LGBT rights groups and supporters in Ghana are demanding for the decriminalization of homosexuality in the country after a new study concluded that violence against LGBT people wrought by the society and their own families are still rampant.
The report made by the Human Rights Watch entitled No Choice but to Deny Who I am: Violence and Discrimination Against LGBT People in Ghana disclosed that due to the colonial-era provision in the country’s Judicial System that makes “unnatural carnal knowledge” prohibited, LGBT people in Ghana are relegated as “effective second class citizens.”
In a 72-page report, the Human Rights Watch added that LGBT people are still treated differently by the society and even by their own families. The group cited an example of this claim, the August 2015 incident in the town of Nima wherein members of a vigilante group identified as Safety Empire had brutally assaulted a young man they suspected to be gay. They also cited as another example the May 2017 incident where a mother of a young woman told their town folks to beat her own daughter after she found out that she was having a relationship with a fellow woman.
The Human Rights Watch had interviewed a total of 114 members of the LGBT group before coming up with their result. They also took into account the pronouncements made by the representatives of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), assistant police commissioner, and three diplomats.
Human Rights Watch’s researcher Wendy Isaack, as reported by the Independent, argued that while LGBT people in the country are rarely prosecuted under its anti-gay laws, the laws are a direct affront which cause a high climate of violence against the common LGBT. She added that homophobic statements by some members of the local and national government officials, as well as traditional and religious leaders add up to the discrimination and these people are sometimes even inciting violence.
“LGBT Ghanaians should have the same protection from the government as everyone else. And the government should work to address the stigma that subjects people to violence in their own homes, the place where they should feel safest.”
According to the report by the Human Rights Watch, LGBT people are often victims of family violence, ranging from being beaten, threatened, or even sent out of their households. Per the Independent, this violence experienced by the LGBT community in the country has become worse after President Nana Akufo-Addo said during his Al Jazeera interview that criminalizing homosexuality in Ghana remained largely due to his unbelief that there was a “sufficiently strong coalition” of public outrage against it.
Despite this climate of violence, LGBT rights groups and supporters remain hopeful that the LGBT violence will be halted soon. For one, local LGBT activist Mac-Darling Cobbinah said that it is important to employ a lot more allies who will speak on issues and will not hide behind screens as existing currently.
Cobbinah added that speaking out against the violence will surely help people know better and understand that LGBT people also have human rights and dignity that the state should uphold and protect.