LGBTQI: Threats will not compel us to abandon views — Bagbin
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has said Africa is not deterred by the veiled threats of withdrawal of investments and aid by some advanced countries following the continent’s stance on gay rights.
He said the enactment of laws by some African countries that sought to protect their culture, values, societal norms and to safeguard the future of their youth should not be perceived as trampling on people’s rights.
Mr Bagbin said that at a meeting with some Members of the British House of Lords and the House of Commons at Westminster in London.
Of concern to the British Members of Parliament (MPs) was the law passed in Uganda recently on the LGBTQI phenomenon, and the bill on Promotion of Human Sexual Rights and Family Values currently before Ghana’s Parliament.
“Threats are not the way to go.
If your neighbour or partner has a problem, you help him to solve it. Boycotts and threats do not solve problems: engagement and understanding do”, the Speaker said.
He explained that once a group of people was in agreement on what constituted Human rights, values and principles, they move on, saying what was required was alignment and understanding of their context.
Role of Parliament
Mr Bagbin told his hosts that the role of Parliament was to receive bills from civil society or interest groups, usually through the process that allowed for a Private Member’s Bill, or from the executive.
“Parliament then takes the bill through its processes and procedures outlined in its Standing Orders and in consonance with the provisions of Ghana’s Constitution”.
“There is nothing untoward; nothing wrong with the efforts by Ghana’s Parliament to legislate on the promotion of human sexual rights and family values in Ghana, using our constitution as a compass”, he declared.
“There is urgent need of legislation in the area of LGBTTQR± in Ghana.
Parliament is aware of the copious human rights provisions in the Constitution of the country.
Parliament knows that “any legislation that detracts from the human rights and freedoms guaranteed by our constitution will be a candidate for litigation in our court of law,” he said.
Responding to a question on the role of the President in the bill under reference, the Speaker insisted that Ghana’s Parliament had the mandate and the capability to legislate on the subject, and would not countenance any interference from the executive.
He explained that the role of the President was to assent to bills submitted to him by Parliament.
“In the process, the President can make recommendations for the consideration of Parliament.
However, final legislative powers rest with the legislature, not the executive.
“Ghana’s democracy is based on the rule of law, not the rule of man”, he pointed out.
Besides, he said, Ghana’s Constitution was heavy on the promotion and protection of various fundamental human rights and freedoms, and gave an assurance that curtailing human rights was not the target of the bill under reference; rather, it was about the protection of rights as well as values; so it was about the health care and welfare of Ghanaians, particularly those whose sexual orientation had implications for their health.
According to the Speaker, the legislature had engaged in very wide and broad consultations while working on the Promotion of Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, adding that members of the select committee working on it had held consultations in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, European Union and Canada, among others for a deeper appreciation of the issues at stake.
In addition, Mr Bagbin said the committee had received and considered about 400 memoranda on the issue and had granted audience to many advocacy groups, professional associations, traditional leaders, civil society groups, and religious leaders. He said the approach to the bill had been to “think global and act local”.
Those with the Speaker at the meeting included the Clerk to Parliament, Cyril Kwabena Oteng Nsiah; Director, Legal Counsel to the Speaker, Magnus Kofi Amoatey; the Director of Communication, Gayheart Mensah, and the Deputy Director of Parliamentary Relations, Charles Dery Tenzagh.