Ghana Passes Bill Criminalizing LGBTQ+ Identification, Punishable by Up to Three Years in Prison


Ghana’s parliament has approved a stringent new bill that mandates a maximum prison sentence of three years for individuals found guilty of self-identifying as LGBTQ+.

Ghanaian lawmakers have passed a bill that criminalizes identifying as LGBTQ+ and forming or funding LGBTQ+ groups, imposing a maximum jail term of five years. Attempts to replace prison sentences with community service and counselling were thwarted amidst heckling from legislators. This move underscores a growing opposition to LGBTQ+ rights in the conservative West African nation.

The bill, supported by Ghana’s major political parties, awaits President Nana Akufo-Addo’s signature to become law, contingent upon majority public support. Ghana already prohibits gay sex with a three-year prison sentence.

Last month, Amnesty International warned of significant threats to LGBTQ+ rights posed by the bill, while activists fear potential witch-hunts and the need for members of the LGBTQ+ community to go into hiding.

Winnie Byanyima, head of the UN body tackling AIDS, expressed concerns about exacerbating fear and violence, obstructing access to services, and impeding Ghana’s development success if the bill becomes law.

The legislation proposes up to 10 years in jail for LGBTQ+ advocacy targeting children and encourages public reporting of LGBTQ+ individuals for “necessary action”.

Lawmakers cited the opening of Ghana’s first LGBTQ+ community centre in Accra in January 2021 as motivation for the bill. The centre was shut down by police following public protests and pressure from religious and traditional leaders.

The approved bill represents a diluted version of an earlier draft, with reduced jail terms and the removal of a controversial clause on conversion therapy. During the debate, there were calls for further amendments, including a suggestion for secret ballots to determine sentencing options for LGBTQ+ individuals. However, proponents of prison sentences prevailed amidst parliamentary discord.

The passage of the bill reflects Ghana’s conservative stance on LGBTQ+ issues and underscores broader societal and political attitudes towards sexual orientation and gender identity in the country.

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