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Passers-by in Accra, the capital of Ghana


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Even before the most recent anti-LGBTQ law passed parliament, queer people in Ghana were being discriminated against.

In recent months, human rights organizations have repeatedly reported acts of arbitrariness: a 17-year-old was temporarily thrown out of boarding school because he was gay and “too feminine.”

A 30-year-old was blackmailed by police officers after he was stopped with sex toys.

There was also talk of death threats, hatred and expulsions.

Now the parliament in Ghana's capital Accra has gone one step further.

Anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ or stands out as such can face up to five years in prison.

This is what the “Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values ​​Act” provides, which Parliament passed with a large majority on Wednesday.

The project was initiated by leaders of traditional Christian, Muslim and other religious groups in 2021 and has since been pushed forward by politicians from various parties.

Large parts of the population support it.

The majority in the country are devout Christians.

A law as a means of pressure in the election campaign

For the law to come into force, it still needs to be signed by President Nana Akufo-Addo.

He could still stop it or delay it until the parliamentary elections at the end of the year.

In the past, however, Akufo-Addo announced that he would follow the majority opinion.

The opposition MP Sam George, who pushed the anti-LGBTQ law, has already publicly warned: "We expect the President to follow his words with actions and stand by his words."

There has been great international criticism; the US State Department said it was deeply concerned.

Several UN organizations and Amnesty International also warned of the consequences: The law not only endangers LGBTQ people, as homosexual and bisexual people, trans and queer people.

It also threatens the work of health organizations and advice centers.

UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima said that if the proposed law comes into effect, it will "hinder access to life-saving services, undermine social protection and threaten Ghana's development success."

According to HRW, 33 of 69 countries that ban homosexuality are on the African continent

Ghana has long been considered a role model in West Africa, a stable democracy with constitutional principles.

Now, says political scientist Larissa Kojoué, it could become a model again - for the abolition of minority rights.

Kojoué works for Human Rights Watch (HRW). According to the organization, 33 of the 69 countries that ban homosexuality are in Africa.

Like other human rights organizations, HRW is now warning against the persecution of people based on their sexual identity.

The law marginalizes and endangers people from the LGBTQ community even more than before and promotes fear.

"The law is seen as an expression of a new self-confidence and the rejection of supposedly Western values," she says.

»It is paradoxical that politicians, on the one hand, turn away from the West and, on the other hand, refer to Christianity.

It's a dangerous situation." The law encourages persecution and discrimination.

Hardly any party wants to be seen as LGBTQ-friendly before the elections

Kojoué doesn't expect the law to be stopped any longer.

There is already great pressure that no one in the president's party wants to be seen as a defender of marginalized groups and minorities before the elections.

The human rights activist sees the planned criminalization of LGBTQ people as an expression of growing polarization in the country.

"We are already receiving countless reports of people being arbitrarily arrested and arrested." When the police pursue suspected homosexuals, in the end it is rarely the "traditional values" that are decisive, says Kojoué.

"They're only interested in how much money they can extort so that someone can be released in return for a bribe."

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