Wednesday, 17 April

US 'deeply troubled' by Ghana Parliament’s passage of anti-LGBTQI+ bill, says it'll 'undermine public health, media, civic spaces, economy'

US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller

US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller has said the passage of an anti-LGBTQI+ bill by Ghana's Parliament undermines human rights.

The country’s legislature approved the bill on Human Sexual Rights and Family Values, widely known as the anti-LGBTQ bill, criminalising LGBT activities and prohibiting their promotion, advocacy, and funding.

Under the bill, individuals engaged in such activities face a jail term ranging from six months to three years, while promoters and sponsors could be sentenced to three to five years.

Prior to its passage, sponsors of the bill initiated a motion for further consideration, with lead sponsor Samuel Nartey George proposing amendments to clauses 10 and 11 concerning editorial policies of media firms, aligning them with Article 12 of the 1992 constitution, which guarantees freedom of the media. 

The House approved these amendments.

However, a motion filed by Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin to subject clause 12, addressing the funding of LGBT activities, to the constitution was rejected by the House.

The bill's approval by Parliament follows a call from Professor Audrey Gadzekpo, Board Chair of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), urging President Akufo-Addo to reject it. 

Prof. Gadzekpo argued that the bill undermines fundamental human rights protected by the Constitution, including dignity, freedom of speech, association, academic freedom, equality, and non-discrimination.

The bill now awaits presidential assent to become law, although President Nana Akufo-Addo has not indicated whether he will sign it.

In 2021, the United Nations warned that the proposed law would institutionalise discrimination and violence against sexual minorities. 

The passage of similar laws in Uganda, including one with the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," led to widespread abuse and suspension of World Bank funding to the country in May 2023.

In a statement reacting to the passage of the bill, Mr Miller said: "The United States is deeply troubled by the Ghanaian Parliament’s passage of legislation, officially called the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, which would threaten all Ghanaians’ constitutionally protected freedoms of speech, press, and assembly."

The statement noted: "The bill seeks to criminalise any person who simply identifies as LGBTQI+, as well as any friend, family, or member of the community who does not report them. Limiting the rights of one group in a society undermines the rights of all."

It added: "The United States echoes the call by those Ghanaians who have urged a review of the constitutionality of the bill to protect the rights of all individuals in Ghana."

The bill, the US State Department indicates, "would also undermine Ghana’s valuable public health, media and civic spaces, and economy. International business coalitions have already stated that such discrimination in Ghana would harm business and economic growth in the country."

It said: "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."