This month is Pride Month, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride month offers an opportunity to raise awareness around the current issues, to peacefully protest and to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
In Ghana the LGBTQ+ community face legal and societal challenges which their non-LGBT counterparts do not face. By law, section 104 (1) (b) of the Criminal Offences Act criminalises consensual same-sex sexual acts. The section mentions “unnatural carnal knowledge” which is later defined as “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal”. This law originates from British colonial rule over Ghana, but the vague imperial legacy has formed the foundation on which Ghanaian authorities have enforced the illegality of being LGBTQ+.
While there is no explicit law which says that being LGBTQ+ is illegal, section 104 criminalises a LGBTQ+ relationships, categorising same sex acts as “unnatural”. For queer Ghanaians being caught could lead to imprisonment for up to three years.
While this law may not lead to many prosecutions it has set the precedent for pervasive homophobia and anti-LGBT sentiments throughout Ghanaian society.
FIGHTING FOR CHANGE
In January Ghana’s first LGBTQ+ community centre was opened, yet after three weeks the centre had to close to protect it’s staff. The support centre received many social media attacks, with strong opposition from politicians and church organisations.
What is even more concerning is that since the shutting of the support centre Parliamentarian Samuel Nartey George and rumoured seven other MP’s attempted to pass a bill which banned LGBTQ+ advocacy entirely.
As a Reuters article quotes the government official wrote on Facebook “we owe it to ourselves and the people of Ghana to uphold that which us our identity as a people…may we fight against the scourge and perversion that homosexuality presents”.
Being, promoting and celebrating LGBTQ+ existence in Ghana is a difficult and brave task. While around the world Pride parades and parties are happening, while rainbow flags adorn streets, in Ghana it is a slightly different story.
This month, on the 11th of June Ghana released 16 women and 5 men from 22 days in detention after arresting them for simply attending a training session on paralegal human rights training. The arrest was justified on the grounds that the training was promoting homosexuality.
For a Ghanaian queer community, there is an atmosphere where the main institutions, the church, the government and the media are deliberately hostile towards their existence. The social environment built upon the back of an outdated law seems to sanctify the oppression, persecution and often violence towards LGBTQ+ people.
The presence of LGBTQ+ activism and the following arrests and suppressions serves as evidence for the limitations that this community faces in Ghana.
WHAT HAS CHILD EDUCATION GOT TO DO WITH THIS?
Education is the key to participating in wider conversations. The more children educated, the more voices that can contribute to and understand the issues around LGBTQ+ rights in Ghana.
The homophobia and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana is propped up and in many ways promoted by the three big institutions. The Church, the media and the Government. These work together to push a mis-education about queer sexualities and what the implications of their existence means.
While we can’t, at UppFutures, change the curriculum at schools, we can get more children into school institutions and expose them to another form of education outside of this big three. Getting children to meet more people, learn new things and expand their knowledge, we believe will be impactful beyond improving the local economy.
A school environment is a structured, regulated and considered setting. As the school curricula grows there is the growing possibility, especially with the rise of LGBTQ+ activism in Ghana, that eventually schools will promote sexuality education that includes the LGBTQ+ community. Having children in a managed environment means this information can be given to them, rather than allowing children to seek information elsewhere, from more biased sources.
UppFutures as a UK based charity that raises funds for our sister organisation in Ghana, wants to do our best to raise awareness around multiple issues affecting Ghana. It is only right that we too try to raise awareness around the LGBTQ+ rights fight in Ghana at the moment.
While our focus is on child education and supporting the local economy of Tamale, we believe that supporting communities for sustainable growth contributes to the wider development picture in Ghana.
Want to find out more about LGBTQ+ activism in Ghana?
Check out: https://www.silentmajorityghana.com/
Or follow @LGBTRightsGhana on Twitter