British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plea for Commonwealth nations to decriminalize homosexuality has been met with major backlash in Ghana.
Lawmakers in the conservative African republic are pushing a law imprisoning LGBTQ people after May called upon the 53 member countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations to overturn laws targeting the queer and trans community. The U.K. leader said she “deeply regrets” Britain’s historic role in pushing anti-LGBTQ criminal codes in many of the countries it colonized.
The majority of Commonwealth nations are former British colonies, and currently 37 have laws criminalizing those accused of homosexuality.
But those calls have not been met warmly in Ghana. Earlier this month, Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah referred to May’s offer to aid any Commonwealth country which strikes down its laws targeting LGBTQ people as “neo-colonialism” and claimed he would lead a nationwide protest should Ghana legalize homosexuality.
Onyinah added that her comments should be “condemned at the highest level.”
The Parliament of Ghana has responded by drafting the “Comprehensive Solution Based Legislative Framework for Dealing with the Lesbianism Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Phenomenon.” The legislation would strengthen pre-existing laws imprisoning LGBTQ people by providing “solutions on how to best to help homosexuals and at the same time prosecute them,” as the Ghana News Agency reports.
According to local news sources, the bill would criminalize queer people based on two classifications: 1) those who are allegedly forced into homosexuality by “peer pressure” and “economic reasons” and 2) individuals who experience a “hormonal imbalance” leading them to be LGBTQ.
Moses Foh-Amoaning, who serves as spokesperson for the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values, claimed the latter group would be offered help “through the Ghana Health Service, by setting up a comprehensive unit that has a psychiatric, psychologist, medical personnel, surgical team, guidance and counsellors then Gospel Ministers to help them.”
“But for those who think it is a lifestyle and they want others to get involved, the law will deal with them because we will clearly define what homosexuality is, what LGBTQ entails, and if they are caught, they will be prosecuted,” he added.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Ghana. Chapter Six of the 1960 Criminal Code outlaws “unnatural carnal knowledge” as a misdemeanor charge of three years in prison, but if the sexual act is deemed non consensual, individuals may serve up to 25 years behind bars. It’s regarded as a “first-degree felony.”
Unlike countries which don’t enforce their centuries-old colonial laws, Ghana frequently singles out LGBTQ people under its criminal code.
Although Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo told Al-Jazeera in November that he felt the decriminalization of homosexuality is “bound to happen,” the leader has clarified that these changes will not happen under his rule. He clarified in a statement last month that he doesn’t believe there is a “strong current of opinion that is saying that this is something that we need to even deal with.”
Other officials, meanwhile, have affirmed they will do anything it takes to prevent pro-LGBTQ progress.
Speaker of Parliament Aaron Mike Oquaye said he would resign from the legislature should Ghana embrace queer and trans rights. “If anybody should bring such a thing to parliament and I have to preside over that I will rather resign than subscribe to this delusion,” he said earlier this month, referring to May’s speech.
The Parliamentary Christian Fellowship further expressed its “total disapproval or attempts to promote and pressurise the government of Ghana to accept lesbianism, Gayism, Bisexual and Transgender practices (LGBT) as human rights.”
“It is common knowledge that such abominable practices have no place in our cultural norms as Africans,” the religious organization claimed in a May statement. “It is also true that quite apart from Christianity none of the known Religions in Ghana accepts these practices as normal human behavior.”
“The forbearers and founding fathers of our dear nation have great respect for the country’s value systems and under no circumstance should we betray their legacy, toil, and trust by allowing a rather backward practice using the legislative arm of government,” it continued. “The dynamism of any culture should positively impact on its existence and not to lead to its destruction.”
May has yet to make a public comment on the anti-LGBTQ legislation. It is set to be introduced in Ghana’s parliament this September.
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