Audio: In Ghana, is it getting worse for LGBT?

Published: July 22, 2011

Law lecturer Kissi Agyabeng of the Ghana Law School explains the position of the law vis a vis homosexuality, lesbianism, and sex crimes in Ghana. He spoke with Dzifa Bampoh of the Radio Station JoyFM.

A reported call by the Western Regional Minister in Ghana, Paul Evans Aidoo, to arrest gays is getting major coverage in Western media with, at time of writing, one petition and headlines such as ‘Has a gay holocaust begun in Ghana?’ and ‘Ghana Joins In On “Kill The Gays” Mania In Africa’. This attention to Ghana is bound to increase – and has not gone unnoticed in Ghana itself.

The news follows numerous recent stories in Ghanaian media on homosexuality. Nana Ama Bonsu, writing for In Depth Africa:

"The issue of homosexuality has dominated the Ghanaian airwaves and print media for quite a while, which is unusual in a country where our attention span on issues is about the same as a butterfly, fluttering from one flower to another."
This has included a report that President Mills had reacted to growing pressure from religious groups saying he "would institute measures to check the menace of homosexuality and lesbianism." The President has denied he said this, going as far as to call the Editor of the newspaper which printed his supposed quote, the Ghanaian Times.

Another newspaper, the Daily Graphic, was called out by the youth group of the ruling party the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for another story which dominated headlines about a NGO ‘registering 8,000 homosexuals’. We reported on this last month – it appears that much of the current media storm in Ghana followed this article. It even led to a bizarre story that The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Ghana’s national security agency, would be investigating the registered names of homosexuals.

The origins of the ‘registered homosexuals’ story are a humble USAID workshop, wrote Graham Knight:

"The workshop was attended by about 30 health workers. One of the doctors present made a wild guess that there were 8000 MSMs [men who have sex with men] in the combined Western and Eastern regions. It seems that this unsubstantiated opinion has been leapt upon by the media whilst refusing to give the background to the claim. It has led the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare to publicly state that no NGO is registering homosexuals in Ghana."

"The real story is of a rather low-key workshop that has been sensationalised by the press, possibly with the collusion of a local doctor. The press reports are designed to create fear as are the unrepresentative group of Muslims claiming an imminent Sodom and Gomorrah for Africa."
In 2009 Western Regional Focal Person on HIV/AIDS, Dr. Roland Sowah claimed that ‘over 2,000 registered homosexuals’ are ‘said to be roaming’ in Sekondi-Takoradi, the capital of the Western Region of Ghana. "We need to talk about it. Whether we like it or not, it has become part of society so what do we do as a country?", Sowah was quoted as saying.

Following those media reports, last year more than one thousand protesters in Sekondi-Takoradi, participated in a peaceful rally organised by Muslims ‘against reports of gay and lesbian activities in their city’. This was reportedly the first antigay protest in the country. Aidoo’s arrest order followed another demonstration and petition 16 July in the city, organised by the Western Regional Network of Churches.

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