Violence and discrimination against LGBTI in Ghana: Towards equal protection of the law and non-discrimination for LGBTI people In Ghana

BY: Buatsi Redeemer
Buatsi Redeemer, the writer
Buatsi Redeemer, the writer

Introduction

In the age of globalization, where the world has become a smaller place, there is continuous dialogue for a world of equal opportunity, free trade and a world free from discrimination.

It has become a widely accepted norm, after several decades of advocacy, that human rights issues are as important as any other concept of nation building and development.

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Following this widely accepted norm, international organizations such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), made up of member countries from all over the world have come to a consensus and drawn some widely accepted instruments which should guide member states on equal protection of human rights.

These instruments as a means to an end, are not ends in themselves. In fact, member states are not under any compulsion to accept recommendations made at the United Nations Human Rights Council-Universal Periodic Review (UNHRC-UPR).

Member states are encouraged to subject recommendations to their various constitutions and specific regional and cultural situations. This is especially true for Ghana, which is noted for very strong religious and cultural sentiments.


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As part of Ghana's commitments towards ensuring non-violence and discrimination, Ghana accepted the United Nations Periodic Review recommendations 146.59, 146.60, 146.61, 146.62, 146.63, 146.64 and recommendation 146.65 freely, after carefully considering the implication of each recommendation.

Below are the specific recommendations:

146.59 "Take the steps necessary to protect lesbian, gay, bisexuals, Transgender and intersection persons from violence and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity".

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146.60 "Ensure that victims of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity has access to rehabilitation and remedy and that all perpetrators are punished".

146.61 "Take measures to fight against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

146.62 "Continue promoting gender equality through specific laws, plans and programs".

146.63 "Continue to implement the discrimination reporting system in order to tackle stigmatization and discrimination of the most vulnerable groups"

146.64 "Continue promoting economic and social sustainable development in order to lay a solid foundation for the enjoyment of human rights"

146.65 "Expedite the development of a concrete national implementation framework on human rights."

In essence, Ghana has pledged to take the necessary steps to ensure that it stays free from violence and discrimination against minority groups (especially LGBTI people). By accepting and appending its signature to the recommendations, Ghana is expected to ensure the
recommendations are implemented.

But a lot of cases of discrimination and violence against minority groups, especially LGBTI community have been recorded in Ghana since 2012.

In fact, within the last 5 years, there have been more than 200 reported cases of either discrimination or violence against LGBTI persons. In 2018 alone, there have been at least over 120 reported cases of violence/discrimination against LGBTI people in Ghana, the highest after the universal periodic review which was just a year on.

In January 2018, LGBTI Women in Ghana interviewed by human rights watch said they had been beaten, evicted from their homes and ostracized by their communities while many struggle to find employment and accommodation.

In mid-September Pearl, a suspected lesbian was called for a meeting by the district chief executive for some answering. She was physically abused when she denied being a lesbian.

Teresa 28, told human rights watch LGBTI people in Accra where she lives cannot get work. She said no one wants to give them jobs.

A lesbian couple said they were attacked by a mob in their village in the Ashanti region. (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jan/10/gay-women-greater-risk-of-violence-ghana)

A mob of young people in Tafo recently arrested two lesbians allegedly having fun in their own bedroom. The mob grabbed them from their room and tried lynching them but luckily a police patrol team managed to save them (http://www.ghanacelebrities.com/2018/02/13/mob-tafo-arrests-two-lesbians-attempt-lynch/).

A man believed to be in his early thirties was pitilessly beaten in Kumasi when he attempted to have sex with his male co-worker (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Alleged-gay-man-beaten-mercilessly-in-Kumasi-604903).

All these cases recorded are evidence that Ghana is not going by recommendations it freely accepted at the United Nations Human Rights-Universal Periodic Review. This also means that minority groups in Ghana continue to face open discrimination and violence even in the face of “documented protection laws” and instruments.

What does the law say in all these?

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana provides Equal Protection of the law and prohibits discrimination to all persons including lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersexual people (LGBTI).

The Constitution guarantees the right to privacy, personal liberty, and respect for human dignity as fundamental human rights.

Article 12 clause 2 of the Constitution says:
“Every person in Ghana, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinion, color, religion, creed or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this Chapter but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest.”

The Constitution is also clear on violence and discrimination. The state shall provide equal protection for all because you are a human being - this is the genesis of fundamental human rights. Human rights are not given. They are inalienable entitlements of every human being.

It has been shown that Ghana as a state has the mechanisms (in the form of laws and instruments) to ensure that minority groups, especially LGBTI people are protected.

However, the situation on the ground is the opposite. Top government officials and key members of society have provided contrary views as far as the issue of LGBTI is concerned.

On May 23, 2018, Peacefmonline, an online news platform published a story headlined “MPs fight gays in parliament”. The story among other things, suggested that parliament strongly condemned subtle attempts by donor countries to impose homosexuality on Ghana. The members of parliament, according to the story, commended the Speaker of Parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye for boldly speaking against legislation of homosexuality in Ghana.

This act is not only regrettable, but misleading as Ghana is nowhere near legalization.

All issues surrounding LGBTI in Ghana have involved appeals to decriminalize consensual same sex relations and to prevent violence and discrimination against LGTI people.

Members of parliament assuming this stance only add to the wrong rhetoric and aggravate the already misconstrued theories and fables surrounding LGBTI presence in Ghana.

On Sunday, December 10, 2017, ghananewsagency.org published a story which read ‘Muslim council pushes for law to criminalize homosexuality”. Anti-gay hate was reported to have overshadowed Ghana’s elections in 2012 as campaign by some NPP supporters were reported to have been riddled with anti-gay rhetoric and rants. LGBTI was reportedly a western ‘disease’ that threatens to infect the country, the gay star news said. (December 9,2012).

The stance of some members of the public on the issue of LGBTI is deeply rooted in religious sentiments and personal misconceptions amidst unwholesome appreciation of Ghana’s position on the issue.

Foh Amoaning, spokesperson for the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values, together with other respected members of society has openly launched attacks on LGTI people in Ghana.

This contradiction of key public officials, civil societies and some key members of society show that, there is little knowledge on the real issues of LGBTI and Ghana’s stand as far as it is concerned.

On November 7, 2017, Ghana appeared before the UN human rights Council (UNHRC) for a review of its human rights records under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

During the review and follow up discussion by the working group, Ghana rejected recommendations to legalize same sex marriage or decriminalize consensual sexual relations.

However, Ghana accepted recommendations to provide equal protection of the Law from violence and discrimination against LGBTI people in accordance with Ghana’s domestic laws and international law obligations as indicated in the preceding paragraphs of this article.

Latest findings aggravate the situation of intolerance for sexual minorities in Ghana.

A recent survey conducted by the Africa Center for International Law and Accountability, shows that majority of Ghanaians are against LGBTI people. As part of this survey, ACILA, a research and education non-profit organization, said it embarked on the study in June 2018 to gauge Ghanaians’ attitudes towards LGBTI issues.

Over 50% of Ghanaians according to the survey will shun LGBTI people publicly.

About 60% of them said LGBTI people do not deserve equal treatment whilst 87% are of the view that LGBTI people should not be allowed to hold public meetings to discuss LGBTI issues (Against freedom of association).

The survey also found that 13% of Ghanaians will physically abuse LGBTI people whilst 36% of them believe LGBTI people should be discriminated against in job search.

Since Ghana has promised to take steps to end discrimination and violence against LGBTI people, the reaction of the public to this commitment is at best contradictory.

The state and the public seem to be in two separate worlds on the LGBTI issues.

IMPLICATIONS
The many cases of contradictions from top public officials, recorded cases of discrimination and violence against LGBTI and findings on public opinion (ACILA) clearly show a communication gap between government and the public.

It is evident the people of Ghana do not appreciate the real issues surrounding LGBTI.

They also lack information on Ghana’s stand on LGBTI issues as demonstrated in Ghana’s rejection of legalizing and de-criminalizing of consensual sexual relations.

It becomes surprising then, why most Ghanaians consider it legitimate to discriminate and even, expedite violent actions towards homosexuals and lesbians.

The atmosphere created in the long run is an atmosphere for chaos, anti-human rights, human rights unfriendly and a hostile environment for such minority groups.

All these go against the fundamental constitutional provisions and commitments Ghana has signed unto.

In the face of this hostility and discrimination against minority groups in Ghana, it is doubtful whether Ghana can meet its obligation under the United Nations Universal Periodic Review Mechanism to provide protection from violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.

Ghana will be on its way to being considered a human rights unfriendly country, making it very difficult for human rights friendly organizations to extend pleasantries towards the nation.

It must be noted that the same law which protects minority groups from discrimination and violence, such as Tutsis of Rwanda, Albinos and visually disabled and the law which protects the Mande ethnic group in Ghana against violence and discrimination is the same law which protects LGBTI people.

The ACILA research has shown that, Ghanaians have developed an attitude of selecting which people a particular law applies to and which people it does not - a case of LGBTI treatment in Ghana.

The state has committed itself to provide equal protection of the law from violence and discrimination to all persons including LGBTI people.

But members of the government and the public are at different levels and as the ACILA findings suggest, violence will likely be perpetrated against LGBTI people unless the state takes proactive measures to separate the perceived acts of the LGBTI people from their rights not to have violence perpetrated against them as any other citizen.

Written by
Buatsi Redeemer
Human Rights Defenders Ghana
Amnesty International-Ghana
Ghana Institute Of Journalism
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