5 A Muslim Woman Treads the Thorny Path of Politics 5/08 (background story)
8 Commentary: A victory for democracy in Africa 1/09 (background story)
14 March 2007 – BBC NEWS
Ghana’s secret gay community
by Orla Ryan, BBC News, Accra
When Patrick Williams told his mother he was gay, she packed his bags and threw him out of the house, disowning her son for what she saw as an evil act. The 21-year-old Ghanaian had known he was gay since he was 13, but had hesitated to tell anyone.
"I was scared and I knew in our society, it was not accepted. It was best for me to keep it inside until I saw someone who was similar," he said. When a schoolmate told his mother of rumours that the 18-year-old Patrick was having sex with another boy, he admitted he was gay. "She said because of what I chose to be, I was no longer her son. Was the whole world against me? This was the biggest question in my mind. My own mother sometimes says she wishes I was dead," he said.
His experience is by no means unusual in the West African country, where homosexuality is seen as an unnatural sexual act and, as such, is illegal. But as the country celebrates 50 years of independence, UK gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has called on President John Kufuor, who is visiting London this week, to speak to his country’s gay community. "As Ghana celebrates 50 years of independence, it is time to repeal the anti-gay laws," Mr Tatchell said. A letter urging an end to the persecution of gays and lesbians in Ghana was handed over to President Kufuor, Mr Tatchell said. It also called on the Ghanaian government to open a dialogue with gay and lesbian groups.
In deeply religious Ghana, homosexuality is seen as an imported foreign lifestyle choice and a moral aberration. Last year, a proposed gay and lesbian conference was banned. "Ghanaians are unique people whose culture, morality and heritage totally abhor homosexual and lesbian practices and indeed any other form of unnatural sexual acts," Information Minister Kwamena Bartels said in a statement banning the conference. Gay marriage may be legal in South Africa, but across the continent many devout and traditional Africans view homosexuality with horror. There are gay bars in Accra and some organisations do work with the gay community, raising awareness about HIV/Aids, but mostly their work is underground.
Cost of intolerance
For individuals such as Patrick, the personal cost of intolerance is huge. "It hurts me a lot. I love my mum so much, I think of her each day. When I try to contact her, she is rude to me. This has taken me away from her," he said. Such is the opprobrium that homosexuality attracts that even normally vociferous Ghanaian human rights organisations are subdued in their support for gay rights.
"In the first place, I do not know if I want to promote homosexuality in Ghana," said Richard Quayson, deputy commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the country’s leading human rights organisation.As a human rights organisation, if someone comes forward and says their rights are violated, it is my duty to protect them. As a Ghanaian, I don’t think I can openly go out and promote it in the country," he said.
In the experience of 23-year-old Joseph Hilary Afful, people do make their disapproval clear, sometimes in violent ways. Pointing to scars on his forehead, he describes how he and four friends were attacked last August in an Accra suburb, Chorkor. "We have to hide ourselves if even walking in the afternoon, someone can throw stones at you," he said.
Few in Ghana are willing to take the political risk of advocating tolerance, said Gabby Otchere-Darko, the editor of Ghana’s Statesman paper. "Even those who control the media are not willing to be tolerant to views that are sympathetic to homosexuality. That is the biggest problem," he said. "We need to accept there are certain things there is no point in policing."
Ghanaian laws prohibit unnatural carnal acts – a definition which is widely understood to include homosexuality although in practice, few have been prosecuted for homosexual acts. But in this environment, it is little surprise that some choose to keep their sexuality secret, sometimes even from their closest relatives.
Rose, 26, has yet to tell her mother she is gay and does not want her family name to be published. "My mum asks me if I have boyfriends, I always lie to her and say yes," she said.
For others, their identity is quite simply something which should not be hidden. "I think they should accept who we are. Nobody came to earth to learn gay life. We were born with it. It is not about having sex. It is two men in love. They should look at that side of it," said Joseph.
17 July 2007 – Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)
Ghana: Anglicans Flay Gay Bishops
by Emmanuel Akli
Takoradi – An executive member of the Orthodox Anglican Church, Ghana, Mr. Willie Halms has stated that the church does not believe in the enthronement of gays and lesbians as bishops of the Anglican Church because they do not subscribe to the gay culture and lesbianism. He said they equally did not support the enthronement of women as bishops of the church because it had no biblical basis. Speaking at a news conference to announce the intended visit of the head of the Orthodox Anglican Church, The Most Rev. Dr. Scott Earl McLaughlin to the country this month, Mr. Halm said the enthronement of gay bishops and women had no links to the great book, the bible. He noted that if God who created the earth wanted man to have sex with his colleague man, he would not have created Eve for Adam to marry.
He noted that the fact that this was not done by God meant that man could not stay with man as couple. In the case of enthronement of women as bishops as being done by the mainstream Anglican Church, Mr. Halm who is also a veteran journalists said Jesus Christ who brought about Christianity did not appoint any woman as one of his twelve disciples. He therefore wondered why some Christian leaders should now try to enthrone women as bishops as if what Christ himself did was wrong. According to him the position that Jesus took should not be misconstrued to mean that women were nothing in society adding that there were still women who were part of his ministry but not disciples.
He said the Sekondi diocese of the Saint Peter and Paul, the Apostles of the Orthodox Anglican Church Ghana broke away from the mainstream Anglican Church because apart from the injustices, unfairness and dishonesty they suffered, they would have also been tagged as supporters of this abominable act of enthroning guys and lesbians as bishops in the Anglican Church. He said the faith of the Orthodox Anglican Church, which has its headquarters in the USA, is based on the ancient creeds and apostolic teachings. Earlier the public affairs committee chairman of the church in Ghana, Mr. Kofi Gyetsua Ankuma told the news men that the Anglican communion was established in 1967 as self-governing Anglican church body, a world wide fellowship of national Anglican churches committed to the old paths of "one holy catholic and apostolic faith".
"The Orthodox Anglican Communion is one of the first such communions outside the See of Canterbury. The church stands on biblical faith and morality thus, ordains only Godly men to Holy Orders and affirms that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman and therefore we do not subscribe to gayism and lesbianism", he said. According to Kofi Gyetsua, a presenter at one of the local radio stations, the head of the church would be arriving in the country on Monday July 23. Upon arrival he would pay a courtesy call on President Kufuor and head of Ahmmadyya mission in Ghana, Mauvi Wahab-Adam before proceeding to Sekondi to officially inaugurate the church in Ghana
7th November 2007 – PinkNews
British man in prison for gay sex in Ghana
by Tony Grew
The Foreign Office has confirmed that a 63-year-old British national has been remanded in custody in the African country of Ghana charged with having sex with another man. John Ross Mcleod appeared in court at Accra on Monday. A photographer, he was arrested at an airport. Officials searched him and allegedly found a CD containing images of Mcleod having sex with a 19-year-old. He pleaded guilty to "unnatural carnal knowledge" and has been given the option of a fine of £320 or six month in prison, The Guardian reports. He denies possession of obscene images.
Macleod met Emmanuel Adda, a 19-year-old Ghanaian, on the internet, reports The Guardian. A police spokesman said: "During his [Mr Macleod’s] stay in Ghana, Adda travelled round the country with Macleod, who took the opportunity to sodomise him and took pictures as well." While Ghana is famed for its friendly and tolerant society, its predominantly conservative character means that homosexuality is still considered a moral aberration, or even a myth. The Constitution guarantees the protection of human rights regardless of "race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender", but does not mention sexuality. This omission contradicts the landmark 1994 legal case of Toonen vs Australia, in which the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that sexual orientation should be considered a status protected from discrimination.
In practice, few people in Ghana have been convicted of homosexual acts. Internet sites such as Gaydar host Ghanaian profiles, suggesting enforcement is less that strict. Homophobic violence, however, remains a real problem, and gay Ghanaians are generally forced to hide their sexuality behind closed doors. In September last year, the Ghanaian government banned an LGBT rights conference that was meant to be held in the city of Koforidua.
The Information Minister, Kwamena Bartels, said the government, "shall not permit the proposed conference anywhere in Ghana… homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality are offences under the laws of Ghana." He then reportedly encouraged the Interior Minister to investigate and punish those who had given initial permission to the organisers. Ghanaian human rights groups have been less than energetic about addressing the issue. In March gay pressure group OutRage! sent a letter to Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor demanding he repeal laws criminalising homosexuality.
The President was visiting London to mark 50 years of Ghana’s independence from Britain.
07 January 2008 – modernghana.com
The Truth About Gay Guys
Source: Karen Solomon
Homophobia is negative feelings about people who are (or appear to be) gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It’s caused by ignorance, misinformation, or lack of understanding about what lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight people are really like and how they really appear. Sometimes it shows itself in obvious ways, like gay men and lesbians being beaten up or being denied a job. But sometimes homophobia comes out in more subtle ways, like stereotyping gay men and men who appear to be gay. As with prejudices against people because of the color of their skin or their gender, some people make unfair assumptions and judgments about gay guys. Let’s take a look at a few common myths and misconceptions …
Myth: "He looks/acts gay."
No matter what people may say, it’s not possible to determine anyone’s sexual orientation just by looking at them. There are many stereotypes about how gay men look and act, but that’s all they are — stereotypes. Not all gay men like fashion, listen to dance music, or live in big cities. The stereotype of a high-pitched voice or a limp wrist is simply the stuff seen in movies. Not all gay men are petite or feminine-looking. Likewise, not all petite, feminine-looking, limp-wristed men are gay! Lots of gay men are big guys with facial hair who enjoy sports and can’t tolerate show tunes. Bottom line — you should never assume anything about someone’s sexual orientation because of how he looks or acts.
Myth: "He turned gay!"
Scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes a person to be straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but there’s a lot of evidence that it’s based on biological factors that are in place before birth. We do know that whether people are straight, gay, or bisexual is usually established before puberty and before they begin having sex. And although sexual orientation probably begins to develop before birth, it may change over the course of a lifetime. But that doesn’t mean a guy can "turn gay" by hanging out with gay guys, seeing another guy naked, having stereotypically "gay" interests, or for any other reason. Whatever the cause or combination of causes, sexual orientation is not something that people can decide for themselves or for others. It’s a part of an individual’s identity, and it must be respected.
Myth: "Gay men are perverts."
This is one of the most dangerous, damaging myths about gay men, and it couldn’t be more false. The fact is that most pedophiles are straight. Molesting children is a terrible crime, but it has little to do with a person’s sexual orientation Also, gay men do not try to "recruit" other men. If you’re a guy with gay friends, they’re not necessarily hitting on you anymore than your female friends are!
Myth: "Gay men are only interested in sex and can’t commit."
Gay men may have a reputation for partying and hooking up with lots of guys, but this is also a stereotype. Many gay guys are happy to just stay home, avoid flashy clothes and clubs, and enjoy quiet activities. And while some gay guys have multiple sex partners, many others prefer long-term, monogamous relationships. (And some prefer long-term relationships that are not monogamous.) Just as with straight people, decisions about sex and relationships vary from person to person and couple to couple.
Myth: "AIDS is a ‘gay’ disease."
AIDS affects everyone. Anyone who has unprotected sex or shares IV drug equipment with someone who has the virus can get HIV, regardless of sexual orientation. In fact, the fastest growing group of people with HIV is heterosexual women.
Though many people in our society — politicians, public figures, and maybe even some of your friends — will suggest that excluding, harassing, or even bashing gay guys is acceptable, it is not. Scientists have shown that attacking someone because of his perceived sexual orientation is an expression of self-doubt and insecurity about one’s own masculinity or sexual orientation. Bashing is a way of trying to destroy what a person fears he recognizes in himself. Discrimination is wrong on every level, and stereotyping people because of their sexual orientation is just as wrong as stereotyping people because of the color of their skin, or their gender. So the next time you hear someone spreading a gay-guy myth, don’t hold back — stand up for what’s right and speak the truth!
5 May 2008 – allafrica.com
Defying the Odds, a Muslim Woman Treads the Thorny Path of Politics
Interview with Public Agenda (Accra)
by Basiru Adam and Leticia Annan
Accra – There are few women holding positions in political parties in Ghana. Besides, there are fewer Muslim women holding positions in political parties in Ghana. This does not mean they have not or are not contributing to the fortunes of political parties. The Hajias are usually the first group of people one encounters in front of many party offices. They are very good praise singers. In fact, they form the vanguard of political parties in the Zongos. But one woman who professes to be a devout Muslim is defying the obvious odds that are and is making strides in the Convention People’s party (CPP). She is Hajia Hamdatu Ibrahim Haruna, who has risen through the ranks to become the party’s National Women’s Organiser.
Public Agenda caught up with her in the party’s head office in Accra and an interesting interview ensued. A self-assured looking Hajia Hamda said she was born in Bolgatanga, although she traces her routes to Tamale. She attended the Bolgatanga Secondary school and later Joy Professional Academy in Kumasi. From there she moved to Accra and started teaching at a pre-school. Her exploits endeared her to other schools and later she was poached to teach in a school near the CPP offices at Asylum Down in Accra. This started her love affair with the CPP although she had long admired the party’s founder. "As a northerner, I know what Nkrumah’s policies did for me." After school, she would make herself available at the party’s office and take part in every activity around. The party’s Youth Wing and the Women’s League have known her contribution. Currently, aside being the National Women’s Organiser, she serves as the Treasurer of the Dome Kwabenya Constituency office of the CPP.
Hajia Hamdatu is married to Alhaji Yakubu Haruna and they have an eight year old daughter. Her husband works in Libya and comes home every eight weeks. "But there are times he spends four months here, because when I was going around campaigning for my Women’s Organiser position I remember he went to some of the regions with me."
"Do you, as a Muslim woman, feel restricted in anyway in the pursuit of your political career", asks Public Agenda (PA).
"No, not at all", came her emphatic but quick reply. " I think the one am supposed to seek permission from is my husband, and he supports me. He supported me even at congress. So am not sure I feel restricted, no, not at all."
PA: What about the general perception that the Muslim woman is supposed to be quiet and live under the tutelage of the husband.
"My brother!" she shouted, "now if you go to Metro TV women are preaching. Women are talking about Islam. Now if you are saying we should be quiet then our children will go astray; because they wouldn’t know what the Qur’an says about what to do and what not to. But am not sure Maybe because people do not understand politics well, they think a woman in politics is something else. But I beg to defer. That is not correct."
PA: Some people say politics is a dirty game.
Hajia: Ahhh that is when you want it to be dirty. When you want it to be dirty you will see it as dirty. Politics is not supposed to be dirty. It is not supposed to be dirty It is the people who rather make it dirty. It depends on the individual.
PA: How do you see the future of women and the Muslim woman in particular in Ghanaian politics?
Hajia: Yah, I think it’s bright. But it will be brighter when more capable women involve themselves. So far we don’t have many. Most of the women are still shying away from politics. Some people would say maybe I don’t want to come, stand, and talk for somebody to insult me. You know some people don’t like that. Maybe since some of us are in it, it is incumbent on us to go round there and talk to our own people on the need for women to be in politics. We shouldn’t just be following political parties. Let me borrow Mallam Musah’s words that we follow them and the only reward we get is that they take us to Makkah. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to only being sent to Makkah to perform Hajj but we should be part of ministers, MPs and what have you. A lot of the women are also not educated. We need to educate our women. Education is very important. I am going back to school you know.
PA: Do you have a role model in politics?
Hajia: Coming from the northern part of this country, I remember in 1992 the late Hawa Yakubu was the only female voice from the north that you could hear talking about national issues. Even though I don’t belong to her political party I quite remember her telling me once that my sister I am going to get a constituency, put you there and you will win. I said but you are in NPP and she said it doesn’t matter. That is what Hawa was made off. She looked beyond her party. Her interest, first and foremost, was women, no matter where you belonged. So in fact, I really remembered her when I was vying for the Women’s Organiser position. Hawa was a kind of inspirational figure for young people in politics, for that matter those from the north. But I take my greatest inspiration from Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. I am still reading his books and I will continue to read his books. And I think he has left us a book of knowledge. I think if we adopt Nkrumah’s what have you, I don’t think we as a country will move from country to country begging for people to support our budget and what have you. That’s my belief. I nearly stopped driving yesterday when choice FM was playing Nkrumah’s speech, I tell you when I reached Achimota forest I was touched and I nearly lost control of my steering. So I said YES! This was the man. So my greatest gratitude is to my Allah who has seen me through all these years because it is easy to be in politics. But I think with God everything is possible.
PA: And how is the future like for Hajia Hamda?
Hajia: You know now I am the Women’s Organiser. You see you climb the ladder in politics with caution. You don’t just jump and say I want to go and do this. I told you I am thinking of 2012 to go to my village and contest. But if am to contest for a position in this party again definitely I think I would still go for the Women’s Organiser position. I would have loved to go for maybe a Deputy General Secretary because you cannot just come straight to a General Secretary. You have to have some in-service training in the party as a Deputy General Secretary before you can be a General Secretary. But I think maybe, who knows, in the near future I will be the first woman General Secretary of the Convention Peoples’ Party. I am working seriously towards that because I don’t see myself leaving politics. It is only God who will decide when I will leave politics. I am in politics because I think I have a lot to do for my people. In our small way, we are helping our community. But I think we can do better. When CPP wins, our human centred policies will stop my younger sisters from drifting from the north to the south. I don’t go to Kantamanto and Agbogbloshie markets anymore. Even if I go I don’t give them the load to carry.
Hajia: Because I can see able bodied people wasting.
PA: Is it a waste for them to come here, make some money and go back home?
Hajia: Of course! They should acquire some skills. Because for how long can they continue carrying loads? If a twenty-year-old is carrying loads, can she do it for the next twenty years? The body will be weak. So why doesn’t she learn a trade? And I wonder what those of us from the three northern regions are doing to stop this thing. An individual cannot do it. It should be a policy by government. We need education.
September 16, 2008 – amfar.org
MSM Grantee Wins Prestigious Red Ribbon Award
The Center for Popular Education and Human Rights, Ghana, an amfAR MSM Initiative grantee, was among only five organizations awarded the United Nations Development Programme’s prestigious Red Ribbon Award for outstanding leadership in responding to HIV/AIDS. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented the group with the award and $20,000 at an August 7 ceremony during the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.
The Center for Popular Education and Human Rights, Ghana was selected from more than 550 organizations nominated for this exclusive award, which is presented every other year. They were honored for their pioneering work among men who have sex with men (MSM), which includes innovative HIV treatment and mental health services, and a drop-in clinic. amfAR’s MSM Initiative grant allows the group to train HIV prevention peer educators, and to create informational materials to promote safe sex among MSM in greater Accra.
October 6, 2008 – The New York Times
Persecuted in Africa, Finding Refuge in New York
by KirkK Semple and Lydia Polgreen
Pape Mbaye gets a lot of attention. Even in jaded New York, people watch the way he walks (his style defines the word sashay) and scrutinize his outfits, which on a recent afternoon featured white, low-slung capris, a black purse, eyeliner and diamond-studded jewelry. And he likes it. “I’m fabulous,” he said. “I feel good.” Mr. Mbaye, 24, is an entertainer from Dakar, Senegal, known there for his dancing, singing and storytelling. But while his flamboyance may be celebrated in New York, he attracted the wrong kind of attention in West Africa this year, and it nearly cost him his life.
In February, a Senegalese magazine published photographs of what was reported to be an underground gay marriage and said that Mr. Mbaye, who appeared in the photos and is gay himself, had organized the event. In the ensuing six months, Mr. Mbaye said, he was harassed by the police, attacked by armed mobs, driven from his home, maligned in the national media and forced to live on the run across West Africa. In July, the United States government gave him refugee status, one of the rare instances when such protection has been granted to a foreigner facing persecution based on sexual orientation. A month later, Mr. Mbaye arrived in New York, eventually moving into a small furnished room in the Bronx that rents for $150 per week. It has a bed, air-conditioner, television, cat and pink walls.
“There’s security, there’s independence, there’s peace,” he said of his new country. But even as he has begun looking for work, with the help of a few Senegalese immigrants he knows from Dakar, Mr. Mbaye is largely avoiding the mainstream Senegalese community, fearing that the same prejudices that drove him out of Africa may dog him here. One recent evening, while visiting close family friends from Dakar who live in Harlem, he recalled a shopping trip to 116th Street, where many Senegalese work and live. There, he said, he was harassed by a Senegalese man who ridiculed Mr. Mbaye’s outfit and threatened him.
“He said, ‘If you were in Senegal, I would kill you,’ ” Mr. Mbaye said, gesturing with his arms, his voice rising. “I have my freedom now, and that man wanted to take it.” The United States does not track how often it grants refuge to people fleeing anti-gay persecution. But Christopher Nugent, an immigration lawyer with Holland & Knight, a Washington law firm where he is a senior pro bono counsel specializing in refugee and asylum cases, said that in the past decade he has heard of only a handful.
The government also does not track the number of persecuted gay men and lesbians who are granted asylum, but experts in the field say the number is higher than those granted refugee status. (Asylum is granted to people already in the United States, while people outside the country must seek refugee status.) Mr. Mbaye’s case was exceptional because his fame made his situation particularly perilous, said Mr. Nugent, who represented Mr. Mbaye in his petition. “He was vilified in the Senegalese media as being the face of the sinful homosexual, and he had scars to show,” he said.
For the past few years, anti-gay hysteria has been sweeping across swaths of Africa, fueled by sensationalist media reports of open homosexuality among public figures and sustained by deep and abiding taboos that have made even the most hateful speech about gays not just acceptable but almost required. Gay men and women have recently been arrested in Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana, among other countries. “In most countries there is poverty and instability, and usually homosexuality is used as a way of shifting the attention from the actual problem to this thing that is not really the problem but can distract the public,” said Joel Nana, who is from Cameroon and who works for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Pape Mbaye (pronounced POP mm-BYE) had been living the Senegalese version of the high life for some time. He worked principally as a griot — a singer and storyteller invited to weddings, birthday parties and other events to perform traditional songs, dance and tell stories. By West African standards, it earned him a good living. He had performed at parties for wealthy and famous Senegalese, had two cars and a driver, an overflowing wardrobe and an apartment in a fashionable neighborhood decked out with rococo gold-leaf-encrusted furniture. Mr. Mbaye, who said he had known he was gay from a young age, seldom tried to hide his sexuality, often wearing makeup and jewelry in public.
Though Senegal passed an antisodomy law in 1965 that forbids “an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex,” homosexuality has traditionally been quietly tolerated in Senegal, particularly among the creative class of musicians and artists that is so central to Senegalese culture. But the publication of the gay wedding photos on Feb. 1 dovetailed with a recent surge in anti-gay sentiment, a trend partly fueled by some conservative Islamic leaders, sending Mr. Mbaye on his harrowing odyssey.
On the morning after the article’s publication, Mr. Mbaye and several gay friends were arrested by the police, who held them for four days. During his detention, Mr. Mbaye said, he was questioned about his participation in the marriage ceremony, which he asserted was a party, not a wedding. Under diplomatic pressure from the Netherlands and Denmark, the Senegalese authorities released Mr. Mbaye and his friends. The singer said the police told him and his friends that they should go into hiding. “The police cannot guarantee your security because the entire society will be out to get you,” a police official said, according to testimony that Mr. Mbaye would later give to Human Rights Watch.
While he was in detention, his apartment was looted and anti-gay graffiti was scrawled on the wall of the building, he said. He and several gay friends fled to Ziguinchor in south Senegal, but in mid-February, a mob wielding broken bottles, forks and other weapons stormed the house and beat them, Mr. Mbaye said. Mr. Mbaye spent the next several weeks moving from one safe house to another before fleeing to Gambia on May 11. Several days later, President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia vowed to behead all homosexuals in his country. Mr. Mbaye immediately returned to Dakar.
But he was discovered and chased by a crowd, as local news media reported his return. He sought sanctuary at the offices of Raddho, a human rights organization based in Dakar, which put him in the care of Human Rights Watch. “I am like a hunted animal,” Mr. Mbaye said during an interview while he hid out in a Dakar hotel. Human Rights Watch helped Mr. Mbaye assemble his refugee application and get to Ghana, where he sought help from the American Embassy in Accra, the country’s capital.
While in Ghana, Mr. Mbaye said, he was attacked again, this time by knife-wielding Senegalese expatriates who had discovered he was there. The assault, which left him with wounds, probably accelerated the review process for his application, Mr. Nugent said. (Confidentiality regulations forbid United States immigration officials from discussing the case.) Mr. Mbaye received his refugee status on July 31, and he arrived at Kennedy Airport on Aug. 18 carrying several suitcases and a Chanel handbag. A few weeks later, he received his Social Security card and work authorization permit. He hopes to resume his career, though he acknowledges that until he improves his English, he will have to perform in French and Wolof, an African language. He also dreams of getting a modeling contract.
In the meantime, he said, he will do just about anything. “I would like a job in a restaurant or a hotel or a club or in perfume or in makeup,” he said. “But no bricklaying.” Mr. Nugent has been posting notices on Internet mailing lists serving the gay community in search of sponsors to help Mr. Mbaye find work, including in gay nightclubs. Mr. Mbaye seems undaunted. At his friends’ home in Harlem, he celebrated his newfound freedom. “I want to live with the gays!” he said as his hosts laughed. “Pape Mbaye is American!”
January 2009 – CNN
Commentary: A victory for democracy in Africa
by John Stremlau, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: John Stremlau is vice president for Peace Programs at The Carter Center and an election observer in Ghana. A former U.S. State Department official, he was Jan Smuts Professor and director of the Centre for Africa’s International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) – Supporters of democracy around the world can celebrate the January 7 inauguration of Ghana’s new president, professor John Evans Atta Mills, who defeated the leader of the incumbent party in a December 28 runoff election by a mere 41,566 votes out of 9,001,478. Ghana is not a country that grabs headlines at a time when the big stories out of Africa are crises in Sudan, Somalia, Congo and Zimbabwe. Yet after surviving a post-colonial period of instability and military rule, Ghana has had five successful national democratic elections since 1992. It is an enviable record that challenges the persistence of misrule in nearby Ivory Coast, Togo and Guinea, and inspires those committed to democratic recovery in nearby Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Political stability in Ghana has helped sustain annual growth in excess of 6 percent, attracting foreign investment that has boosted exports of raw materials and agriculture, light industry and a fledgling service sector, including tourism. There is the prospect of large off-shore oil revenues from 2010, plus several billion dollars in annual remittances from Ghanaians. Still, most Ghanaians remain poor as the new pockets of prosperity exacerbate inequality and politically ambitious Ghanaians continue to appeal to ethnic loyalties in seeking wealth and power through control of state resources. The latest election shows, however, that politics in Ghana are changing and becoming more focused on issues of the economy, access to education, health care, economic opportunity, and corruption, all of which were featured in two lengthy televised presidential debates.
Voter turnout of over 70 percent and the willingness of many tens of thousands of Ghanaian citizens to manage and monitor efficient casting and transparent counting of secret ballots in 22,000 polling stations reflect a deepening national consensus and commitment to defend the country’s constitution and the goal of democratic development. Are there any lessons for other countries in Ghana’s democratic progress?
Perhaps the most important is the power of a constitution rooted in a popular rejection of past abuses. It has entrenched such core provisions as executive term limits, a minimum 50 percent + 1 requirement for electing a president that forces candidates to forge national coalitions, provisions for a strong independent Electoral Commission empowered to determine election results and subject only to judicial review, and a tight timetable of one month between the first round of a presidential election and the winner’s inauguration.
Two broad-based political parties have emerged as a result, dividing the country narrowly but not deeply in ways familiar to Americans — one social-democratic and the other pro-business. With the race so tight and each side accusing the other of rigging results in their respective strongholds, the Electoral Commission took two critical political steps, inviting both parties to provide evidence to support claims of wrongdoing and holding a special January 2 election in the one district not counted in the initial December 28 runoff vote.
The constitutionally mandated deadline of a January 7 inauguration left the parties with no politically viable options for rejecting the Electoral Commission’s January 3 ruling that Atta Mills was the winner. Helping ensure the integrity of the process, several hundred international election observers, along with 4,000 local observers, deployed throughout the country, operating according to a set of observation principles developed jointly by The Carter Center, the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division and the National Democratic Institute.
The observers were unanimous in concluding the Electoral Commission had conducted the election in a credible manner that was peaceful, transparent, and generally free of intimidation or other threats. Their work was abetted by Ghana’s robust independent media and civil society organizations, such as an interfaith national peace committee, professional associations, and human rights groups that together pressed all parties to adhere to the constitutionally prescribed process and resolve any electoral conflicts by peaceful, lawful means.
No democracy is ever perfect, and Ghana’s has many flaws. But it has succeeded in creating conditions where political leaders believe they can win by constitutional means. In past elections, victors have made almost no effort to accommodate the vanquished to rebuild national unity. It was heartening to an American visitor to hear African electoral observers urging Ghanaian party leaders to emulate the example of Barack Obama in forging a more inclusive new administration. Were this to occur, it would be another reason to look to Ghana for democratic leadership in Africa.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Stremlau.
August 9, 2009 – The New York Times
The Two Faces of Ghana
by Laban Carrick Hill
At midday, the heat was so palpable that it had its own color, a pulsing, iridescent yellow. I paused at a tiny market stall and bought a peeled and sliced half pineapple — sweet and juicy, not like the tart pineapples in the markets at home in Vermont. Then I stopped a young woman carrying a tray of hard-boiled eggs on her head. She took the tray down, knelt and, with a plastic bag over her hand, peeled and salted the egg for me. To complete my meal, I bought a tiny sachet of filtered water from a small boy carrying a bucket of them on his head.
I was in the Kotokuruba Market in Cape Coast, a city of about 82,000 people in the West African nation of Ghana, on a Wednesday morning last summer. The market rocked with music, from hip-hop, pulsing from loudspeakers, to tribal drumming. Honking taxis fought pedestrians for space. The stalls seemed to sell just about anything — machetes and huge cast-iron cooking pots, pirated DVDs and homemade slingshots. A blacksmith worked a piece of iron over an open-air hearth; I picked up one of his earlier creations: a gangkogui, which is an elongated cowbell, the kind used as percussive accompaniment in drumming ceremonies. Its forged and hammered metal had been wrought into elegant, almost arabesque, curves.
At every turn I was met with a friendly “Akwaaba!” which means “welcome.” Small children shouted, “How are you, Obruni?” In Fante, the local language, obruni is the word for “white person.” In one of the market aisles, a woman dressed in a colorful batik dress with an infant tied to her back offered mortars and pestles for making fufu, an African staple of pounded cassava and unripe plantain. The mortar was a deep wooden bowl about two feet in diameter, the pestle a tree trunk five feet tall, requiring two hands to maneuver. When I stopped and inquired about the price, the woman laughed and teased, “Obruni, you make fufu?”
Ghana, whose population was estimated to be about 18.5 million in 2000, was propelled into the limelight last month when President Obama chose to visit at the end of a weeklong trip that also took him to Russia and Italy. Ghana has been known to many people in the West primarily for its tragic role as a major shipping point for Africans who were taken away to the Americas as slaves, a history that Mr. Obama emphasized to his daughters, Malia and Sasha, as they accompanied him and Michelle Obama on that trip.
But as one of the few African nations with a history of smooth transitions of power in free elections, Ghana was also a logical platform for a presidential speech urging all Africans to embrace democracy. And as an English-speaking country with abundant natural gifts and an appealing culture, Ghana today draws international tourists who not only want to explore the slave trade’s dark past, but also desire a joyous African experience.
The Ghanaian city best known to foreigners is Accra, the capital, a sometimes interesting but densely populated and often cacophonous city of some 1.6 million on the Gulf of Guinea. But a compelling and memorable trip can be found in Cape Coast to the southwest and in the region nearby — an area of stunning sunsets and sunrises, 400-year-old fishing traditions and the best preserved of the historic forts that spawned so many tears. And everywhere, the friendliness that Ghanaians take pride in.
September 7th, 2009 – Global Voices
Africa: Preventing blackmail and extortion against gays
by Haute Haiku
Blackmail and extortion of gay people visiting or living in Africa has proven to be a lucrative business for scammers. Bloggers in Ghana and Kenya have taken matters into their own hands by shining a spotlight on the fakers. Blackmail and extortion has proven to be a lucrative business towards gay people in Africa. Internet scams have become rampant as more gays are trying to come to terms with their sexuality.
The “unfamiliar gays” or the “newly coming out” are the target for this activity as they are lured into what is referred to as a “honey trap.” This is when unsuspecting persons are lured into dark alleys or traps with promises of sex or sexual favors, but actually meet with wicked characters who threaten, blackmail and sometimes assault.
This always starts with visits to the internet in search of love on dating websites, without suspecting that the alluring profiles on most of the sites are fake.
Read entire article here
15 September 2009 – Joy Online
Comment: Ghana’s challenges with homosexuality
One of the themes of Ghana’s 50th anniversary of independence was to review the country’s progress so far. Ghana@50 provided an opportunity to assess the country’s progress as an independent nation, with a focus on how to continue improvements and overcome challenges of the future. Recently there have been accusations that the celebrations were a waste of valuable resources and whether this is true or not, there should also be a reminder of the practical gains that can be made during a period of reflection.
It is important when a review of a country takes place that a critical eye is used to look over the origins and reasons for the values and laws that a society subscribes to, even if some may seem non-negotiable. The criminalisation of homosexuality has been described by critics as “a relic of colonialism” and it is the status of this law as a remnant of British rule that makes it ripe for criticism after more than 50 years of independence. This year, Obama, Atta Mills’ much-lauded ‘other-half’ in Ghana’s ‘partnership for change’ signed a UN declaration calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide.
Partnerships and relationships are about compromise; give and take; and respecting the other person’s opinions enough to pay attention. Therefore, if Atta Mills and Ghana are serious about this partnership being a success, is Obama not owed the common courtesy of having his views listened to and taken on board? At the very least, he should rightfully be honoured with the opening of a discussion. Speaking to a range of people about their opinions, it amazed me how dogmatic most people were about their views on homosexuality.
There seemed unwillingness for considered thought in response to questions and the answers that came back resembled regurgitated propaganda. Perhaps this is due to a fear that too much reflection would reveal new and unwelcome opinions. Chris, a pastor from Tema, agreed: “Most Ghanaians are hypocritical and not open-minded. Instead of trying to understand something, they will brand it so that no further discussion is needed. This does not just apply to homosexuality but anything sex-based and it stems from a lack of education.”
Ghana’s discomfort about discussing homosexuality extends upwards to the media and the government. Newspapers and broadcasting companies are competing to make money and so shy away from challenging their consumers. Instead of presenting balanced and critical assessments of homosexuality, there is sensationalism and reconfirmation of stereotypes. The President of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Ghana (GALAG), Prince Kweku Macdonald, has had experience of this unfair stance: “The media is not objective so they don’t give objective representation.
They want to sell papers so the media also promotes homophobia because if I speak and it is presented the way I said it, they will know what I think and why I do what I do and what the challenges I face are. But they change it every time. Even on radio because they have me speaking to someone and then they change the story and it’s very horrible for us.”
When it was reported in 2007 that GALAG were allegedly organising a conference in Accra to discuss issues about homosexuality it was banned by the government immediately and the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Kwamena Bartels, condemned it as offensive to “the culture, the morality and the heritage of the whole of the Ghanaian people”. GALAG denied having any involvement with the conference and claimed that it was merely a media construction to cause controversy around the issue of homosexuality.
Whether the conference was planned to go ahead or not, the fact that a civilised meeting of minds brought together to discuss issues surrounding the homosexual community prompted such a reaction is illustrative of the discrimination that is rife.
Click here to read entire article
October 25, 2009 – Daily Queer News
African Archbishop Alleges AIDS Workers ‘Introduce Boys to Homosexuality’
by Kilian Melloy – EDGE Boston
An African Archbishop has accused Western aid workers of sabotaging African values and leading young African men into homosexuality.
Anti-gay religious Web site LifeSiteNews has posted several articles about the claims made by various African Archbishops, who have accused the West of importing “moral relativism,” encouraging promiscuity by promoting condom use to stem the African rate of HIV infection, and giving young men supplies of lubricants so that they might have gay sex.
An Oct. 21 article referenced an interview between a National Catholic Reporter reporter and Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Ghana, in which Palmer-Buckle, when asked whether “there really [is] a Western campaign to corrupt African values?” declared, “We don’t only suspect that there is a campaign, we think it’s deliberate.” The Ghanian Archbishop went on to say that the so-called corrupting influence was emanating “from a particular lobby that sees African values on the family to be a danger to what’s called the ’new global ethic,’ which is being propounded by the UN, by the World Bank, by the IMF, and even by the European Union.” The Archbishop cited marriage equality as one such “ethic” that powers from the West sought to impose.
20 December 2009 – Modern Ghana
Managers, policemen were clients – Gay Prostitute
by The Spectator
Christian Boateng, the 20-year-old male sex worker who was last week Thursday arrested by the Dansoman police for operating as a female sex worker, has told The Spectator that some of his clients are prominent bank mangers, policemen, businessmen and accountants working in the Kumasi metropolis.
Christian who usually dressed up as a female to lure his clients pleaded with this paper to keep the identities of the clients anonymous, because if their identities and work places are disclosed, the scandal will become a big disgrace to them, destroy their families and elicit public outrage against them. Christian Boateng said any time he was in his female dress and approached by these sex-hungry clients, “I immediately tell you in the face that I’m not a woman but a man who is willing to engage in anal sex if that is what you like.”
He told The Spectator team that will this information the client, if he is willing, agrees to go with him to a hotel of his choice to have anal sex with him at the cost of GH¢20 for a full-night service and GH¢10 for a half-night otherwise known as ‘short time.’ The suspect who spoke in a rather cheerful and relaxed mood at the Dansoman Police Station explained that he became a male sex worker in 2005 using a female style of dressing as his modus operandi because such a guise was enticing and a good marketing strategy. As to whether he was aware of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, he replied: “I am fully aware and that is why I always demand that a client wears a condom before sex,” he said, adding that, “no condom, no sex.”
Christian who uses various female names such as Jacqueline, Ama Pokuwaa, Serwaa and Angela, explained that he had not had any health problem with his rectum all this while he has been practicing homosexuality because of the use of condom to reduce friction and prevent the exchange of body fluids, particularly semen. According to the suspect, the last straw that broke the camel’s back last week Thursday and landed him in the grips of the police was a single glass of coca cola he asked his client to buy for him at a drinking spot at Dansoman Sahara, Accra, where they both went to take in some alcohol to charge up for the sex act.
“I remember my client pouring the coca cola into a glass with the ice cubes to make it cold but I did not know it had been laced with alcohol which knocked me off into sleep, rendering me helpless.” According to him, he ended up at the client’s residence where he was given a mattress to sleep on in the hall as he waited for “action” to begin.
“Unfortunately, however, my client who was in a drunken stupor came to sleep by me but later left without doing anything. It was rather his younger brother who later came to lie down by me and was trying to have sex with me thinking I was a woman. However, I insisted that as a prostitute I wanted a down-payment of GH¢10 before anything could take place, but the brother offer me GH¢5.00 which I refused and even told him he was not of my class.
“As we haggled over it, I lapsed into slumber, and this younger brother took advantage to remove my female dress only to discover that I was not a woman indeed but a man with two balls between my thighs. He woke me up and asked me to tell him the truth about my gender or else hell would break lose. “True to his words he raised an alarm after making several calls o his friends. This attracted a large crowd at about 2:30am at Sahara Dansoman where a police patrol car pulled up and arrested me in the process. I was taken to the Dansoman Police Station for interrogation,” he said.
Meanwhile the Dansoman District Police Commander, Police Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Wilson Aniagye, has warned men who patronise the services of sex workers not to make the mistake of taking such sex workers to their homes since some of them could be criminals parading as females soliciting for sex.
“To your surprise, these criminals may pull a knife or any offensive weapon to either kill or rob you of your money and other valuables,” he said. ASP Aniagye said as Christmas was fast approaching, criminals were adopting subtle methods to prey on innocent and unsuspecting people. He said Christian Boateng would be charged under Section 29 (Act 60) of the criminal code that has it that any person who persistently solicits in any public place or in sight of any public places shall be liable to a fine. On a second offence, he shall be guilty of misdemeanor or serve a jail term of not more than six months.
The suspect would appear before the James Town Magistrate court on December 21. ASP Aniagye disclosed that the suspect would help the police to arrest the male client who caused his arrest.
February 2010 – US AID
Case Study: CEPEHRG and Maritime, Ghana
Men who have sex with men (MSM) have been neglected in HIV programming in sub-Saharan Africa, frequently ignored in national strategies and hidden in the face of intolerance, stigmatization, and punitive laws. In Ghana, community-based organizations (CBOs) have been at the forefront of HIV interventions for MSM. Among the small number of CBOs working with this highly vulnerable population are the Accra-based Center for Popular Education and Human Rights, Ghana (CEPEHRG) and Maritime Life Precious Foundation (Maritime) in Takoradi. With the support of PEPFAR, these two organizations have been part of much-needed efforts to reach MSM with prevention messages, condoms, and lubricant and to increase uptake of HIV-related services using cell phone-based communications.
Download the PDF.
June 8, 2010 – Behind The Mask
Anti-Gay March Could Hamper HIV Interventions In Ghana
A recent march by over a thousand Ghanian Muslims against “the growing activities of gays and lesbians” in this West-African country, could hamper initiatives that target Men having sex with Men (MSM), such as HIV and Aids interventions, activists have warned. Mac-Darling Cobbinah of the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana, an organisation that also caters for the MSM community said, following a march that went through principal streets of the Metropolis against homosexuality, after an alleged report that close to 60 gays and lesbians from eastern, Ashanti and Central regions of that country were attending a get-together held in Tanokrom.
Mac-Darling said this march has raised fears among the MSM community and this could make it hard to reach them since they would not want to be visible. “Already they are becoming uninterested to access services because they fear what might happen to them”, he said. He pointed out that the growing visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in many parts of Ghana and the sudden “deep interest” by the media to “dig” for lesbian and gay issues could have sparked the anti-gay march. “Gay people are more visible in their communities and in clubs now more than before”, he added.
Reports state that the march was organised by rally leader, Saeed Hamid, who told fellow protestors that “Ghana will suffer more than the experience of Sodom and Gomorrah, should we embrace this practice in this country.” The Ghanaian constitution affirms and protects all human rights for Ghanian citizens and this contradicts the Criminal Code 1960 – Chapter 6, Sexual Offences Article 105, which criminalises homosexual behavior amongst gay men. There is no law in Ghana that prohibits homosexual acts between women.
In 2006 the Ghanaian government banned an LGBTI conference, scheduled to take place at the Accra International Conference Centre. Information Minister, Kwamena Bertels said such a gathering could not be permitted because unnatural carnal knowledge is illegal under the Ghanian criminal code. “Homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality are therefore offences under the laws of Ghana”, Bertels said.
December 13, 2010 – African Activist
Ghana Women’s Rights Defender Advocates Path to Criminalisation of Homosexuality
Bernice Sam, Ghana’s National Programme Coordinator of WILDAF (Women in Law and Development), spoke to the Constitution Review Commission about limiting Ghana’s definition of marriage to opposite-gender couples only. She is afraid that unclear constitutional provisions on marriage make it impossible to criminalise lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons.
Ms Bernice Sam, who was speaking at a public forum organized by the National Constitutional Reform Coalition on the 1992 Constitution in Accra on Monday December 13, stated that if Ghana is serious about scrapping off same sex marriages, the time is now.
“Article 11 that lists the laws in Ghana includes Common Law and under Common law it says customary law is also part of the laws of Ghana. And we know that when we define marriage, it is left to the definitions under customary law. Some countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe, Uganda, are looking at same sex marriages. In fact in South Africa, there are laws on domestic violence recognising violence within same sex relationships”.
“We believe it is time for our constitution to define marriage clearly because we cannot hide from the fact that these kinds of unions may catch up with us in the future. This is the time to say that we don’t want same sex marriages.
The Constitution Review Commission should make proposals that clearly define marriage such that we do away with the possibilities of people bringing up arguments that say that our Constitution is gender neutral so we can now make the argument that same sex marriages are allowed. We don’t want same sex marriages in Ghana” she said.
Without specifying gender in marriage, it may make it "almost impossible for the act of homosexuality to be considered criminal." Ms. Sam works for Women in Law and Development (WILDAF), a pan-African human rights NGO working for women’s rights. WILDAF is funded by the following overseas donors.
Kasha N. Jacqueline, the Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), recently submitted a report to the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)’s committee stating: “We are women, regardless of our sexual orientation…At the end of the day it all comes down to women, and we are women regardless of our sexual identities, our sexual expressions, and sexual orientation. So whatever the convention talks about protection, respect against discrimination against women in all forms."
16 December, 2010 – MSMGF
A Personal Note from AIDS-Free World
We want to call your attention to a distressing news story, full of vehement anti-gay sentiment, which began circulating on the web this week. The subject of the article was the leader of a respected legal and womens rights organization in Ghana. We were horrified to see that the craven statements quoted in the article had not been directed at the human rights defender, but were spoken by her. Bernice Sam, representing WiLDAF-Ghana, called for more stringent definitions of marriage in her countrys constitution a reform that she deems necessary in order to eventually criminalize homosexuality in Ghana. So certain was Ms. Sam of the righteousness of her argument that she presented it at a public forum. A quick internet search unearthed equally frightening assertions that homosexuality is a threat to public health, made by a Ghanaian government official responsible for a regional HIV/AIDS program.
As youll see in our attached statement, we asked Bernice Sam to repudiate her homophobic statements and she has not done so. Perhaps she is right to feel confident of impunity; increasingly, news from Africa features pronouncements by heads of state and legislators calling for imprisonment and even death to punish or cure homosexuals.
Full text available at link below –
View original article here
31 December 2010 – Ghana Web
One percent of Ghanaians are gay or lesbian
More than 200,000 people or one per cent of Ghana’s adult population regard themselves as gay or lesbian, according a study. The data has been collected by the new Integrated Household Survey (IHS), which is the largest social report ever produced for the ONS.
The 100,000 individual respondents to the survey provided the biggest pool of Ghana social data after the national census, the statistics service said.
95 per cent of adults identify themselves as heterosexual/straight while just one percent of adults see themselves as gay or lesbian. Another 0.5 per cent of adults said they are bisexual and a similar proportion described their sexuality as ‘other’.
Just under 3 per cent of adults responded "don’t know" or refused to answer the question. Fewer than one percent of respondents provided no response.
The highest proportion of adults who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual were in Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi with the lowest found in Tamal