Don't criminalise LGBT - Cardinal Turkson on Bill in Ghanaian Parliament
Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson has said homosexuality and LGBT in general should not be a criminal offence and that people should be helped to understand the issue better.
“My position has simply been this, that LGBT, gay people may not be criminalised, because they’ve committed no crime, but neither should this position also become something to be imposed on cultures, which are not yet ready to accept stuffs like that,” he added.
Cardinal Turkson stated this in an interview on the BBC's HARDtalk programme with Stephen Sackur, monitored by Graphic Online on Monday morning [Nov 27, 2023].
It is time to begin education, to help people understand what this reality, this phenomenon is. We need a lot of education to get people to make a distinction between what is crime and what is not crime," he added.
His answer followed a question asked during the interview in relation to the bill currently in the Ghanaian Parliament seeking to impose stiffer punishment on LGBT practices in Ghana.
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Cardinal Turkson had been asked, “You are Ghanaian, this summer, the Ghanaian Parliament passed, it is called the Appropriate sexual rights and family values at which a tougher regime for gay people clearly criminalises homosexuality in Ghana, up to 10 years in prison for LGBT… The Ghanaian Catholic Bishops Conference said that western countries must stop incessant attempts to impose unacceptable foreign cultural values on us. Are you backing that statement and therefore defending the criminalisation of homosexuality?
In his explanation, Cardinal Turkson reiterated that his position is contrary to what was in the Ghanaian Parliament.
"LGBT cases are not to be criminalised but neither, and this I think is basically what caused all of this in Ghana. The Ghanaian culture has known of people, with some such tendencies, and I say this because there is an expression in the local Akan language, that of mine, of men who act like women, and women who act like men, there is an expression for them, which means that this phenomenon has been known, was known in the culture and in the community and all of that."
Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson who is seen by some as a candidate to become the first African Pope in about 1,500 years referred to the fact that in one of Ghana's languages, Akan, there is an expression "men who act like women and women who act like men" and stressed that, that this was an indication that homosexuality was not an imposition from outside.
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Below are some excerpts of the interview transcribed by Graphic Online
Stephen Sackur: “Let’s start with something which is very current, that is the discussion in the church on key issues of sexuality and gender.”
“Now I refer the beginning of this interview to Pope Francis and the hopes that have been vested in him to show leadership. I will put it to you that on some of these key issues for example, the churches attitude to homosexuality, for example the possibility of giving blessing to gay marriages in church, the attitude to LGBTQ community generally. Pope Francis has sent a confusion, not a clear message.”
Cardinal Turkson: “No, but lately about a week or so ago he came out with a small document just saying clearly what his position on all of these are, that LGBT people can be blessed, they can be admitted to church, and all of that, they can even become God parents of children and people who are being baptised and all of that. So he [Pope] himself has signalled, partly stuffs that used to be left neck below, undecided and all that and come clearly with these…
Stephen Sackur: “So you see him [Pope] as now following a policy which many people regard as, within the Catholic perspective, liberal, doesn’t that put you [Turkson], personally in a very difficult position. Because your own position for example on homosexuality seems quite clear, I have looked at your record over many years, you have been a consistent conservative on these issues.”
Cardinal Turkson: “Those are the expressions again, conservative, progressive, you know, my thing has been this, and I’ll refer you to an interesting episode, a situation I got into responding to an invitation to go speak in Slovenia at one point and then the Bishops were wondering whether to allow it because there was a lot of media agitation.
“My position has simply been this, that LGBT, gay people may not be criminalised because they’ve committed no crime, but neither should this position also become something to be imposed on cultures, which are not yet ready to accept stuff like that.
Stephen Sackur: “You are Ghanaian, this summer, the Ghanaian Parliament passed, it is called the Appropriate sexual rights and family values at which a tougher regime for gay people clearly criminalises homosexuality in Ghana, up to 10 years in prison for LGBT…
“The Ghanaian Catholic Bishops Conference said that western countries must stop in incessant attempts to impose unacceptable foreign cultural values on us. Are you backing that statement and therefore defending the criminalisation of homosexuality?
Cardinal Turkson: “What I just said to you is, my position is contrary to what has just been passed, to criminalise anybody, if you are able to identify the crime, LGBT cases are not to be criminalised but neither, and this I think is basically what caused all of this in Ghana, the Ghanaian culture has known of people, with some such tendencies, and I say this because there is an expression in the local Akan language that of mine, of men who act like women, and women who act like men, there is an expression for them, which means that this phenomenon is been known, was known in the culture and in the community and all of that.
“But nobody went on to make any policy out of that, now I think what caused all of these was our attempts to link some foreign donations and grants to certain positions, which needed to be imposed in the name of freedom, in the name of respect for rights and stuffs like that. I think that is what led to this thing going to Parliament otherwise for me...”
Stephen Sackur: “The point I get is that there seems to be a real difficulty among senior Catholics in Africa to speak out against this criminalisation of homosexuality and we can look at Ghana, and we can also look at Uganda where they even gone further, and whether the new law in Ghana actually carry the death penalty, what they call “aggravated homosexuality”. And what we also see is that in Uganda the official leadership of the Catholic Church has stayed silent, has not condemned what the Ugandan Parliament has approved of.”
Cardinal Turkson: “It is because what I think the move should be is to be a lot of education about certainly cultural attitudes in some of these regards are very deeply rooted and all of that, and we need a lot of education to get people to separate, make a distinction between what is crime and what is not crime, what is the personal habit and not a personal habit. So something that traditionally maybe referred to as a taboo and all of that it takes time…
Stephen Sackur: “According to the Ghanaian Catholic Bishops Conference it is despicable lifestyles, practices and behaviours. Is it time, and you are one of the single voices from western Africa, is it time to move away from that kind of language.”
Cardinal Turkson: “it is time to begin education to help people understand what this really, this phenomenon is. If culturally we have expressions for this time of things, it just means that it is not completely alien to the Ghanaian society. Not just alien to the Ghanaian society, now that it is coming out what has to and what has to be the response. I think this drastic form that it has taken in Ghana and probably in Uganda is bringing the perception that the west was imposing this, connecting or linking it with donations and grants and all of time, is kind of politicise the thing in such a way that the reaction has also been political in character.”
“But I think, all of this from my point of view, and this is what I think I speak about with a couple of other Bishops is to be able to understand more deeply this phenomenon."