Ghana passes bill making identifying as LGBTQ+ illegal


Ghana passes bill making identifying as LGBTQ+ illegal

Ghana's parliament has passed a tough new bill that imposes a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone convicted of identifying as LGBTQ+.

It also imposes a maximum five-year jail term for forming or funding LGBTQ+ groups.

Lawmakers heckled down attempts to replace prison sentences with community service and counselling.

It is the latest sign of growing opposition to LGBTQ+ rights in the conservative West African nation.

The bill, which had the backing of Ghana's two major political parties, will come into effect only if President Nana Akufo-Addo signs it into law.

He previously said that he would do so if the majority of Ghanaians want him to.

Gay sex is already against the law in Ghana - it carries a three-year prison sentence.

Last month Amnesty International warned that the bill "poses significant threats to the fundamental rights and freedoms" of LGBTQ+ people.

Activists fear there will now be witch-hunts against members of the LGBTQ+ community and those who campaign for their rights, and say some will have to go into hiding.

This was echoed by the head of the UN body tackling Aids, Winnie Byanyima, who said: "If Human Sexual rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill becomes a law, it will exacerbate fear and hatred, could incite violence against fellow Ghanaian citizens, and will negatively impact on free speech, freedom of movement and freedom of association."

She added that it would "obstruct access to life-saving services" and "jeopardise Ghana's development success".

The bill proposes a jail term of up to 10 years for anyone involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy campaigns aimed at children

It also encourages the public to report members of the LGBTQ+ community to authorities for "necessary action".

MPs said the bill was drafted in response to the opening of Ghana's first LGBTQ+ community centre in the capital, Accra, in January 2021.

Police shut the centre following public protests, and pressure from religious bodies and traditional leaders in the largely Christian nation.

At the time, the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council said in a joint statement that being LGBTQ+ was "alien to the Ghanaian culture and family value system and, as such, the citizens of this nation cannot accept it".

The bill approved by lawmakers is a watered-down version of an earlier draft - for instance, jail terms have been shortened and a controversial clause on conversion therapy has been removed.

During the days-long debate, the deputy parliamentary leader of the governing party, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, suggested further changes.

He said lawmakers should decide, via a secret ballot, whether people convicted of being members of the LGBTQ+ community should be imprisoned by the courts or ordered to do community service and undergo counselling.

However, he was heckled into submission by lawmakers who supported prison sentences.

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