Why must defenders of human rights in Ghana and Africa as a whole be threatened and attacked for standing up against extreme violence and discrimination against children, women, and people with different sexual orientations?
States have a responsibility to promote an environment where civil society, activists, and media practitioners can operate freely. Where defenders’ rights to civil and political participation are respected and everybody can enjoy their human rights.
That responsibility includes repealing discriminatory laws and policies that put Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) defenders at risk and not persecuting defenders doing their legitimate human rights work.
Ghana is governed by law, and the state is a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, hence the need to respect the rights of individuals, including minority groups, women, and children, by political actors.
The impunity with which people attack fellow human beings expressing their inalienable rights and the persistent stigmatisation of such minority groups is not the way to go as a country which claims to be practicing democracy.
The situation, undoubtedly, creates a conducive environment for vile attacks on LGBT defenders, who are among other marginalised groups, including refugees and migrants’ rights defenders and defenders of sexual abuse survivors.
Restrictions on movement limit security options for defenders, who are often living and working in hostile environments. Countries, particularly Ghana’s human rights defenders, peacefully fighting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in different ways are subjected to all sorts of attacks and threats.
I hope my beloved country, Ghana, will take steps to check open hatred and incessant verbal attacks on human rights activists to prevent the situation from degenerating into physical attacks, arbitrarily arrest, detention, and ransacking of homes and offices of LGBTQ groups as it is happening elsewhere.
It also means establishing and properly resourcing protection programmes and focal points within governments and other institutions to protect defenders, with specific awareness and education programmes tailored to the needs of homosexual rights defenders.
Religious beliefs and cultural norms are often raised as reasons for attacking both defenders and the LGBT community, especially in Ghana, yet LGBT and gender diverse persons have always been valued members of faith and cultural traditions around the world.
It is disheartening that extremist Muslims and Christians have formed pressure groups to threaten and attack human rights defenders of LGBTQ persons. Let all join hands to halt incessant discrimination against LGBTI people and also name and shame security operatives who went and closed the recently inaugurated office of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, a non-profit organisation.
On May 20, 2022, police arrested 21 LGBTI activists for what they described as unlawful assembly during a training session. They were released on bail in June, and their charges were dismissed on August 5.
Subsequently, the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill was introduced in parliament in June in the form of a private member-sponsored bill. The goal is to further criminalise LGBTI people and introduce prison sentences for anyone expressing support or “sympathy” towards LGBTI people.
This repressive legislation, which appears to have received overwhelming support from the religious community, is a blow to Ghana’s reputation as the beacon of democracy in Africa.