in the country has equally affected the moral fabric of some of the youth since some of them would like to understand the evil practice and possibly indulge in it, which would have negative effect on their growth and development."
On September 14, the same newspaper editorialized, "Our society in Ghana is gradually mushrooming a gay and lesbian caucus, which would in the future raise serious and ethical questions.," adding that the government‘s decision that "Ghanaians would not allow their soil to be used for this conference" has "received a chorus of approval from all Ghanaians…"
There are many, many more examples of the Ghanaian media fanning the flames of anti-gay sentiment in these last weeks. In the face of this ongoing hate campaign, GALAG’s MacDonald appealed to Western gays and lesbian activists "to support the LGBT community in Africa." He told me, "The struggle is not perfect if the rich is not taking care of the poor and the strong not taking care of the weak. We should remember we need each other to survive and win the struggle against homophobia in the world. Africans need information and documentation of the problems that we are facing here.
We need the support from Western governments to tell our governments that the LGBT community taxes contribute to the loans they get in Africa from time to time and needs to be respected if the government really wants to continue receiving funding for their development. Woe unto Ghana if it decides to rule its people based on a religious book and not on a natural course."MacDonald, who is 29, hopes to return to Ghana when the climate permits, and said, "I promise Ghanaians that we will remain strong and do more in terms of support for the LGBTI community with the needed information to live their lives as normal Ghanaians.