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Put human rights first: Ghana’s parliament must reject repressive anti-LGBTQ+ bill

The Ghanaian government must protect the safety and existence of LGBTQ+ people, and immediately reject the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021. Read Access Now and and civil society partners’ joint open letter to the government of Ghana.

The bill, backed by a local conservative organization with ties to U.S. anti-LGBTQ+ lobby groups, has been described by leading human rights experts “to constitute an immediate and fundamental breach of Ghana’s obligations under human rights law.” It seeks to not only criminalize the existence of LGBTQ+ people, but also ban LGBTQ+ content, prohibit advocacy online, and impose liability on social media companies for the content posted on their platforms. 

These kinds of ‘family’ or ‘moral’ values laws — like the dangerous one civil society is protesting in Ghana — have nothing to do with protection, they are the continuation of a colonial legacy that categorizes consensual intimacy between LGBTQ+ people as deviant in order to further entrench systemic oppression. Ghana’s new bill legitimizes harmful tropes that portray queer people as predators, and encourages the public to surveil behavior that does not conform with conservative beliefs of gender and sexuality. Ghana’s parliamentarians must redirect their focus to safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ+ people online and off. Jaimee Kokonya, Africa Campaigner at Access Now

The draftees claim this legislation is necessary for the protection of public morality, but it will worsen the dangers LGBTQ+ people already experience such as disinformation campaigns and discriminatory device searches. The creation of this repressive environment will isolate LGBTQ+ people from networks of support and conceal the violations that they experience. Human rights activists have reported that threats against the LGBTQ+ community have worsened since the tabling of the bill. 

The digital sphere has enabled LGBTQ+ people in Ghana to build community, advocate for ourselves, and keep each other safe. Restricting access to critical information will interfere with our ability to hold the government accountable to its obligations to protect and promote human rights. It is unfathomable to imagine that people at-risk will be left without support or safeguards in such a hostile environment. a spokesperson from Rightify Ghana

The bill, which was tabled in July, 2021, will reportedly undergo its second reading soon. Access Now and civil society partners demand that: 

  • The Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs recommend that the Parliament of Ghana reject the bill in its entirety; 
  • The Parliament of Ghana reject the bill in its entirety;
  • The Attorney General revise his position on Clauses 12 and 13 of the bill that ban LGBTQ+ content on social media, and recommend that the Parliament reject the bill in totality; and 
  • The parliament vote to repeal Section 104 (2) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, which criminalizes “same sex acts” and could facilitate police phone seizures. 

Read the joint open letter.