Ghana passes sweeping bill making identifying as LGBTQ+ or campaigning for queer rights illegal

The parliament in Ghana has passed a new bill which makes identifying as LGBTQ+ or campaigning for queer rights illegal. 

For anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+, the extreme new bill called the Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill would impose a prison sentence of up to three years. For those who organise or fund LGBTQ+ groups, the maximum prison sentence would be five years. 

The bill would also impose a prison term of up to 10 years for anyone involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy campaigns aimed at minors. 

Lawmakers refused attempts to replace jail time with community service and counselling for the proposed bill. 

The bill has been supported by two major political parties, and will only come into effect if President Nana Akufo-Addo signs it into law. The President previously said he would go ahead with the bill if most Ghanaians wanted it to be signed into law. 

The bill also encourages members of the public to report those they believe are in the LGBTQ+ community to the authorities for “necessary action”.

Activists are now worried that there will be searches for members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies, with fears they will need to go into hiding if the bill is signed into law.

Winnie Byanyima, the UNAIDS executive director, said about the bill: “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.”

Byanyima said that it would “obstruct access to life-saving services” and “jeopardize Ghana’s developmental success”. She also added that the bill would be a barrier to ending AIDS in the country.

Last month, Amnesty International expressed concerns over the bill, warning that it would “pose significant threats to the fundamental rights and freedoms” of LGBTQ+ people.

MPs said that the bill was drafted as a response to the country opening its first LGBTQ+ community centre in the capital of Accra in January 2021.

Police closed down the centre after public protests and pressure from religious groups in the country which is largely Christian. 

The Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council said at the time in a 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”.

Engaging in gay sex is already against the law in Ghana, with the law carrying a three-year prison sentence.