The bill, officially known as the ‘Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill’ 2021, seeks to impose a penalty of up to five years imprisonment for being LGBTI+ and a penalty of up to ten years imprisonment for anyone who engages in advocacy for LGBTI+ equality. It also places a positive obligation on everyone in Ghana to report any conduct perceived to be of an ‘LGBTI nature’ to the police, or to a list of people in the community in the absence of the police. The proposed law also advocates for so-called conversion therapy, a harmful and discredited practice that claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
A group of UN experts have described the bill as representative of “a system of State-sponsored discrimination and violence of such magnitude that its adoption […] would appear to constitute an immediate and fundamental breach of the State’s obligations under international human rights law.”
In the statement, O’Casey said,
“This proposed law is hateful and violates some of the most fundamental human rights, including freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and prohibition of torture. It is an affront to privacy, non-discrimination and human dignity, and in complete contravention to the ICCPR, to which Ghana is party. We urge this Council to support UN Special Procedures in calling on Ghana’s government “to take all measures necessary to withdraw the proposed Bill from consideration,” and to investigate the actions of those behind a Bill grounded in such hate and intolerance.”
The bill was tabled by a Coalition of MPs with the support of the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values, a tripartite movement that, according to one of its Executive Members, Dr Samuel Ofori Onwona, embraces all Christian Councils, all Muslim Councils and all Traditional Leaders in Ghana. The Coalition of Muslim Organisations, Ghana (COMOG), has openly backed the bill.
In her UN statement, O’Casey noted that,
“Whilst the Bill seeks to restrict the global circulation of information that its authors allege embolden LGBTI+ activists; it ignores the notable role of global religious advocacy organisations who export anti-rights extremism to Ghana, giving legitimacy to anti-LGBTI+ movements there, such as the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family, and promulgate the falsehood that LGBTI+ rights are a threat to freedom of religion or belief.”
In 2019, Accra was the chosen location for a two-day regional meeting hosted by the World Congress of Families (WFC), a group responsible for the promotion of extreme anti-LGBTI+ and anti-abortion rhetoric around the world. The WCF was added to the list of organizations designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-LGBTI+ hate groups in February 2014 for its involvement with the 2013 Russian LGBT propaganda law and opposing LGBTI+ rights internationally. It has been also found it have ties with far right activists.
In response to the proposed law, Roslyn Mould, Humanists International Board member, and former president of Humanist Association of Ghana, commented:
“The current Anti-LGBTI bill before the Ghanaian Parliament dubbed ‘Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021’ is a hate bill under the guise of Freedom of Religion and Belief and influenced by Far right Christian Fundamentalists from the USA. This Bill is an affront to Ghana’s democracy and seeks to increase the abuse and discrimination against the LGBTI+ Community and to silence Allies and Activists who have been working to protect the universal Human rights of LGBTI+ people in Ghana not limited to but including the violation of the rights to freedom of Expression and Association, their rights to education, housing and healthcare. The Bill will set Ghana back from achieving its SDGs on Human Rights and FoRB and puts every Ghanaian at risk. We call on the International Community to help us to kill this Bill (#KilltheBill). “
After a first reading in August, Ghana’s Parliament is expected to consider the Bill for adoption in October 2021. It is currently being considered by the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Currently, under Ghana’s Criminal Code, consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized. LGBTI+ people are also subjected to hate speech and threats, and live in a climate of fear, hostility and intolerance.