Bishops in Ghana condemn harrowing anti-LGBT+ bill for being too severe: ‘We must show love’
In a blistering joint attack, Ghana’s Anglican bishops have condemned a roughshod anti-LGBT+ bill following an intervention by British archbishops.
The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in Ghana said Friday (28 January) that the draft Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill is too “severe”.
Ghanaian archbishop Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith pleaded for lawmakers to “review” the legislation that the church fears will be used as a warrant to “assault” queer Ghanaians.
But such unprecedented assaults are already happening, LGBT+ activists warned to PinkNews.
Rightify Ghana said that the bill, which would make it a crime to simply advocate for LGBT+ rights, has already incited a rise in homophobic violence.
LGBT+ Ghanaians, the group said, are not simply living in a state of emergency – they are living in imminent danger.
Ghana’s bishops urge people to show LGBT+ community ‘love’
In a statement on behalf of the church signed by Ben-Smith, bishops said that the “criminalisation of sections of the bill are severe and must be reviewed”.
“We agreed that, though human dignity is always dominant, LGBTQI+ activities are frowned upon by the Ghanaian ethnicity and therefore, traditions, values, cultural and social frameworks must not also only be regarded but, respected and appreciated,” the statement said according to the Church Times.
“Nevertheless, Ghanaian citizens must not use the bill as an avenue to assault persons with homosexual orientation but show love to them as the Church of Jesus Christ is called to demonstrate the love of God by protecting all vulnerable people and groups.
“Acts of harassment, intimidation and hostilities against LGBTQ+ people should be condemned.”
It added: “We further agree that the criminalisation of sections of the bill are severe and must be reviewed. Rather we propose a transformational agenda.
“Generally, we, as a Church in Ghana, seek to strengthen Ghanaian family life by promoting Human Sexual Rights that is supported and accepted by Ghanaian family values.”
It’s a stunning about-face for the Anglican Church of Ghana, where leaders had previously signalled support for the so-called Family Values Bill, prompting international outcry.
Amid November reports claimed that the church as a whole supported the bill, Justin Welby, the symbolic head of Anglicans worldwide, denounced the Anglican Church of Ghana in November before apologising for “failing” to talk to church leaders first.
He later told the General Synod said the Anglican Church of Ghana, while it does not support marriage equality, does not condone the criminalisation of the LGBT+ community.
The measure would introduce a raft of harsher penalties for being or supporting LGBT+ people than under current law, which already considers homosexuality a crime.
Sex toys, anal intercourse, trans healthcare and queer allyship are among the things that the wide-ranging bill would threaten with three to five years in prison.
Public hearings have now begun for the bill, allowing both sides to have their say at a time when even Nana Afuko-Addo, Ghana’s president who has long bristled at LGBT+ rights, has called for a “tolerance“.
Activists welcome ‘first step’ from Anglican church: ‘I want to see action’
Its supporters, often among a powerful cadre of conservative leaders and lobbyists, have even described their hopes for state-sanctioned conversion therapy. Hoping that, if passed, the law will allow for queer Ghanaians to be hunted down and forced to undergo treatment.
Activists have framed the measure as a matter of life or death for queer people. Fearful of what the bill’s ratification would mean for a community long familiar with daily threats to their wellbeing.
Many were wary of Ghana’s bishops joining the bill’s nationalist and conservative political supporters. Davis Mac-Iyalla, the executive director of Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa, which represents queer believers, cautiously welcomed the church’s support.
“But we think the statement should have come earlier, rather than now,” he told PinkNews.
“Bishops in Ghana, many of them have not even met an LGBT+ person, so the statement is welcome.”
On bishops seemingly backtracking on their support for the bill, Mac-Iyalla said the “damage and the pain” caused by such support “is still out there”.
“We take this as a first step,” he added, “but we want the bishops to meet LGBT+ people that they are talking about.
“I want to see action. I want to see them match their words with action in protecting the dignity and human rights of all LGBT+ people and their allies.”
“It is only human to sit down and read the entire bill and begin to understand how incredibly terrifying and dangerous it is,” Rightify Ghana said in a statement to PinkNews.
“Even Jesus Christ was an activist. Jesus supported and prayed for the weak, the vulnerable and the poor. We encourage the bishops to be like Jesus who showed love but not hate.”
“Being LGBTQ doesn’t mean people have lost their faith,” the group added.
“People can easily change their faith or church but – you can’t say the same for their sexual orientation.”
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