‘Legalizing Homosexuality Not a Pressing Social Issue in Ghana’
President Nana Akufo-Addo has said a change in the law to decriminalize homosexuality is not of concern to Ghanaians at present.
The President, once a human rights activist and a lawyer, however, said if activism in favour of the legalization of homosexuality heightens, that could trigger a change in Ghana’s laws.
In an interview with Qatar-based Al Jazeera, President Akufo-Addo said he felt such a push was “bound to happen” and possibly pave the way for the decriminalization of homosexuality.
Despite Ghana’s standing as a beacon of democracy on the African continent, the country’s decision not to succumb to advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, has been questioned by some sections of the international community and even met by indirect threats.
Without making any definite pronouncement on the issue during the interview, President Akufo-Addo said any possible change will only come after a strong concerted push for LGBT rights from some sections of the public.
“For these socio-cultural issues, I don’t believe that in Ghana so far, a sufficiently strong coalition has emerged which is having that much impact on public opinion that will say; change it,” he stated.
The President noted that, the acceptance of LGBT has always started with protests, and he recalled that even in the countries that now champion LGBT rights, homosexuality was illegal until activism brought change.
“I grew up at a time in England where homosexuality was banned, it was illegal and I lived in a period where British politicians thought it was anathema to even think about changing the law and then suddenly, the activities of individuals and groups… grew and grew stronger and enforced the change in the law.”
President Akufo-Addo, thus said “those are the same processes that will bring about changes [in Ghana].”
But “at the moment, I don’t feel that there is that strong current of opinion that is saying this is something that we need you to deal with. It is not so far a matter which is on the agenda,” he added.
Homosexuality as a crime
Under Ghanaian criminal law, same-sex sexual activity is illegal, owing to the criminal code’s stance on unnatural carnal knowledge.
Persons found to have fallen foul of this law are liable to a prison term ranging from five years to 25 years, per Section 104 of the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 2003.
Ghana is one of 75 countries around the world where it is still illegal to be a homosexual.
There have been pockets of instances where perceived homosexuals have been attacked by those against the practice either on the basis of religion or culture.
As a result, some human rights groups in Ghana, have often advocated for the respect of the rights of such individuals to practice their sexual preference without any attacks.
The criminalization of homosexuality, found in most sub-Saharan African countries, has seen some pressure from the international community prompting accusations of bullying.
Late Atta Mills was firmly against homosexuality
In 2011, then-President John Atta Mills rubbished the UK’s threat to cut aid if he refused to consider legalizing homosexuality in Ghana.
UK Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, had said aid would be cut to countries which failed to respect gay rights.
But the late-President was adamant that the UK could not impose its values on Ghana.
In2016, some Members of the Scottish Parliament called on their government to confront then President John Mahama on Ghana’s alleged abuses of homosexuals.
The President then had been invited to address (MPs) in the Scottish Parliament, but some opposition MPs said the invitation undermined the safety of the Scottish Parliament for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
We’re fed up with demands for gay rights – Speaker
Most recently, Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, stressed to an Amnesty International delegation that Ghana would not countenance any push by external forces to accept homosexuality.
About 40 nations within the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations are noted to have laws banning homosexuality that are ironically viewed as offsets of British colonial rule.