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Jail term for LGBT & friends: Mr. Prez, Don’t Sign

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo has come under rising pressure from faith-based organizations and a large section of the Ghanaian public to assent to pass into law the recently passed Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill which proscribed various jail terms for members of the LGBT community in Ghana and their allies.

Rights groups and some Civil Society Organisations have equally called on the same President Akufo-Addo to not sign the Bill into law, citing clear infringements of human rights and press freedoms.

The President and his office have remained mute. Checks show the Bill has not yet reached the Presidency for him to take a decision on. It is not clear whether the President, being a human rights lawyer would be guided by his conscience and the law  which at all times must defend and protect all manner of persons or whether he would be cowed into docility by the public pressure and near-blackmail propaganda to sing a law that would criminalize persons of same sex.

The New Publisher, as a newspaper, is opposed to the Bill  in its current state and form and accordingly side with the calls on President Akufo-Addo to not sign the Bill into law.  The groups and persons asking the President to not sign are not necessarily pro-LGBT or calling for its legalization in the country.

The position is against the outright criminalization of same sex relationships and allies of same sex persons. The position has been against the jailing of LGBT persons,  their sponsors and allies  including journalists who would be seen to be giving them media space to be heard. The position has been that homosexuals are not criminals.

The New Publisher is appealing to the conscience of President Akufo-Addo to be mindful of the fact that throwing homosexuals or their sponsors in jail in Ghana is not a solution; it rather worsens the situation.

The New Publisher supports the position taken by the Reverend Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi, the President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, that there is the more reformative and corrective sanctions in addressing the issues at stake.

“We think that in the case of this particular law and the way it is being implemented, being placed in prison as the punishment that they have chosen, it is not going to solve the problem. Because you see if you round up same-sex people and you know our prisons, they are going to end up in the same room and what is going to prevent them from going through these activities in the prison?

“And you are not going to put them there forever because they are going to be there for three months to six months. And then they practice this and come out as more experts at it than when you sent them there. Then you release them back into society. So, what is going to happen?”, Reverend Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi noted in a recent interview with Citi FM

He continued: “That is why we were concerned about a punishment that will correct them, that will reform them. So if the government is going this way or if the parliament is going this way that is why we are suggesting that in the prison there, they should add more of the corrective and reformative measures” he stated.

The New Publisher is of the firm opinion that no journalist or anyone for that matter should be thrown into prison over an expressed opinion on sexual preferences.

In the paper’s view, government has absolutely no business throwing journalists into jail simply because of their expressed opinions on LGBT.

There is no clearer way of demonstrating media censorship than to pass a law which seeks to throw journalists in jail over their expressed opinions on how two consenting adults decide to have sex behind closed doors.

Passing such a law would mean criminalizing free speech. That would be a rather draconian law which seeks to cause more harm than good and pretends to profess a solution to solve a non-existent problem.

A media house’s published opinion on sexual preference does not in any way impose that opinion on another person. This aspect of the Bill is a clear direct threat to press freedoms and unconstitutional. It amounts to media censorship. It suppresses press freedoms. It puts fear in journalists and forbids them from freely expressing their opinions for fear of being jailed. That is the road on which the Government of Nana Akufo-Addo seems ready to drive.

Would President Akufo-Addo have his name go down in history as the Ghanaian President whose signature passed a law which jails journalists over what they write about sexual rights? That would be injurious to his loudly trumpeted Human Rights records.

The New Publisher insists that persons  who simply identify as being homosexuals who practice in the privacy of their rooms or as being allies of LGBT people are not criminals and should not be treated as such in any civil society.

Publicly disclosing a personal sexual orientation is not the same as forcing another person to partake in it without consent or luring a minor into same. Disclosure of sexuality should not be a crime.

The Bill itself is contradictory by saying it accepts anal sex between opposites sexes but criminalizes anal sex between same sexes as though, if there were health challenges with anal sex, these health challenges are cured depending on the gender of the anus that is sexed.

The buck stops with the President. We can only remind him that aside the human and press rights infringements contained in the Bill, there are consequences to be faced if Ghana signs such a law.

It is possible to protect the country’s cultural and traditional values without this dangerous Bill.

The New Publisher strongly urges Mr. President to do the right thing rather than allow himself to be blackmailed into signing a  bad law simply because of public pressure.

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