|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
Recently there have been conflicting reports attributed to President John Evans Atta Mills on the issue of homosexuality. In a conversation with BTM, leaders of a pro-LGBT rights advocacy in Ghana said, “In addition to threats in the larger society, there are also threats within the LGBT community itself.”
At first the president was reported to have denounced homosexuality and promised to take unspecified steps to combat it as homosexuality is contrary to Ghanaian values and the word of God.
However, following this report being made public, the president was then reported to have chastised the media for reporting that he “would institute measures to check the menace of homosexuality and lesbianism.”
The president allegedly made the second statement at the Sunyani Central Ebenezer Presbyterian Church during a Sunday thanksgiving service.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, they added, “Blackmail and violence are typical in the LGBT community. Oftentimes, a partner will threaten to expose his or her partner as a result of an argument, for revenge, for money, or to coerce them into doing something. Further, in some communities, men who are viewed as feminine are threatened or attacked by others in the gay community.”
The activists felt that when the head of state condemns homosexuality and promises to combat it, it becomes clear that anti-gay activists and media pundits who have been spewing homophobic rhetoric have influenced him to make such a public statement. The LGBT activists say the development is extremely worrying because it introduces new potential threats that might be sponsored by the state.
The security of LGBT persons in Ghana has become a big issue. While Ghana is considered relatively more liberal to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression than many nations in the West African sub-region, homosexuality is illegal in Ghana under the criminal code 1960, Act 29, in which homosexuality is referred to as an offence of unnatural carnal knowledge.
Although, “unnatural carnal knowledge” is not clearly defined in the criminal code, it is understood that it includes male same-sex conducts, specifically sodomy or “buggery”, under section 104.
Virtually everyday, there is some type of sensationalist and homophobic article published on homosexuality and its “threat” to Ghana society. Normally in these articles, politicians and religious groups label homosexuals as immoral individuals who are unchristian, criminal, evil, and un-Ghanaian. They further call on other government, religious, or traditional leaders to take a more antigay stance or action.
Recently, in the context of the Ghana Constitutional Review, there has been a proliferation of antigay media coverage, with news headings such as “Homosexuals are Filthy” and “Help Fight Homosexuality”.
Sometimes, these articles mention names of alleged homosexuals, which then put the mentioned individuals’ lives at risk. The media also discusses events that are allegedly hosted by gay and lesbian Ghanaians and threatens to mention the names of those invited to the event.