Ghana’s top police officer issues chilling threat of more attacks on LGBT+ rights

Ghana police tank

Ghana’s inspector general has threatened to further curb gay and lesbian practices and queer groups following the closure of an LGBT+ group’s office.

James Oppong-Boanuh, inspector general of police in Ghana, said so long as the country’s anti-LGBT+ laws “remain in our statute books” then the police will “enforce it”.

Ghanaian authorities have faced global condemnation after police forcibly closed the offices of LGBT+ Rights Ghana on February 24, putting a spotlight on the oppression of the country’s queer community.

There are no laws protecting LGBT+ individuals from discrimination in Ghana, and gay sex is illegal.

Oppong-Boanuh warned that anyone found to have infringed on the law would be swiftly dealt with, according to Ghanian news website Pulse.

“If the people of Ghana decide that we are going to legitimise and take it off our books, we are OK with it; but until that is done we will ensure that the laws are complied with,” he added.

Section 104 of the criminal code of Ghana criminalises “unnatural carnal knowledge”.

The law distinguishes between non-consensual sexual intercourse in an “unnatural matter”. The former is a “first-degree felony”, and the later is a “misdemeanour”. Under the criminal code, a misdemeanour carries a penalty of up to three years imprisonment.

The law is only applicable to sexual intercourse between men, according to the Human Dignity Trust.

Human Rights Watch reported in January 2018 that they were not aware of any prosecutions under section 104, but they were aware of instances in which police had arrested individuals suspected of being homosexual.

Ghana LGBT+ office stormed by police

Alex Kofi Donkor set up the LGBT+ Rights Ghana office on 31 January, but national security forces stormed in and forcibly closed the premises on 24 February.

He told Reuters that he did not expect “such an uproar” when the organisation was set up in January, adding that the “anti-gay hateful reaction” to the group “has been unprecedented”. He now fears for his safety.

On Monday (1 March), 67 Brits of Ghanaian heritage signed a letter condemning the treatment of Ghana’s LGBT+ community. Idris Elba, Naomi Campbell, Edward Enninful and more said they stood in solitary with the nation’s queer people.

Black Lives Matter UK (BLM UK)also issued a statement standing with “all oppressed queer and transgender people across Africa and the world”. It said  that an “attack on the LGBT+ community in Ghana is an attack against all of us”.

“We want our courageous Ghanaian family to know that we are with you,” BLM UK said in a statement. “Your struggle is our struggle.”

BLM UK refuted any assertion that the “struggle for queer liberation” in Ghana is a “foreign import”, pointing out that British colonialists “outlawed our heritage and rights in 1860”.