In Ghana, LGBT people come out as civil society abandons them

Published: October 5, 2011

In a Facebook comment, Independent Filmmaker Akua Ofosuhene said:

    "It was great to see such a self confident, articulate, sharin and stylish Accra Gay community. The discussions were great and testimony to all that is great in Ghana."

Knight said that in the discussion gay people said that all the recent negative press had actually highlighted the issue to isolated MSM’s (Men who have Sex with Men) and "showed they were not alone". As a result: "They didn’t seem to have any strong views on the negative publicity."

The attacks on LGBT in the media began after a false but widely repeated report in May claiming that ‘8000 homosexuals had been registered’ at an NGO.

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

    "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."

This then led to a internationally reported call by the Western Regional Minister in Ghana, Paul Evans Aidoo, to arrest gays and then a steady stream of 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."

Said CAHG:

    "Reports are flying virtually every day on front pages of newspapers, promoting fear and hatred against homosexuality."

And much of Ghana’s well developed civil society fled because, wrote Abdul Musah Sidibe:

    "Anyone who attempts to speak out against the apparent human rights violation and the seeming unconstitutional rallying cry is labelled a homosexual. And in a very homophobic society, that is enough to silent critics and continue the rage."

The Ghanian AIDS Commission (GAC), the independent human rights commission and the local branch of Amnesty have all publicly abandoned LGBT people.

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