Ghana Enacts Law Criminalizing LGBTQ+ Identity

Ghana’s parliament recently approved a stringent new bill targeting LGBTQ+ individuals, signifying a heightened stance against LGBTQ+ rights in the traditionally conservative West African nation. Under this legislation, individuals identifying as LGBTQ+ face potential imprisonment for up to three years, with harsher penalties of up to five years for organizing or financing LGBTQ+ groups. Efforts to replace prison sentences with community service and counseling were met with resistance from lawmakers.

The bill, supported by Ghana’s major political parties, awaits the signature of President Nana Akufo-Addo to become law, with previous indications suggesting his alignment with public sentiment on the matter. Notably, Ghana already criminalizes gay sex with a three-year prison sentence.

Critics, including Amnesty International and UN representatives, warn of significant threats to LGBTQ+ individuals’ fundamental rights and freedoms if the bill is enacted. Concerns abound regarding potential witch-hunts and persecution of LGBTQ+ community members and activists, prompting fears of forced concealment and heightened vulnerability.

The proposed legislation also targets advocacy efforts aimed at children, proposing extended jail terms of up to 10 years and encouraging public reporting of LGBTQ+ individuals for punitive action. The bill’s inception stems from the establishment of Ghana’s first LGBTQ+ community center in Accra in 2021, subsequently closed by police following public outcry and pressure from religious and traditional leaders.

Despite modifications from its original draft, including shortened jail terms and removal of contentious clauses like conversion therapy, the bill remains contentious. Parliamentary debates saw divisions over sentencing approaches, with proposals for secret ballots to determine punishment ultimately overshadowed by support for imprisonment from fellow lawmakers.

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