Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ + bill is blamed for increasing attacks

Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ + bill is blamed for increasing attacks

Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ + bill is blamed for increasing attacks

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Francis Kokoroko / Reuters

“Since the bill came out, we have seen a sharp rise in many types of violence,” says Leila, a queer activist in Ghana, describing the impact of a radical anti-LGBTQ + draft law presented to parliament a year ago. “Attacks by individuals, by communities. We are also seeing a big increase in ‘corrective rape’. “

She describes a recent case she worked on in which three women in their thirties were raped and robbed by six men. In another incident, a 15-year-old girl was raped by men who said the girl was a lesbian. Many rapes go unreported, as they are committed by family members or people within their own community.

“Just the introduction of the bill meant that many ignorant people in the country behave as if it had been approved,” he says. “And people see how to give permission that LGBTQ + people now have to be killed, to be mistreated, to be stopped in any way they want.”

The “anti-LGBT bill” presented in Ghana last August and currently being examined by a parliamentary committee, would be one of the toughest and most radical laws in Africa.

The current draft bill, proposed by opposition lawmakers and publicly backed by government officials of President Nana Akufo-Addo and the ruling New Patriotic party, criminalizes gay and queer acts or identification as an LGBTQ + person, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

It also criminalizes any form of defense of LGBTQ + people with up to 10 years in prison. Anyone hosting groups of lawyers or meetings on their premises or website would also be liable to criminal prosecution. Anyone who witnesses or is aware of acts considered criminal in the bill would also be forced to report them, according to the bill.

There was a party where 30 people were arrested for being gay. They were arrested and extorted by the police. It’s the kind of thing we see often

Alex Donkor, LGBT + Ghana rights

Activists described the bill as an attempt to extinguish and erase gay and queer identity in Ghana and create conditions for greater vigilance and targeting sexual minorities. The “disguise” would also be prosecuted. Intersex people would be guided by the state to undergo corrective surgery, according to the current bill.

The constitutional review committee that will review the bill is expected to recommend amendments in the coming weeks, so not all of the bill’s clauses may remain as they are. But the current content of the large bill sent a signal to Ghana. Public hysteria about LGBTQ + people and those who stand up for their rights has become intense over the past 18 months.

In February last year, a community center that offers gay and queer support and a meeting place for them was forced to close due to attacks from politicians, civil and religious groups and the media. While it wasn’t the first convenience of its kind, it was the highest profile, as it was announced without the customary discretion that LGBTQ + rights groups typically use to operate in Ghana.

The presence of foreign and European diplomats at the opening of the center was also seen as provocative as it is often claimed that gay and queer identity is contrary to African culture and is being promoted by the West.

Alex Donkor, who founded the LGBT + Rights Ghana group, which opened the center, said reported attacks have increased, especially outside Accra, with regular raids on suspected gatherings of LGBTQ + people.

“There was a party last month where 30 people were arrested for being gay; they were arrested and extorted by the police, ”she says. “It’s just one example of the kind of things we see often.”

Leila was among the 21 people arrested last March in the city of Ho, during a training event for paralegals who help minorities. They were detained for months, with some subjected to abuse by officers before being released.

“It’s been over a year, but I’m still struggling to pick up the pieces of my life,” he says. “We went out, then we got hit with the anti-LBGTQ + bill and it seems like my life is on hiatus. If you are a queer person, it is as if the account were to cancel your existence. “

The parliamentary review committee has held public hearings since late last year, by groups in favor of and against the bill.

Rita Nketiah, a women’s rights and LGBTQ + researcher at Human Rights Watch, says that while the bill is expected to pass, hearings have been important in shaping the look of the bill.

“It has given advocacy groups a rare opportunity to present their case openly and directly to parliament,” he says.

Related: Arrested, mistreated and accused: wave of repression targets LGBT + Ghanaians

“It has been made clear by the parliamentary review committee that the bill itself will not be stopped, but what is under discussion is the content of the bill. They want to make sure it stands the test of time. “

The bill showed parliamentarians ignorance of gender and sexuality issues, including intersex people, whose vulnerability has become sharper over the past year.

Last year, Ho’s police arrested an intersex woman, stripped her in public at the police station, and questioned her gender. The agents accused her of denying she was a man, then held her in male cells and encouraged the men in the cell to “violate her as she claims to be a woman, and that perhaps this would clear her doubts from her mind. sick of her “.

Sam George, an MP and prominent supporter of the anti-LGBTQ + bill in the Ghanaian media, defended the bill and the state’s right to force intersex people to undergo corrective surgery.

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