Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill

President Nana Akufo-Addo must reject Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill

Update — March 21, 2024: Human rights still hang in the balance, as authorities in Ghana continue to push through the dangerous Human Sexual Rights and Family Values  Bill, 2024only to be met with legal roadblocks. Since the bill’s passing, two suits have been filed at Ghana’s Supreme Court seeking to prevent the president from assenting to the bill. This action was supported by the Office of the President on 19 March through official correspondence instructing the clerk of Ghana’s parliament to wait until the Supreme Court decides on the suits challenging the legislation, only to be rejected by Members of Parliament. The president prioritizing the court’s consideration of the procedural faults in the bill’s legislative process is important, however, it must be noted that the bill also fails to meet human rights standards. Through an open letter, Access Now and 34 organizations are again calling on President Nana-Akuffo Addo to reject the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values  Bill, 2024, and protect #LGBTQ+ rights. 

Access Now condemns a move from the Ghanaian parliament to pass the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill on 28 February, a regressive law aiming to criminalize the very existence of LGBTQ+ people in Ghana — online and off — and calls on President Nana Akufo-Addo to immediately reject it. This bill, introduced in July 2021, is the second anti-LGBTQ+ legislation to be passed in the region, following Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in May 2023. Since its enactment, civil society organizations in Uganda have reported over 200 cases of violations of LGBTQ+ rights. 

By enacting the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, the Ghanaian government would shirk its responsibility to protect and advance human rights for all. The drafters of the bill have claimed that this legislation is necessary for the protection of public morality, putting at risk among other rights the freedom of expression and freedom of association. This will have a detrimental and direct effect on how people, including human rights activists, engage online. Jaimee Kokonya, Africa Campaigner at Access Now

Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) warned that the bill “has the tendency to worsen the already precarious human rights conditions of LGBTQ+ persons as a minority group including stifling freedom of expression of human rights defenders guaranteed under the Constitution.” Activists have expressed fears of increased crackdowns once the bill is signed into law as Clauses 13 and 14 seek to outlaw organizations engaging in LGBTQ+ advocacy both online and off — a direct threat to freedom of association. In May 2021, 21 LGBTQ+ activists were arrested following a police raid on a paralegal training workshop they were facilitating. 

Access Now, Rightify Ghana, and 16 other civil society organizations previously warned that the legislation imperils freedom of expression, the right to privacy, and protection against incitement to violence. People advocating for LGBTQ+ rights on social media will be at risk of imprisonment for the offense of promoting a “change in public opinion towards prohibited acts.” This could range from fact-checking anti-LGBTQ+ disinformation, non-conforming expressions of gender identity, to public displays of affection between people of the same sex. Human rights defenders in Ghana have further cautioned that these restrictions will gravely impact press freedom. 

The Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill’s clampdown on access to information and freedom of expression will directly impede LGBTQ+ people in Ghana from accessing vital resources, particularly on digital safety, which has been crucial in preventing cases of entrapment, extortion, and assault. In a context where bad faith actors exploit the growing intolerance to target LGBTQ+ people online using tactics such as entrapment and cyber-harassment, stifling advocacy and press freedom. This bill will only serve to put people in danger and the president must reject it. A spokesperson from Rightify Ghana

Despite continuous warnings from human rights experts, civil society organizations, and private companies, members of parliament have opted to pass this oppressive law. Access Now joins human rights defenders in Ghana in urging President Nana Akufo-Addo to uphold Ghana’s obligations to protect and promote human rights by rejecting the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill.