Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Gay Ghanians to tell Commonwealth Heads of Government what they need

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The Gay Ghana Online Community has been invited by the Royal Commonwealth Society, an international education charity based in London, to contribute with a paper to their project "the Commonwealth Conversation", a series of online consultations and discussions about what the Commonwealth is doing right and wrong or should or could be doing in the future; the results of which will be presented to the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in Trinidad November 27-29.

Member 'Hitman61' drafted some issues which were for scrutiny and discussion by the members before submitting it to the organisers of the Society.



The main stumbling blocks to the normalisation of homosexual behaviour in Ghana is its illegality and public opinion. British colonial law is still in effect and, although it does not mention homosexuality, it is usually applied to that behaviour. Criminal Code 1960- Chapter 6, Sexual Offences Article 105 reads as follows: Whoever is guilty of unnatural carnal knowledge— (a) of any person without his consent, is guilty of first degree felony; (b) of any person with his consent, or of any animal, is guilty of a misdemeanour The explicitly biblical terms of the law – “unnatural carnal knowledge” - also highlights the negative role of the Ghanaian form of Christianity.


We believe that a change in the law is the key which will allow further development. In reality, the law is rarely used but if the status quo was threatened it surely would be. Presently, it mainly serves as a symbolic condemnation and keeps people underground and fearful of the consequences if challenges were made.


The state does not intervene in every aspect of the lives of its citizens in the same way as in Europe. Where there are laws they are not always enforced. Strong public opinion plays the main role in maintaining norms. Public opinion is the first barrier that people who have same-sex relationships have to deal with. Public opinion uses a series of themes to back up its misinformed opinion – culture, religion and a misunderstanding of biology. The ultimate sanction is ostracism. When your family and community is often your only means of support, this is a serious affair. However, in big cities such as Accra this system is starting to break down. As in other countries, women who engage in homosexual activity are considered non-existent.
Areas for Intervention

If the commonwealth was to have a role in intervening in this issue it could play a number of supporting roles. The following categories play an important role in the public discourse around this issue and the commonwealth could intervene in each of these areas:


This includes the self-denial that homosexual behaviour has ever been a part of traditional Ghanaian culture. Following this logic, if homosexuality was not part of Ghanaian culture it must have been imported.


A fundamentalist, literal interpretation of Christianity has led to the idea that homosexuality is a sin and could also be caused by possession of evil spirits. Stemming from this is the idea that homosexual behaviour is against the natural order, is physically dangerous and a psychological disorder. There is also the negative role of American fundamentalist Christianity that is being imported into Ghana and is supporting these views.

The need for education

The general public has no information or understanding about this issue. This is because their mis-information comes from the media and pastors. We therefore propose that the following groups should be worked with in order to inform them of the issues:

1. Journalists and broadcasters
2. Pastors
3. Judges
4. Government ministers
5. Police and army
6. Teachers and university lecturers
7. Doctors and nurses


We also propose the following roadmap strategies:

1 A study to show how Commonwealth countries can improve the rights of people - men and women - involved in homosexual activity.

* It should focus on those Commonwealth countries which have worked to protect their human rights over the last 10 years.

* The roadmap may suggest Commonwealth support to fund legal challenges in the courts, where discriminatory and oppressive laws remain in force.

2 To showcase the model laws in Commonwealth countries that have removed all forms of discrimination and introduced legal recognition of the rights of their citizens regardless of sexual behaviour.

3 To produce a human rights track record of each Commonwealth country over the last 10 years showing how its human rights have improved.

* A league table should be prepared ranking the best to worst records.


The table should serve as the basis for ethical investors who wish to reward Commonwealth countries that respect the rights of their LGBT citizens.

Potential Problems

The visible face of gay in Ghana is the effeminate homosexual which threatens the notion of family, tradition and masculinity in its challenge to social normality. As the only visible model this can also be problematic although should not be stigmatised by us.

With the commonwealth becoming involved, there is a danger that the opposition will see (in their eyes) another attempt to import homosexuality.

There is also the danger of imposing a Western view of (homo)sexuality. The North American model of homosexuality is persuasive as it is the most vocal and visible and helps when applying for funding. Ghanaians, however, should also be challenged by the Institute to develop models according to their local culture and not simply mimic the language and identity politics of the West.
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