The other side of the LGBTQ matter: where is the compassion?

BY: By Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

To me, there are a number of troubling issues about the continuing anti-gay rights controversy, starting with the word, ‘compassion’ – or rather the absence of it in the stance of the initiators of the draft law and its supporters.

Firstly, despite the fact that all religions preach love and humanitarianism, apparently none of the religious leaders campaigning so strenuously for the LGBTQ+ law, oppose its extremely ruthless proposed punishments.

Why? Is it only ‘straight’ or heterosexual people, who deserve compassion?

Secondly, I still can’t get over the shock that some religious leaders have even resorted to what amounts to blackmailing of Members of Parliament over this matter!

They have been reported proclaiming, confidently, that they will order their church members to vote against any MP who dares to oppose the Bill’s passage; they will make those MPs lose their seat!

And some of them add the ‘clincher’, that they have the numbers; their membership is substantial!

The background to the saga: in July, 2021, some Members of Parliament submitted to the House a Private Members’ Bill which criminalises homosexual practices, and which seeks to imprison offenders identified as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers and others (LGBTQ +).

Eight MPs initiated the Bill, seven from the opposition National Democratic Congress, and one from the ruling New Patriotic Party.

The NDC members are: Sam Nartey-George; Della Adjoa Sowah; Emmanuel Bedzrah; Alhassan Suhuyini; Rita Naa Odoley Sowah; Helen Adjoa Ntoso; Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor; and, the NPP member is John Ntim Forjour.

Unbelievably, some backers of the Bill have even gone to the extent of reportedly issuing death threats to Lawyer Akoto Ampaw, one of the group of 18 Concerned Citizens campaigning for total rejection of the Bill.

The position of the 18 is that the draft law is obnoxious and unconstitutional.

The title of the Bill is ‘Promotion of proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values Bill, 2021’.

The accompanying Memorandum explains that:

“The object of the Bill is to provide for proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values; proscribe LGBTQ+ and related activities; proscribe propaganda of, advocacy for or promotion of LGBTTQQIAAP+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally and pansexual) and related activities; provide for the protection of and support for children who are victims or accused of LCBTTQQIAAP+ and related activities and other persons; and related matters.”

The following are excerpts from some of the clauses, as explained in the Memorandum:
“Clause 5 imposes an obligation on a person in whose presence an offence specified in the Bill is committed to report the commission of the offences to the police ….

“Clauses 12 to 16 deal with LGBTTQQIAAP+ propaganda, advocacy, support and other promotional activities. By Clause 12, a person who, by use of media … or any other means … publishes or distributes a material for purposes of promoting an activity prohibited under the Bill, or (promotes) an activity prohibited under the Bill commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment not less than five years and not more than ten years” (emphasis added).

In fact, the “not less than five years and not more than ten years”, and similar cruel proposed punishment feature a number of times in the Bill.

And I thought that Parliament was supposed to be a refuge for those seeking justice!

When you have religious leaders and legislators ranged with such hostility against a group of people, where else can they turn to for assistance?

Or maybe the initiators and supporters of the Bill see their Clause 21 as demonstrating kindness?

“Clause 21 provides a flexible sentencing regime for persons found liable for offences under the Bill. The court may, in addition to imposing a sentence under the Bill, make such orders as are appropriate to serve the interest of justice or secure the welfare or well-being of the convicted person if the convicted person openly recants and requests access to approved medical help ...”

What consolation will a “flexible sentencing regime” be to someone who has already been sentenced to harsh imprisonment?

Or is it Clause 22 that is supposed to give alleged offenders hope?

“Clause 22 prohibits extra judicial treatment of persons accused of offences under the Bill. A significant part of the advocacy campaign of LGBTTQQIAPP+ is against inhumane treatment of perceived LGBTTQQIAAP+ persons by homophobic persons.”

But if a law has been passed which stipulates such mean punishments for people who may have a different sexual orientation, can those penalties, too, not be classified as “inhumane treatment” and “homophobic”?

Furthermore, in what way will criminalising and sending offenders to prison, solve or deal with the problems the Bill is supposed to resolve?

Prisons worldwide are reportedly the hotbeds of homosexual activity.

Thus, will imprisoned offenders not be getting the freedom to continue that way of life in prison?

By the same token, will those perhaps not practitioners but sent to prison for “advocacy … and promotional activities” not be in danger of being forced into homosexuality in prison?

Notably, history tells us that almost all the western countries used to have extremely draconian anti-homosexual laws, some of which this county’s legal system obviously borrowed.

However, with the passage of time, they have relaxed or abandoned those laws because they realised that they were more harmful than helpful to the advancement of their country.

If the LGBTQ+ community and practices are not to be tolerated, if they are required to change, is imprisonment the right approach?

Parliament’s Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs started hearings on the Bill on November 11 and it promises to be a protracted process as there are more than 150 mostly hardline memoranda to consider.

And as we await the conclusion, I still wonder about the apparent overwhelming fear that Ghanaian culture is not strong enough to repel the LGBTQ+ influence.

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