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GHANAIAN ACTIVIST DEFENDS GAY COMMUNITY AGAINST CHARGES OF “RECRUITING”

in GHANA, 17/04/2012

Mac-Darling Cobbinah, a Ghanaian HIV activist and human rights defender, last week attacked as “misleading” the methodology of a 2011 study of MSM in Ghana which accused gay men of recruiting heterosexual men for sex.

In an article entitled “Gays recruiting for MSM study?” which he distributed to activists across Africa, Cobbinah said the authors of the report were being grossly unfair to Ghana’s gay community by implying they had “recruited boys and men” for the study.

He said that according to the report, the gay community was not only alleged to have recruited people for the MSM study but also recruited boys and men for sexual purposes.

In his rejoinder to the report and its findings, Cobbinah said the study conducted by Centre for Diseases Control (CDC Ghana) had “brought on tremendous backlash to the gay community in Ghana.”

He said Ghana’s religious leaders had seized on the comments about recruitment and had spent months attacking gay people in their churches and mosques and that others had threatened to attack gay people wherever they were to be found.

The study was titled “The Ghana Men’s Study” and was conducted in 2011 by CDC Ghana. Cobbinah said, “This research involved the Ghana Aids Commission (GAC), the Regional Institute for Population Studies of the University of Ghana, the West African Project to Combat Aids and STI (WAPCAS), the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and the University of California, San Francisco.

The University of California, San Francisco was the US institution receiving funding for this research.”

Attacking the methodology of the study, Cobbinah pointed out “Despite the number of stakeholders engaged in this research, the involvement of local organizations already working with MSM, the target population, was minimal. The research team hired (MSM) people, who told them that all MSMs admire “straight looking” men, and so they would be coming in great numbers to participate in the study with the researchers.”

Cobinnah alleged that the MSM recruited [for the study] were all effeminate gay men against advice from stakeholders who had urged a representative mix of MSM.

Cobbinah pointed out that many gay men in Ghana tend to be closeted and “straight acting” and that the fear of being “exposed” meant that on the whole they avoided “associating with effeminate guys” because, “being labelled as an MSM opens the doors to harassment, blackmailing, and even beatings from people in the community.”

He said, “I believe the disregard for advice from the organizations working for the respect of human rights for all people in Ghana, including sexual minorities like MSM, negatively affected the participation of MSM living in communities selected for the research project.”

He added, “Furthermore, I believe that some people who participated in the study were not MSM at all, but were referred by their friends due to the monetary incentive given to participants of the study. This situation created the impression that young men were lured by gay men, however, the gay community did not lure young men to be part of the study, but rather the organizers of the study lured the participants with their money.”

He ended the article saying, “We urge all MSM who are allowing themselves to be used in a similar capacity as The Ghana Men’s Study, to note that their image as gay men is more important than enjoying a few Ghanaian cedis [the Ghanaian currency] today, while simultaneously demonizing your community, friends, and family.”

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