Ghana’s Anti-LGBTQ Law Could “Legitimize Prejudice,” Experts Warn


The Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, introduced to Ghana’s national legislature, was passed in a unanimous vote by lawmakers on Wednesday. If adopted, the law will effectively ban LGBTQ identities.

Described by ABC News as one of the “harshest of its kind in Africa,” if the bill is signed into law, prison sentences for homosexuality will increase, and new sentences will be imposed for people advocating for LGBTQ rights.

LGBTQ sexual acts have been criminalized in the West African nation since the 1860s, when Ghana was under British colonial rule, influenced by Christian mores of the Victorian era towards sexuality. Currently, convictions of LGBTQ sexual acts carry a prison sentence of up to three years in Ghana, but would increase to five years under the new law, according to CBS News.

The United States said it was “deeply troubled” by the law’s passage in a statement on Wednesday. “The United States echoes the call by those Ghanaians who have urged a review of the constitutionality of the bill to protect the rights of all individuals in Ghana,” the U.S. State Department said in the statement.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called for the bill to not become a law in a statement on Wednesday, calling its passage in parliament “profoundly disturbing.”

“There is extensive evidence that [criminal sanctions] legitimize prejudice, expose people to hate crime, police abuse, harassment, intimidation, blackmail and torture,” Türk continued in the statement. “They also perpetuate discrimination and denial of access to basic services, including in healthcare, education and housing,” he added.

In response to the passage of the bill in Ghana’s parliament, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said in a statement, “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.”

If the bill is signed into law, Byanyima continued, “it will obstruct access to life-saving services, undercut social protection, and jeopardize Ghana’s development success. Evidence shows that punitive laws like this Bill are a barrier to ending AIDS, and ultimately undermine everyone’s health.”

Per Reuters, following the vote in parliament, the bill will move to the desk of Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo after which he has seven days to assent or refuse to assent in accordance with Ghana’s constitution.

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Tags: ghana, lgbtq rights

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