Brought to you from Medium| 14 November 2019 | Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Alex Kofi Donkor is the Director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana & Programs Manager of Priorities on Rights and Sexual Health. Here we talk about his life, work, and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you grow up?
Alex Kofi Donkor: I grew up in a church background. I grew up from a family that was into the church, as in my mom, my grandma, my siblings, almost all of them go to church. Growing up, I had to go to the Church of course.
I happened to be the last born. I had no other excuse than to go to church. Going to church, it was such that I began to have battles between how I feel and then what the Bible says. On the one hand, the Bible is condemning homosexuality, as in a man having sex with a man.
On the other hand, I am also experiencing sexual attraction towards guys. This is me, at a younger age. I was very much confused. I had a bit of effeminate behaviour as a younger person. And some people used to call me names. They would use a word like “Kojo besia” in the local language meaning “guy who behaves like a girl.”
Being called that, to me, I found it a bit upsetting. It was sad and worrying for me. Because I feel if you are being associated with the word for being a guy who behaves like a girl, It automatically implies that you are gay.
Because I am also coming from a church background and did not want to accept the fact that I am gay, I also did not want to be associated with the word “Kojo besia”. Yes, so, I was being called the name, not every day, but occasionally.
Sometimes I will hear somebody tell me, “Why do you talk like a girl? Why do you twirl your hands like a girl? Why are you rolling your eyes like a girl? Why are you doing things like a girl?” All this while, I never really explored or understood my feelings and my mannerisms.
In a battle with prays and from a church background, I am told, ‘Whatever you do, just pray, God will help you.’ I kept praying, praying, praying, and praying. All the way through secondary school yet I was still being referred to as a guy who behaves like a girl.
It was a bit hurtful. This was me, I have not had sex. At some point in secondary school, I was asked, “Why do you behave like a girl? Are you gay?” I was worried still as a church boy. By calling me gay, it was like saying that I would be going to hell or something [Laughing].
Donkor: I was still battling it. I was trying my best to not roll my hands, or roll my eyes, or give some gesture that would reveal me as effeminate. Even in my voice, I do not know [Laughing]. There were some things I would not do again. At home, I love to cook, I love to sing, But because I also felt like those kinds of experiences will lead people up to calling me this word or saying, “You’re gay,” or something, I tried to give up on all those exposures to cooking and singing. I am like, “No, I am not going to do this anymore. I am not going to cook anymore.”
Through to the university, in my first year was when one of my lectures on the research said if you do not understand something, then you go and search about it.
There are people who have done research on topics, all you need to do is look for the problem or identify the problem, then look for work that others have done on it; and then you can build on the research.
So he asked us this question, “What is the problem that we’re going through or facing, or have identified?” How do we want to go about it? If you identify the problem, then go and find out about it on the internet.
Look at what others have done on those topics; you can also build on it. When he said that, one of the first things that came to mind was sexuality. The word “gay,” I have not come face to face with the word, I have not used the word on any level, I have not written this anywhere. I have not searched for this anywhere. Although, I have no idea what being gay is about; I have an idea as a guy having sex with another guy. Apart from that, everything else was a no-no.
Also, because I was coming from a church background, I didn’t want to know anything about it. But this is me, I have access to the internet and the first thing I hit: “gay” on google and hit search. Now, I read the literature, the books, the documentaries, the movies that were suggested.
One of the first suggested movies was Brokeback Mountain. There were documentaries and literature. I began to go through one-by-one. I began to read the literature that I had access to through the Google search. I went no YouTube. I began to go through some of the recommended videos too.
This was in 2011. I was 21 by then. I liked one particular video where the guy was talking about his journey as a gay person. Almost everything that he said or was saying was something that I could relate to.
I felt I could relate to the story. He was from a church background. He talked about how he tried to suppress it, and to let it go, how it did not work, and how he came to the point of accepting who he is now.
One of the key things from the videos and the documentaries was that homosexuality is another sexual orientation. It is not going to go away. It is a sexual feeling, which will stay. If you are gay, be yourself and live your life, or deny yourself and go the way of society and try to appeal the way of society for the rest of your life, it is always an individual decision but the tendencies will never go away.
This is me. From then on, I began to read more about it. Now, there are more videos, more movies suggested. I was downloading all these movies and videos. I downloaded lots of movies. I was reading. I was watching movies.
I thought, “This is amazing.” At that time, I began to face reality. I began to work gradually towards accepting myself. But, I was still holding church positions. And gradually I began to move away from church because I felt like I do not want to contradict my sexuality and religion.
Religion is saying this. I am also standing here. I also do not want to be between someone and their god. I was in a leadership position. I did not want my sexuality to cause someone to not worship God, which was my thinking at that time.
When someone finds out about my sexuality, it is going to be so much of a shock to the person, who will think, “Wow — this is a man doing all this cool stuff in church. He is gay. The man is gay.”
Donkor: It is going to be so much of a shock to the person. I felt like there would be rejection and judgment, and ill-treatment coming from the church. I also felt scared about it. Gradually, I began to let go of certain positions. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even go to church [Laughing].
Donkor: I would just shut off my phone and go somewhere.
“Now, I know what ‘gay’ is about. It is a sexual orientation. I know some people are born gay and nothing can be done about it.”
I thought, “How am I going to help others who fall within my space? The challenges, I am going through with my sexuality growing up, I needed to help others who fall within this experience. To know who they are and how they feel, and how they are not alone; other people are going through the same challenges, especially here in Ghana. I feel there is a need.
On the internet, I tried to search for organizations or institutions but could not find any organization that was really looking at providing support for people who identify as LGBT. I felt that if there is not anything like that, as I was interested in development and education.
I felt, “The course I am studying has to do with human development and societal development in the community. If there is not anything like this there, then there is a need to create an avenue or a platform for people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, and lesbian.
A way for them to gain access to knowledge of themselves, a basic understanding of who they are. I felt like, maybe, others would not have the privilege of researching and finding out about their orientation and finding out how they feel.
If others would not get that opportunity, if somebody can have the advantage, then we can get the information to them. I begin to think about ways to help. I learnt about my sexuality on my own but I felt that there is no need for others without going through the struggles that I have gone through.
In 2011, coming down, I began to explore my sexual life. In 2011, I was 21. It was the first time that I had sex with someone. After having done all my research, I found out this is what it is [Laughing].
Donkor: I met people through social media and Facebook at the time. There were suggestions from other Facebook friends about other gays parties and anytime I came back from school I will go to this fest with a whole bunch of guys and a bunch behaving very friendly.
Like, oh my god, this is the first time I can see people who I can identify with and who I can understand in such numbers. They are just being themselves. Around the same time, even though, I knew my sexuality. I did not want to expose myself that much. I was so much still into the church stuff. I just looked at them doing their own thing. I was very fascinated by the whole thing.
To me, it was around the same time. I met someone there. We became friends. He was an extrovert type. He liked to party, go here and there. I would be at home. He would text me, “Hey! What are you doing today? Let us go here, let us go there.”
I would follow him to wherever we were going. That is how I began to understand how big the community was. I felt a part of the community. That is how I began to know the community, gradually, and how it is like, especially here in Accra.
There were a lot of people, like me. So, gradually, I begin to pull out of the church. In 2017, I finally decided, “I am not going to suffer this church again,” especially so much toxic rhetoric that is discriminatory and subjects others to disrepute, violence, and abuse.
I was like, “I want to understand who I am and the course that I want to take in life.” There are so many injustices going on. There is a need to talk about such issues, and let people know about such injustices and abuses that others are going through.
Around the same time, I identified as a humanist and then as an activist (LGBT activist), and a human rights advocate. So, I then began to work towards this identification and how best I can help through those identities created by me.
Then again, one of the reasons for pulling out of the church. I went through some of the conversations and teachings, and preachings, in the church. It was lacking in terms of basic logic and basic critical thinking. It did not make much sense.
Something that does not make much sense to me. Why should I still involve myself in it? [Laughing] I pulled out, finally, from a church in 2017. That has been me, i.e., my gay life to me being here.
Jacobsen: How were friends and family reacting to coming out?
Donkor: When I identified as a gay person, or I knew I was a gay person. I was also thinking about how my family was going to react if they should find out about me being gay or even how someone outside will react if they find out if I am gay.
Just when I was doing all the research about gay, LGBT, all of that, I wanted to know what my defence mechanism was. How will I react? If I am having sex, and then someone sees me. How will I react? If I am walking in town and someone calls me gay, how will I react?
I am thinking about how people will react and how I will approach when I am being called gay in public. I am thinking through all of that. In 2016, I had a friend come over to my house. I was staying with my family at the time.
We do all the fun stuff. The talking, the screaming, we were being ourselves with all of that. It has been all guys, guys, guys coming to the house. I thought, “One day, I am going to be questioned, ‘Hey! Where are the girls?’” [Laughing]
In 2016, a friend of mine came over. He slept over. He is usually someone who comes and sleeps over. It has not usually been an issue, except in 2016. At the time, I went jogging. My friend told me. My brother came into the room (I have 5 siblings, 5 brothers, as I am the last one.).
He said, “Oh! That’s abominable stuff that you guys have been doing in this room” (in the local dialect). Then he left the room. I was like, “Were you watching porn or something?” He was like, “No! I was watching this movie.”
I thought, “Why would you come into this room and say that stuff?” I was in the house when he came back from work. When he came back from work, I approached him. I was like, “What do you mean by ‘that abominable stuff that you have been doing in this room’?”
My friend is a platonic friend. We do chit-chatting. We do not do anything sexual. It does not mean anything to say such stuff. I was wondering. I asked my brother. He got angry, “That gay stuff that you guys have been doing in this house.”
It dawned on me. Within a split second, “This boy is coming forward. It is either I deny or say it is not true or simply accept this and move on.” This gay stuff, “You didn’t know all this time. Yes, I am gay. What’s your fucking problem?” was my response to him.
“You are going to go to hell and all of that.” I said, “Look, I am gay. What is your problem now?” He did not seem to have any explanation as to why he was coming for me. I said, “If you think calling me gay is an insult, or that I am supposed to run and hide, then you are the most stupid person who I have ever seen because I have been gay since the day that I was born. I am still going to remain gay. That is my life. It is not yours. I am not asking you to be gay.”
Donkor: Yes! “You live your life. Let me live mine.” I called my other brothers on the phone and told them what their brother has done. I began to scream, “Yes, I am gay!” Even people from outside the house had to come that day, they called me, “Kofi? What is going on?” I said, “I am gay. Haven’t you heard?”
I called my other brothers who were not at home and told them all of that. I am gay. It is not his problem. “This is the last time he will talk about me, or my issues, or my gayness.” He told me about this some time ago. “I wanted to come and approach you. I let it go.” One brother said.
Another brother of mine, ‘If you are gay, what is his problem?” I said, “You should call him. I don’t want the nonsense.” Especially if I am gay, live your life, let me live mine, my mom and dad died at the time.
So, just let it go, my mom brought me into this world. Since then, we have been talking. I think several family members know that I am gay. Those who do not know. I am sure; it is on social media.
On social media, I am quite loud on it. Many of my pictures are rainbow. I am very active on social media. I am active on LGBT issues on social media. At the time, I was active on Facebook. I added all the church people and the school people on Facebook too.
They are still friends on Facebook. When I talked about LGBT issues, they asked, “Are you gay?” Others came into the inbox and asked questions. I began to take others through the process. Others were not ready to take part in the process.
I said, “Okay, I am not going to force you.” I am unapologetic about my sexuality. In terms of acceptance and how people react, I love myself. I love my life.
That is what matters. It is yours, deal with yours. It is mine; I will deal with mine. It is as simple that. If you love me, I will love you. If you hate me, what can I do? [Laughing]
Jacobsen: What about in the public and the law? How is the treatment there?
Donkor: In Ghana, there is no explicit gay law, LGBT law. No law that criminalizes being gay. The law that is usually used as a gay club or one that is used to subject gay people to abuse. Section 104 of the Criminal Code talks about the “unnatural carnal knowledge” and “having any other sex” or “having penetrating sex aiming at anything other than a vagina.”
So, if you have non-penetrative sex — oral sex or anal sex, it is deemed as a criminal offence. This is explicitly applied to every person as far as you have sex, not inside a single vagina; it is a criminal offence in the law.
You would say this is discriminatory towards gay men. Because when it comes to lesbians, it does not apply to them. They do not have penetrative stuff applied to them. Also, in a country where a lot more people know a lot about religion and less about the law, when people are dealing with you and talking to you, they are talking to or dealing with, or relating to you based on what the Bible said.
It is what a pastor or an Imam, or a religious text, has said. If we go based on what the Constitution says, no one should be beaten for being homosexual. Clearly, the Constitution does not say anything about being gay or being a lesbian.
It says that everyone, whatever colour, creed, or religion, has the right to life, dignity, and respect and expression; all of that. Why the mistreatment of people because they are gay or identify as a bisexual and a lesbian?
The religious mind of the population that is really causing much harm to the LGBT community.
Jacobsen: What are practical examples of harm?
Donkor: For instance, when a gay issue comes out in public, I think one of the first things that you will see is the condemnation from the Christian side. Everyone is looking at this from the negative examples or the negative stuff.
There have been examples of people being beaten for being gay. I have had to deal with some of the issues myself. Sometimes, I must go to the hospital with some of the victims of the beatings.
I have had to go to the police station to report some of the cases because some of the gay people, from my community, do not know what the law says. They feel the police will discriminate against them.
So even when they get beaten, they are unable to report the issue to the police. You have other community members who can report cases to the police because the victims may feel the police will blame them. The victims are reluctant to report the abuse to the police.
I have had to report some of the cases to the police for others. You can experience the discrimination firsthand. The police person thinks, “Oh, you’re just gay people.” These are the same Ghanaians (the police) who are church people.
They are looking at the issue as an emotionally charged issue. They become very reactive. You, sometimes, go to the police station with a victim and report an abuse issue. Because it is a gay issue. The whole issue turns around. The police blame the victim (the gay person) for whatever crime that they report.
Sometimes, it is mind-boggling. Someone is beaten. Someone’s stuff has been stolen. Because they are a victim, but gay, the gay person is the one being punished now. This is some of the stuff that discourages the community from reporting or seeking justice for the abuses.
There are quite a number of cases. Mostly, it has to do with black males, social media, and so on. Most of the reportage has been real, as reported to me. Some of the most homophobic guys find themselves lured into homes or the ghettoes.
They are robbed. Sometimes, they are stripped naked. They ask them to confess that they are gays. All of that. Sometimes, now, they demand money from them when they go home. If they do not give the money, they send all the naked videos to the contacts on social media and on WhatsApp. They post the videos.
Jacobsen: What is the motivation for homophobic bigots to do this?
Donkor: I think one of them comes from the idea that being gay is a sin or being gay is an abomination. Another has to do with the fact that Section 104 of the Criminal Code talks about the “unnatural carnal knowledge” and the public has no idea.
All they know is gays are an abomination. It is a sin. They must do something to eradicate them or do something to them, to kill them. It feels as if it is coming from a place of ignorance or hate.
Jacobsen: Who are wonderful human rights campaigners fighting for equality on the other side of the aisle?
Donkor: We have LGBT persons who are fighting for the LGBT cause here. You have individual LGBT persons who are helping. There are also some organizations that are helping in championing the LGBT cause here in Ghana.
So, Priorities on Rights and Sexual Health, CPEHRG, Hope Alliance Foundation, Solace Initiative, One Heart Foundation, and so on, these are all organizations helping in their own small way towards getting some help to the LGBT community and championing the LGBT fight.
Of course, we also have the movement here, which is the LGBT+ Rights Ghana. I am currently the Director of LGBT Rights Ghana. We are fighting for LGBT freedom here in Ghana. I should mention that we have amazing allies like the Humanist Association of Ghana. I know you know Roslyn.
They are doing amazing work here. At some point, where even LGBT persons were not even speaking to the issues in the media, when there is so much bashing on the TV, you have the humanist members going to the media and speaking for the LGBT community.
It is amazing. These are going through the suffering and able to stand the pressure from the community and homophobia from the community. You have the Humanist Association of Ghana doing amazing work.
There is Drama Queens. They are a drama-based organization who are highlighting LGBT issues. There is a Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). It is also doing an amazing job.
There are individuals, police personnel; they are amazing. They are fighting and helping us fight the abuses, and some of the violence that goes on. These are the groups here that are fighting and championing the cause here in Ghana.
Jacobsen: Any books?
Donkor: Yes! There is this book called No Choice But to Deny Who I Am. It is HRW or Human Rights Watch. It is the report that they did on Ghana. It highlights some of the issue’s LGBT folks face in Ghana.
Then there is also the Ghana Country Club text on the health and rights of LGBT persons. It is another report that highlights LGBT issues in Ghana. There is also this policy briefing from the Solace Initiative. They are an NGO helping to fight the LGBT cause.
I do not know how to get these books to you. I will see if I can find copies and then forward them via email to you.
Jacobsen: Thank you. Who has been an important humanist or secularist LGBT activist who is no longer with us? Someone from Ghana.
Donkor: I got to know a humanist from 2018. Those who I know are working and championing the LGBT cause are live ones, not the dead ones [Laughing]!
Jacobsen: [Laughing] that is encouraging!
Donkor: I do know some who have been fighting the fight, but who have died and gone. One person was named Sadiq. He was the Executive Director of Solace Initiative.
Jacobsen: When it comes to religion, it can be a force for good. It can be a force for bad. I say this within the context of the LBGTI community. In Ghana, when is this a force for good? When is it a force for bad? I speak of religion.
Donkor: In our 2010 census, for instance, it estimated that 95% of Ghanaians are religious. 72% are Christians. The rest are the other religions. Clearly, religion has much control over decisions here in Ghana. Religion oversees a lot of decisions here in Ghana.
Let me add, most LGBT persons are religious in Ghana. We are here with most people as religious [Laughing]. So, most LGBT are religious. You must work until you find your way out. Many times, you do not find your way out.
When issues of the LGBT community and religion come out, it is very heated. Sometimes, you have so many opinions, very strong opinions, coming here and then. All of that. Religion can be a force for good.
That is, if we begin to focus or highlight the very essence of religion, what it seeks to promote, most of the conversations that you do have: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are about peace and love.
If it is about peace and love, why do we experience all the negatives? The opposites of peace and love. We are in a country of religion. Now, personally, I do not think, when it comes to LGBT issues, that they are more hostile to LGBT persons than to non-LGBT persons.
Most of the comments and most of the stigmas that they bring out are in the negative. I think it is more to the negative than to the positive. If it is influencing homophobia and abuse, then it is bringing us down.
Jacobsen: Has there been a particularly salty reaction or controversial reaction online in Ghana with regards to a religious leader and an activist for the LGBTI+ community?
Donkor: There have been some. Roslyn, for instance, last year, she was at one of the stations. On the same day, there were also the religious guys around. I think some pastors. They had this interaction.
They seek to condemn homosexuality and gays and all LGBT. Then they associate so many negative stuff to being LGBT. At some point, you have this religious person associating to the LGBT community trying to emphasize that the LGBT persons are suffering from this disease and that disease.
When it comes to social media, most of the religious guys are there. Most of the time the LGBT people are there. When you side with the LGBT community, they attack the person. I, for one, have experienced all this stuff. You must go through such an approach on social media.
Jacobsen: How does a humanistic framework of ethics provide a more reasonable and evidence-based place for the LGBT community in Ghana?
Donkor: Humanism is, basically, looking at the very basis of humans with rights, dignity, respect, and wellbeing, as well as critical thinking and analysis of everything that one is exposed to.
The idea of them looking at issues from the other side of religion is amazing because most of the time; we do not get the opportunity of having to analyze things from a unique perspective. A perspective of non-religion.
If a person is coming to ask you to look at issues critically and to look at things from the human rights perspective, it is an amazing way to get people to debunk some of the notions from religions and its sentiments.
I think the Humanist Association of Ghana is doing some amazing work. If you have religious ideas on rights, can you look at things from this angle? It is having the two and then comparing the two.
It is something that allows people to critically think through issues, the idea of thinking is an amazing thing. It is causing minds to change for the better.
Jacobsen: How are the politicians’ images on the LGBTI+ issue?
Donkor: Yes, the politicians, we have had the presidents. During John Atta Mills’s time, on LGBT issues, he said, ‘We are not going to accept any LGBT life in Ghana and no gay marriage.’ All of that. You find such comments sad and unfortunate because nobody is talking about marriage.
When we are talking the human rights that are being denied LGBT persons, the abuses LGBT persons are going through. If a country like the UK tells you to talk about and do something about the LGBT issues, it does not cause people to come out and say, “Our culture does not accept gay people.”
African culture has never subjected gay people to abuse or stigma. In the past, it has been very accepting and very diverse. What is causing divide, is religion. Religion is saying, “This is not good. This is an abomination.”
When we hear some of the politicians talking about all this rhetoric, you know that it is clearly influenced by religion or religious background. All of that. Then coming down, you have John Mahama, who became president from 2012 to 2016. During his time, you hardly heard about LGBT issues.
He did not say anything about LGBT issues. He never said anything. In fact, at some point, in this country, people were associating him with an LGBT person who helped him launch his book. They were associating him to that person. They said, “That is his gay person.”
He did not care. Then in 2017 When you talk Akufo Addo, about his early times when he became president, he was asked in this interview with Al Jazeera with the LGBT issues in Ghana. He said, “Acceptance of LGBT is bound to happen. Now, it is not a conversation that is on the table in Ghana. We are not having the conversation at all, but the conversation will come when the community is strong enough to cause or demand the change. When the community is strong enough to cause or demand the change, then the change will come.”
Once he made those comments, it was a huge conversation in Ghana!
Donkor: People keep asking about marriage and gay marriage and looking at this from the marriage perspective. Who is talking about marriage? Even if it is gay marriage, it is two consenting adults. Think about it. How does it even affect you?
The current Speaker of Parliament, Mike Oquaye, appointed by President Nana Akufo-Addo. He is homophobic. You can clearly say it. You can see so many of the homophobic comments made as a Speaker of Parliament. He has made so many and gotten away with it.
Any opportunity he gets; he is always going to talk about LGBT stuff. His obsession with gay life is overwhelming. What is his problem? The Speaker of Parliament is a homophobic person. Apart from him, there is also the coalition for proper human sexual rights and family values organization.
They are also an anti-LGBT organization; they are always fighting the LGBT community. Moses Foh Amoanen, He is the leader of the organization. He is the first person to fight LGBT issues. He is the first person called on radio and TV for anti-gay issues. Roslyn (Mould) and he had an interaction on radio one time.
He is among the homophobic persons. He is a lawyer. He is also an albino. Of course, someone who is a minority as an albino. It is like confusing for an equal minority person to come for other minority people. If anything at all, you should understand how it is or how it feels to be in a minority.
Unfortunately, it is a minority person who comes after the LGBT community. It is sad. Because he is in Ghana. He always gets the radio and the TV chances to talk about anti-gay issues. There are times when he has called for fasting and prayers against gay people.
Donkor: An all-night service for gay people. He even said he has created a conversion therapy for gay people.
Jacobsen: That is a motivated person.
Donkor: Yes, he said about 400 gay persons signed up to the conversion [Laughing]. I was like, “Dude, come on, that’s a lie.” Even as organizations for the LGBT community, to get LGBT people to get out to events, it is difficult.
400 people for conversion. If there are 400 people coming to you for conversion, it should tell you about the community and the repression. I am skeptical. However, if it is true, I do not know people who have dared for that conversion.
So, in terms of politicians, it has been the situation. Speaking of Parliament, at some point, one said that if any gay stuff comes to the Parliament; the Speaker of the Parliament said he would resign. I was like, “Oh my god, just resign already.” Just go!
Donkor: Someone should bring this to the Parliament and let this man get out of there [Laughing].
Donkor: You were not even voted for. If you come and stand for a presidential race or something, no one will vote for you. You are there because the president appointed you. You were not voted in there.
If you make it seem like you are the only person, it is simply ridiculous, just leave. You are just there. You are promoting discrimination against other citizens in the country who happen to be gays, bisexuals, lesbians, and transgenders. You do not need to use your influence as a public person to harm average citizens.
It is what he is doing. Someone should bring the issue there and then just get this guy out of there. Of course, he is still there as the Speaker of Parliament.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?
Donkor: It is the thing that keeps me pushing to do the work as an activist. There is a time when LGBT issues come up. We have no one to speak up about the issues. I think it is time that we talk about the issues and begin to highlight the issues on all platforms.
One thing that really scares me is silence. Silence scares me a lot, especially on issues where everyone is quiet about it. We all speak from our common places. The simple places where we highlight human rights and LGBT issues.
I think, in a way, it helps to demystify the ideas and notions that people have about LGBT persons. So, the conversation needs to go on. I am happy that the conversation is going on, gradually. I am hoping that in the very near future that the view will be out there in the public.
Such that, we get to talk about the issue devoid of sentiments and emotions and gradually will get there. There are other countries repealing discriminatory laws and beginning to work towards repealing those laws and making the place a safer country for the Ghanaians however you identify, living free and equal as every other person. That’s my mission.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Alex.
It is common to hear stereotypes, misconceptions, barely disguised hate speech and even worse being lobbed at the LGBT community in Ghana through both traditional and social media channels.
On tv and radio, ignoramuses like Moses Foh-Amoaning and anyone interested in spewing hate speech against their fellow Ghanaians who simply don’t bang the same people they do are giving unlimited airtime to bash gays, call them evil, demonic and every other name in the book.
The worst part of this is that despite the journalistic requirement to get both sides to every story, pro LGBTQ voices are never given the chance to respond.
Luckily, for the first time in Ghanaian history, a concerted effort is being organized to push back against the bashing of gay Ghanaians.
A new body, the Coalition For African Values of Love, Unity and Tolerance, is fighting to push back on the hate and misconceptions often heaped on the heads of LGBTQ Ghanaians.
At a press conference held Sunday at the Miklin Hotel in Accra by the Solace Initiative in partnership with LGBT Rights Ghana, several speakers spoke on several topics to help the media get the side of the story of the gay community in Ghana.
Human Rights Lawyer and researcher Kuukuwa Andam, one of the speakers, spoke extensively on how the word ‘homos*xual’ itself is a recent construct introduced by the West.
For centuries, Africans had people with different sexualities among us living in harmony with their peers without being victimized.
However, after the Europeans arrived with their religion, that was when concepts such as ‘homos*xuals’ were introduced and then laws were passed to criminalize the act.
Without that European influence, Africans would most likely have simply let everyone enjoy their own s*xuality in peace – which is ironic since the anti-gay elements in Ghana rather claim gay rights is a Western import.
In fact, the religion which often influences their anti-gay rhetoric is rather a Western import, as is the law ‘unnatural carnal knowledge’ which is often used to persecute gay Ghanaians.
Another speaker, Shone Adjei, the Executive Director of Key Watch Ghana, spoke about the religious argument often used against the LGBT and debunked them one after the other. The strongest argument the religious use to support homophobia is that the bible forbids it – but the fact is there are a lot of things the Bible forbids which are not criminalized in Ghana. Why is it that when it comes to only this particular issue people want to use religion as an excuse to criminalize it?
When what the Bible forbids affects them – like fornication, adultery, eating shrimp or wearing cloth with different fabrics – people like to turn the other eye – but when it’s about the LGBT they all of a sudden want strict enforcement of the Bible.
Shone also made note of the fact that culture is fluid and dynamic thus the argument that homosexuality is against our culture holds no weight.
One other speaker, a human rights activist and LGBT Ghanaian Alex Kofi Donkor, spoke about the emotional, psychological, financial and physical abuse gays have to suffer in this country simply for the fact of being themselves.
According to him, gay people are also Ghanaian like everyone else and deserve to live in a country where they are not abused simply for existing. He also made it clear they aren’t going anywhere and they’re part of the population.
For his part, Robert Akoto Amoafo, Country Director for Amnesty International, made a simple point – the constitution of Ghana protects the human rights of all human beings and shields them from all forms of discrimination.
He also warned leaders in authority, such as notoriously anti-gay Speaker of Parliament Mike Ocquaye, to be wary of the power their words hold when speaking derogatorily about gay people.
Ultimately, the Coalition is hoping to serve as a counterpoint to the poisonous misconceptions about gays being spread on a daily basis by not only ignorant but malicious actors who drum up public fury against gays who are only living their lives
It’s no doubt a commendable effort which needs support. If for nothing else the truth about being homosexual deserves to be out there to compete against the lies and deceit – so Ghanaians can make more informed choices about their feelings towards the LGBT community based on facts and figures and not manipulated emotions.
ReportOUT were asked by a leading LGBTQ+ organisation in Ghana to publish some of the lived experiences of people living in the nation state today. We proudly present this piece written by activists from LGBT+ Rights Ghana
Following the recent uproar of Ghanaian citizens concerning the issue on the introduction of Comprehensive Sex Education into school curriculum’s, I have every right to believe beyond reasonable doubt that Ghana as a country is backwards and supports regression.
Around the world where education is at its very peak, students benefit from a wide array of programs interwoven into their school curricula, to not just promote IQ development, but also to give students basic life lessons that would be beneficial and contribute to their worldview of society and man as a carrier of culture. Most of the powers that be in high places in Ghana, who promote homophobia have their children and families being beneficiaries of these educational systems abroad.
Cultures vary and have taken a new outlook since the cultural turn which brought about changes in the way the term culture was looked at. Today we see negative cultures which include rape culture, victim blaming, the culture of violence and intolerance for the marginalized.
Proposing the introduction of the CSE into school curricula stirred up conversations and hate speeches that supported the afore mentioned toxic cultures and bought out the homophobia in Ghanaian citizens, as the CSE document was tagged with the LGBTQ+ movement. Radio stations, especially Joy FM in Ghana, encouraged biased interview sessions which were characterized by asking leading questions from respondents. The whole confusion of the CSE document was spearheaded by Mr. Moses Foh Amoaning; a Ghanaian Lawyer who himself is a minority (Albino), yet fights tooth and nail against LTBGQ+ efforts to gain basic human rights. Mr. Foh Amoaning believes that the LGBTQ+ community promotes moral decadence and are a curse onto nations. His stance and lobbying for the government to criminalize homosexuality has gained grounds amongst the Ghanaian populace, who believe that the wrath of God will visit Ghana if LGBTQ+ people continue to ‘practice’ homosexuality.
Ghana in my eyes, from the books I have read and from what I experienced during my childhood days, looked very promising. At least until I was about seventeen years old, when things started to dawn on me that we may never as a country, reach that point of progressiveness and tolerance for things we collectively do not identify with, and I dare say; practices that have been lost and are finding their ways back into our societies today. While slavery may have done us a great disservice, I believe we have self-inflicted our own society by losing track of what used to be, and how important what used to be, was to our attaining peace and harmony in our societies.
Ghana may have been all the laudable adjectives we use in praising it before colonialism, but again those praises were, I believe, because of the unity in diversity. Those great times were great because everyone found a place unperturbed in society, and every manner of person served a purpose to achieve this balance.
Yet within all these narratives I see dichotomies. We never had a Ghana in the first place. We were never this unified with the frontiers and maps we have today. There were kingdoms. There were wars of conquest. Empires grew to strengths untamed. That is what we were. Even in those times, there was a place for everyone, and kings still ruled over a complex mix of subordinates.
My whole point is to posit that Gold Coast then, was still arguably tolerant of all than what we see in Ghana today. Frontiers and boarders on land have extended deeper into relationships and identities, underpinned by religion and its unrealistic demands. The style of governance has changed to the detriment of citizens. What I thought would bring progressiveness is being used as a smoking gun in the faces of the marginalized who don’t fall within these borders of “standard/normal.”
In Ghana today, diversity in identity is still abhorred. One cannot be sure if we understand after 62 years of independence that we have lagged behind in our thoughts and in our perceptions of what is progressive. Marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community and women have barely made headway in their fight for a place in society. Even though the laws on homosexuality and its related extensions is not clear cut criminalized, society still finds ways to attack, kill and victim-blame and shame, when members of the LGBTQ+ community are involved. Sensitization and education have only done much for the community as there are other well-established organizations that fight to bring the progress of these marginalized groups to nothing.
Religion, the opium of the masses, has proved itself a great opponent and a destructive tool that readily is used to counter efforts and rationality, in the quest for peace amongst LGBTQ+ people. Sermons that bash queer people are regarded as uplifting. The use of the beatitudes in the bible comes in handy when preachers take their stances on why their members should disassociate themselves from queer people. Islamic sects have also turned their backs on queer folk and have posed as one of the most difficult sects to live amongst if one is queer. The tendency of being lynched or beaten if caught in the act or suspected is scary. The queer Muslim friends I have are either rich and live in communities that do not condone mob justice or assume a brutish outlook to fit into lower social class societies. There have been several incidents where queer people have been baited and taped for blackmail, beaten, and publicly humiliated. The struggle intensifies when even movie stars and other media persons like Prince David Osei, throw their support around to the sides of those who support us.
Queer men suffer the most in all these struggle frames. Lesbians suffer mentally more than they do physically, but with men, the idea of bottoming becomes a whole slutty-identity tag. One is quick to ask who the female is when they see queer male couples because homosexuality hasn’t been looked at beyond sex. Femininity is thwarted, making it difficult for effeminate men to be seen as men. Emasculation becomes the order of the day because of the generalized traditional binary nature of gender.
I used to think people had become more tolerant of LGBTQ+ people until I realized that, people surprisingly acted openminded in situations where there was an association or gathering with high earned, or influential people. Even though just an observation, it seems safer to be around other LGBTQ+ people in expensive communities, eateries and organizations which are associated with a certain social class of people. Aggression in those circles are very passive because homophobes may still want to keep that air of composure to look and sound elite.
Growing up queer: Horatio-Amzi Wildan
Growing up, I’ve always loved to play “dress-up” with my sister. It fascinates me now as an adult at how creative I was with napkins and bedsheets. I would pin them together to fit my body frame and leave a good amount that would flow and sweep the floor. How great I looked! I was strutting in my mum’s heels at 9 years old. My mum had dainty feet and would sometimes beat me mercilessly because she thought I had been possessed by a marine spirit. I always ended up doing it over and over again.
All this while from about 5 to 9 years old, I was involved in all the mummy and daddy games in school. Oh yes, I did get into trouble with my teachers and the parents of the girls I was involved with because in Ghana, even at my age, it was thought of that, I did the initiation. Truth is; most of the girls in my class would gravitate towards me because I came from a wealthy family and I always had treats. Mind you, I was very vocal too. So, in trying to defend myself, I came off as disrespectful. Again, in Ghana, a child is never right, and a child has no say. Happy the narratives are beginning to change for children today. I did enjoy girls at that tender age. I knew so much and I got turned on by the prettiest of them. I guess I was just a highly sexed child.
I remember very well having cute crushes on my male seniors too. Trust me when I say I did feel the connection that they liked me too. It wasn’t so confusing for me at that age as many make it seem. Back home there was a tenant who had a son. For anonymity sake let’s call him Fataou. Fataou as I had come to know from our bathing together, had quite a huge ‘member’ that fascinated me. I would stare at it when we showered and for no reason want to touch it. Fataou was about 5 years older than me and was Muslim.
My curiosity got the best part of me and one quiet Saturday when his mum had left home, I got to visit him and we fondled each other. It was so intense that I kept wanting to have time with him. He would kiss me passionately and we would repeat frothing and masturbation till he came. We never got to penetration till his family relocated. I was only 12 when they left. My heart broke and at 12, I did have a girlfriend in school whom I equally “loved”. Nothing came confusing to me. I loved them both and I enjoyed them both. With both of them also, I feared being caught. It didn’t matter much if I was caught with Fataou or if it was Pearl. I would be dead in both situations.
Then Pearl left school and was replaced with Aba. I hadn’t found me another Fataou till my 2nd year in Junior High School. My classmate; Joseph, would give me numerous pecks on the forehead and on my cheeks. I remember getting mad because as much as it was cool, I felt it would make Aba jealous. Gag is; she actually would ask Joe to chase and give me more pecks to make me mad. Aba and Joe faded out with our completion of Junior High School. I later got to know Joe was gay all that while.
Senior High School came with its challenges. Being in a boys’ school, my biggest fear was getting erect in the bathroom or in the cabin when the boys had just their boxers and boxer briefs on. It was here that I came to realize the hate queer people face. Mind you, I never identified as queer/straight, and I had no interest in the politics thereof. It was painful to know that being queer could be used to insult one or make one feel less of themselves.
Being effeminate myself, I had been through a lot with my classmates and my seniors in Senior High School. My life became a nightmare. I was more aware of my mannerisms and how I expressed myself. I started to identify all the boys that could possibly be queer too, and it dawned on me that many of these boys looked so masculine and yet, encouraged gay bashing. I was in relationships with 3 different men at different stages during my four-year stay in school, while I kept ladies as girlfriends in other schools to take eyes off my date when he visited me.
I had broken up with all three of them back to back because I found out they were married. School wasn’t rosy for me and someway somehow, I had become strictly gay. I felt nothing for ladies within my four years stay in school. I had become accustomed with using them as cover-up. It was in my second year in university that my bisexuality rekindled strong. I had met a lady. Charming and sexually appealing. I came out to her as bisexual because I felt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. After a year and half, we parted ways sadly because she cheated. I met my next girlfriend and even though I knew deep within that I loved her not, I agreed to a relationship with her. It lasted for two years. Bitter-sweet because I purposed to be there for her. At that point I was lost again. I was searching for deeper meanings into my sexuality and I was very well aware of the implications being tagged queer came with. I had come out to my family years earlier; after SHS (a story for another day) and their reactions had shaped my world view. I had lost respect and trust from my family, and I struggled and I still keep struggling to regain it.
Today I am dating a wonderful guy. We’ve known each other for about 2 years now and if we don’t break up, I plan to marry him. I have gained a deeper understanding as to who I am, and I have clarified my stance with religion. I sleep better knowing that my bisexuality is not a confusion and that I am valid.
My boyfriend being pro-choice and liberal in thinking has given me that thirst for variety. I plan to open up to all the possibilities life has to offer and have as many experiences as possible. My heart is clean and I do not chase even after family to be validated. I am at peace with myself. I have surrounded myself with friends who know my sexuality. Some of them are not welcoming of it but I still am not treated any less of a person. And I make sure to educate people whenever the opportunity presents itself. I only hope that rationality will prevail in the nearest future and that people would be willing to understand and embrace all.
LGBTQ+ PEOPLE ARE VALID. LIVE AND LET LIVE. LOVE AND LET LOVE.
My queer journey: Ramsey Tetteh-Owusu
Life in Ghana for any gay man, I can bet, sounds bitter. To grow up realizing that there’s a set moral standard that abhors homosexuality with venom, the standard set by a non-existent group of homophobic men perhaps, cannot be trivialized. These standards often than not brood into open hate, abuse and discrimination against individuals suspected to be gay.
My personal life as a nineteen-year-old gay student is probably no different from others just like me. With a good amount of luck hovering over my own head, I was born into an open-minded home that saw its offspring as nothing short of amazing and intellectual, even in clear view of their sexuality. I had a very honest, smooth and effeminately characterized childhood to the point where I had to step out of home into high school. That is where I personally experienced the coarse gay life.
In High School, every queer guy including effeminate guys who were suspected to be queer, was considered filthy, immoral and advocates of hell. The isolation and mental dejection any guy who fell in this category felt, the amount of verbal abuses, and the obvious and open discrimination were everyday meals for the queer guys who just wanted to live and learn in peace.
It was after I was suspended from school that I came out publicly, and life rather after then, interestingly, has been amazing thereof. University has been different, especially in the Fine Arts, where talents and inputs are well appreciated. With focus and determination, I vouch to excel in this institution as I have matured a lot more, and I am more experience in handling my critics. The perception about gay people in my current society had changed due to my own aura and the circle I have strategically placed myself in.
A brief history of LGBT+ Rights Ghana:
LGBT+ RIGHTS GHANA was formed on July 13, 2018 initially as a cyber activism blog- a platform that uses social media to create awareness on LGBT+ issues in Ghana and the world. Currently maximizing on capacity to initiate a movement in the interest of LGBT+ persons living in Ghana, the initial of plan was to empower the LGBT+ community in Ghana to cause the change that we deserve. This was done through the creation of a Facebook group and page, an Instagram account, a twitter account and a YouTube channel. At the moment, a few capacity building initiatives are ongoing under LGBT+ RIGHTS GHANA. Currently, there are various empowerment initiatives ongoing like, HERE & BEYOND which is organize every last Sunday of the month, QUEER MAT which is organize quarterly of the year, SPEAK OUT which is organize quarterly of the year and other capacity building workshops. We envision a country where the rights of LGBT+ person are respected and protected, and are poised on forming a formidable movement to champion the fight for freedom of LGBT+ persons in Ghana.
1. To create a safe space for LGBT+ persons in Ghana
2. To ensure equal rights for all LGBT+ persons.
3. To ensure that all LGBT+ persons rights are respected and protected.
4. To develop activities that will empower the LGBT+ community.
5. To create a strong alliance with pro LGBT+ individual, organizations, institutions and movement.
Brought to you from Modern Ghana| 5 November 2019 | Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo
The National Coalition for African Family Values of Love, Unity, and Tolerance is pushing for all forms of targeted attacks on LGBT groups and persons to be stopped while stressing that the right of every individual must be protected under the country’s Constitution.
This was disclosed at a media engagement organized by Solace Initiative in partnership with LGBT rights Ghana on Sunday, November 3, 2019, at the Miklin Hotel at East Legon.
According to Ms. Kuukuwa Andam who is a Human Rights Lawyer and Researcher, it was important to hold the conference for the Coalition to address certain hate speeches directed at LGBT groups by some anti-LGBT activists in the last couple of weeks.
She opined that everyone should hold on to their beliefs but nobody must focus an agenda on a group of people in society just because they are a minority and their sexuality is perceived to be an abomination.
“It was brought to our attention that in the past week a specific group are targeted. That is people that are perceived to be of particular sexuality and there were many things that were said around that time including the fact that they do not deserve human rights…”.
“Speeches that were made that are hate speeches and can incite harm against this group that has already been reported by several human rights organizations that it has been targeted and to have faced so many hate crimes, abuses…”, Ms. Andam explained.
She further observed that people should learn to live together as one people regardless of differences. She insists that if personalized attacks on minority groups like the LGBT is not abolished, it could escalate and spread to other minority groups in the community.
“Let’s learn to live together because why we are concerned as an organization that fights for all vulnerable groups if we allow a particularly vulnerable group to be targeted, tomorrow we don’t know which other groups will be called out. Whether it will be an ethnicity, whether it will be people that are disabled, we don’t know and so that is not something we find acceptable and we must speak about it”, Ms. Kuukuwa Andam added.
Country Director for Amnesty International, Mr. Robert Akoto Amoafo who was invited as a Human Rights Activist referenced Article 12 and Article 17 (1) (2) of Ghana’s Constitution and highlighted how the laws of the country protect the rights of all human beings.
Also speaking at the conference, Director for LGBT Rights Ghana, Alex Kofi Donkor touched on some physical attacks and other challenges people with different sexuality are facing. He assured that people in the LGBT community are not enemies and hence there is no need for any anti-LGBT activist to incite hate and harm on them.
The World Congress of Families (WCF) is hosting a two-day “Africa regional gathering” in the Ghanaian capital from Thursday, seeking to meet with parliamentarians and religious leaders from the country.
While the WCF is best-known for publicly opposing LGBT rights and abortion, and its president has emphasised that it “condemns racism”, openDemocracy’s research has uncovered numerous connections between key WCF figures and other controversial movements internationally, including:
WCF leaders praising far-right politicians in Italy and Hungary who have called African migrants in Europe “slaves” and “poison”
Links with white nationalists, including via a central WCF figure who has also suggested the FBI “stake out every mosque in the country”.
Responding to an email from openDemocracy, WCF president Brian Brown, who is set to speak at the event in Ghana, did not comment on specific examples cited in this article but sent a short response accusing openDemocracy of “lies” and “false claims”, adding: “We condemn racism, hatred, and violence. We always have”.
However in Accra, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, director of communications at the global feminist group AWID, described openDemocracy’s findings as “shocking”.
The WCF publicly “positions itself as ‘pro-family’, but is part of an extremist movement that actually divides and destroys families by disparaging diversity and promoting hate”, said Neela Ghoshal, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.
A spokesperson for the Coalition for African Family Values of Love, Unity and Tolerance, a Ghanaian civil society group, condemned the WCF’s links to “movements that mistreat our black family in the diaspora”. She contrasted this with Ghana’s international reputation “as a peaceful and tolerant nation”.
Brown is also a founder of ActRight, a fundraising site for right-wing US politicians, whose recent Facebook posts have criticised Pope Francis for being a “homosexual supporter” and suggested the Pope is “perhaps a homosexual himself”.
In Europe, he appears to have cultivated close ties to far-right European politicians, who advocate for hardline anti-immigrant policies. In email newsletters, Brown has repeatedly emphasised his relationships with Matteo Salvini, until recently Italy’s interior minister, and Hungary’s prime minister Victor Orbán.
At least 50,000 Ghanaians live in Italy, where Salvini’s far-right Lega party has implemented a range of punitive anti-immigrant policies, including criminalising citizens who offer migrants food or shelter.
This summer, Brian Brown celebrated – and claimed partial credit for – “a huge victory in the recent European Parliament elections” for Salvini’s Lega party.
He said in a newsletter that he “worked directly” with Salvini’s party on a WCF summit in Italy, in March, suggesting that this raised the party’s profile ahead of the elections and “helped establish a climate” where such “leaders [can] be elected”.
Brown also praised the “leadership” of Orbán in Hungary, who opened a 2017 WCF summit with a speech denouncing the “connection between immigration and terrorism”. Orbán has elsewhere referred to migrants as a “poison”.
Seeking to ‘meet and influence the political elite’
The WCF network has held previous African regional meetings in Kenya in 2018 and 2016, and in Malawi (2017), although Africans have made up just 3% (24) of about 800 speakers listed on the last ten programmes for WCF international summits, according to our analysis of these documents.
The Accra meeting is advertised online as an event for “advocates and believers”, government officials, NGOs and religious groups. Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah at AWID has described how WCF partners have sought to meet and “influence the political elite” ahead of the summit, focusing publicly on issues like LGBT rights.
Last month, a press conference in Accra to announce the WCF summit was reportedly attended by deputy health minister Alex Kodwo Kom Abban.
The WCF’s Ghanaian partners, members of the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family, also reportedly paid “courtesy calls” at the residences of former president and 2020 election candidate John Kufuor, and Sheikh Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, to personally invite them to the summit.
Concerns about Islamophobia and white nationalism
However, other Ghanaian civil society activists raised concerns about the WCF’s links to people accused of promoting Islamophobia or white nationalist views.
The WCF’s long-time communications director, Don Feder, once called for “Islam control”, and also criticised a campaign to put African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman on a $20 bill, saying “it was white males who ended slavery”.
Meanwhile, speakers at the WCF’s event in Italy this March included a German princess who once blamed Africans for high rates of AIDS, saying “blacks like to copulate”, and an American activist who previously claimed: “If you don’t think Muslims are vetted enough because they blow things up, that’s not racist”.
Other past WCF summit speakers include a controversial US university president who reportedly warned of a coming “war against Christians”.
“Our African traditions encourage us to live peacefully together as family”.
In Ghana, the Coalition for African Family Values of Love, Unity and Tolerance spokesperson said it was “deeply concerned” about the WCF’s network and event in Accra amidst the Year of Return and the government’s outreach to the diaspora.
She also criticised the WCF’s better-known, public opposition to LGBT rights.
“Our African traditions encourage us to live peacefully together as family. Issues of sexuality are accorded privacy within our culture”, she said, condemning “efforts by individuals outside Ghana to come into our country and teach Ghanaians to discriminate against their own family because of their perceived sexuality”.
Emelia, a woman in her thirties living in Kumasi, Ghana, will never forget the day her father found out she was a lesbian. He beat her for three hours – with his fists, and a belt, and then with a broken beer bottle.
Agnes, a 26-year-old from Accra, said when her father learned she was a lesbian, he packed up all of her belongings and expelled her from the family home. She tried to go back, but her father chased her away with a machete. She told Human Rights Watch, “He will kill me if I try to go back home.”
For Josephine, it was her siblings who beat her as punishment for being a lesbian, leaving injuries so severe that she spent over a month in the hospital.
Ghana has made some progress in upholding the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. While its Penal Code, a relic of British colonialism, punishes “unlawful carnal knowledge,” the police and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice have reached out to LGBT people and taken proactive steps, including providing human rights training to help ensure their protection. But a 2018 Human Rights Watch report found LGBT Ghanaians are still frequently victims of physical attacks – including at the hands of their own family members.
The WCF says its Ghana agenda involves positioning Africa “as a more active advocate within the global pro-family movement.” Ghanaians and the Ghanaian government should preserve and build on the progress they have made and reject any suggestions that being “pro-family” means opposing tolerance and nondiscrimination.
If Ghana and its neighbors want to implement “pro-family” policies, those should involve promoting equality and preventing family violence, so that women like Emelia, Agnes, and Josephine can be safe at home and accepted by their families.
This week, the World Congress of Families will hold a regional conference in Accra, Ghana, where U.S. anti-LGBTQ activists will advance their dangerous vision of the so-called “natural family.” As a part of these efforts, the World Congress of Families plans to advocate for adoption of public policies supporting so-called “conversion therapy” and an understanding of LGBTQ people as “deviant,” while attacking sex education and women’s rights in Ghana. Through this work, the World Congress of Families continues its campaign to export hate and thwart the work of local advocates to end violence and discrimation against LGBTQ people across West Africa.
The World Congress of Families is an anti-LGBTQ organization based in the U.S. with strong ties to the religious right. The organization, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, promotes a disturbing and radically distorted depiction of LGBTQ people. It has a long history of exporting its anti-LGBTQ narrative to many parts of Africa, often by framing LGBTQ people and the protection of their human rights as somehow foreign and un-African, a fundamentally inaccurate characterization.
In 2015, HRC published a report exposing the World Congress of Families past anti-LGBTQ efforts over the years. In Russia, the World Congress of Families pushed adoption of the so called “Gay Propaganda” Law and promoted similar laws in Lithuania and other countries. Across Africa, the World Congress of Families enabled and promoted legislation to further criminalize LGBTQ people, including in Nigeria and Uganda.
At this week’s conference in Ghana, some of the World Congress of Families’ most prominent U.S. figures will take the stage, including:
Sharon Slater, President of Family Watch International: Slater has spread the horrific depiction of LGBTQ people as pre-disposed to committing crimes against children. In 2012, she called on activists in Nigeria to oppose efforts by international institutions to support the decriminalization of LGBTQ people. In 2019, Slater characterized sex education as an attack on family values.
Brian Brown, President of the World Congress of Families: Brown has long organized against LGBTQ communities, promoted harmful laws and emboldened other hate groups and extremists. Recently, Brown boasted about his close relationship with autocratic Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and met with activists in Tbilisi, Georgia, to praise their confrontations with LGBTQ people.
HRC condemns efforts by the World Congress of Families to further endanger LGBTQ people, women and others in Ghana and throughout the world. We urge allies to help us shine a spotlight on the group’s hateful agenda and hold the World Congress of Families accountable by sharing news on social media about the group’s harmful messages and amplifying the positive work of local LGBTQ communities and their allies.
“No Choice but to Deny Who I Am” Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People in Ghana
Ghanaian who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) suffer widespread discrimination and abuse both in public and in family settings, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. While some Ghanaian officials have publicly called for an end to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the government has yet to repeal a colonial-era law that criminalizes same-sex activity.
The 72-page report, “’No Choice but to Deny Who I Am’: Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People in Ghana,” shows how retention of section 104(1)(b) of the Criminal Offenses Act, 1960 prohibiting and punishing “unnatural carnal knowledge,” and failure to actively address violence and discrimination, relegate LGBT Ghanaian to effective second-class citizenship. Police officials and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) have taken some steps to protect LGBT people. But they are still frequent victims of physical violence and psychological abuse, extortion, and discrimination in many aspects of their daily life.
Click Human Rights Watch Report on LGBT in
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