Anti-LGBTQ+ bill currently in consideration stage

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LGBTQ+ flag
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The proposed Anti-LGBTQ+ bill in Ghana has caused debate, conversations, and controversy both in Ghana and beyond. At its core, the bill aims to address issues related to same-sex relationships and activities in Ghana. However, its introduction has ignited discussions about human rights, freedom of expression, and the role of government in regulating personal autonomy and same-sex marriages. 

Background

Ghana, like many other countries in Africa, has a complex history regarding LGBT rights. Same-sex relationships and activities are largely stigmatized and criminalized under Ghanaian law. 

In the past, being part of the LGBTQ+ community was against the law in Ghana, but it wasn’t fully enforced, this made the LGBTQ+ community feel safe compared to other African countries. Recently, there have been a lot more conversations about the LGBTQ+ community, with religious groups pushing for even stricter rules against them. Subsequently, a new bill against LGBTQ+ is pushing through parliament. It suggests not just 5-year jail terms for the LGBTQ+ community, but even harsher punishments for anyone who supports or speaks up for gay rights.

Overview of the Bill

The proposed law in Ghana would make it a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, for someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, be in a same-sex relationship, or engage in homosexual activity. 

Such acts mean a public show of amorous relations between or among persons of the same sex, or where one or more of the persons involved have undergone gender or sex reassignment and intentional cross-dressing to portray a gender different from a gender assigned at birth to the person, with intent to engage in an act prohibited under the bill … is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than six months and not more than one year

It would also criminalize marrying or planning to marry someone who has undergone gender reassignment surgery. 

“The government is empowered to liaise with an approved service provider to assist in the form of therapy or any other assistance relevant to the circumstance, to persons who may be questioning their sex or for a parent whose child is intersex to, where necessary, assist the parent to realign the child to the appropriate binary designation as determined by a medical practitioner”

Public displays of affection between same-sex individuals or those whose gender identity differs from their biological sex would also be outlawed. Additionally, the bill targets individuals who cross-dress or engage in intersex corrective surgery, allowing the state to recommend “corrective therapy” or surgery. LGBTQ+ allies and advocates could also face prosecution and imprisonment for up to five or even ten years. 

“(A) a person commits an offense if the person holds out as a lesbian, a gay, a transgender, a transsexual, a queer, a pansexual, an ally …”

Any person or group seen as “promoting” identities or acts prohibited in the bill, or campaigning to support the rights of LGBTQ+ people, could face even tougher terms of up to 5 years in prison.

“A person who publishes or distributes material for purposes of promoting an activity prohibited under the Bill is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 10 years. Clause 12 also prohibits a person from engaging or participating in an activity that promotes, supports sympathy for, or a change of public opinion”

The bill also imposes a duty on individuals to report any homosexual acts they become aware of, leading to concerns about potential witch-hunts and widespread targeting of LGBTQ+ individuals. The legislation is currently under review by a parliamentary committee, and its fate will ultimately be determined by President Nana Akufo-Addo.

How a bill becomes law

A bill must pass through a complex process overseen by the presidency and parliamentary processes to become law in Ghana. The terms of the proposed law are carefully evaluated for constitutionality, viability, and compatibility with national interests during committee reviews and parliamentary discussions. After these discussions, the bill will await presidential approval, during which the president will evaluate its merits and implications for the country.

The image depicts the stages a bill passes through to become law in Ghana
The image depicts the stages a bill passes through to become law in Ghana

The Bill is presently in the consideration stage

Currently, the bill is in the consideration stage undergoing review by a parliamentary committee in Ghana. Once the committee completes its review, the bill will be sent back to Members of Parliament for potential amendments before proceeding to a third reading in parliament before the president’s assent. Ultimately, the fate of the bill will be determined by President Nana Akufo-Addo, who will have the authority to either give assent to the bill, send it back to parliament for further consideration, or reject it altogether.

President Nana Akufo-Addo’s take on LGBTQ+

In March 2023, President Nana Akufo-Addo shared that “substantial elements” of a strict anti-LGBTQ bill under review by Ghana’s parliament had been altered following government intervention. This revelation came during a press conference held jointly with US Vice President Kamala Harris, who visited Ghana. President Akufo-Addo clarified that the proposed legislation, which claims to uphold “family values,” was not initiated by his administration but rather introduced as a private members’ bill in August 2021.

“The bill is currently undergoing parliamentary review. The attorney general has deemed it necessary to engage with the constitutional and legal committee of parliament to assess the constitutionality of various provisions within it. Parliament is actively addressing the matter. Once the process concludes, I will provide further input,” he stated.

As the bill undergoes parliamentary review and awaits presidential assent, the fate of LGBTQ+ rights in Ghana hangs in the balance, with advocates and activists continuing to voice their opposition and call for greater tolerance and acceptance.