Ghana’s parliament passes controversial new anti-LGBTQ bill

ABC News

LONDON — Ghana’s parliament has passed a controversial new anti-LGBTQ bill following months of debate that could make it illegal to identify as a citizen of the LGBTQ in the West African nation.

The bill — named the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill — was passed by the national legislature on Wednesday in a unanimous vote by lawmakers.

The proposed law which was sent to ABC News states that it aims to “provide for proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values.”

It now awaits being signed into law by Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo.

The bill is one of the harshest of its kind in Africa and, if signed into law, it could see people who identify as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, nonbinary, queer … or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female” sentenced to up to three years in prison.

Those found guilty of the “promotion, sponsorship or support of LGBTQ+ activities” could also face a prison sentence of up to five years in prison.

Gay sexual acts are already illegal in the West African nation and being convicted of the crime carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has condemned the passage of the bill, calling for it not to become law.

“The bill broadens the scope of criminal sanctions against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transexual and queer people – simply for being who they are,” said Türk in response to the proposed bill. “I call for the bill not to become law. I urge the Ghanaian government to take steps to ensure everyone can live free from violence, stigma, and discrimination, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Consensual same-sex conduct should never be criminalized.”

The Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill was first introduced to parliament in 2021 following a wave of anti-LGBTQ sentiments after the opening of Ghana’s first LGBTQ+ community center.

“We did not expect such an uproar,” Alex Kofi Donkor, director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which hosted an opening event in Ghana’s capital city of Accra told Reuters in 2021.

“We expected some homophobic organizations would use the opportunity to exploit the situation and stoke tension against the community, but the anti-gay hateful reaction has been unprecedented,” Donkor said.

A total of 31 of Africa’s 54 countries criminalize homosexuality and the passage of Ghana’s bill follows Uganda’s passage of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2023.

The United States has said it is “deeply troubled” by the passage of the bill, saying it poses a threat to “Ghanaian’s constitutionally protected freedoms of speech, press and assembly.”

“Ghana’s tradition of tolerance, peace, and respect for human rights is a source of stability and prosperity that has long served as a model for countries around the globe. This legislation is inconsistent with these values and will, if it becomes law, undermine this laudable tradition,” the U.S. State Department said.

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