“Since the bill against LGBTQ+ people was presented, we have seen many types of violence (against members of this community) increase,” says Leila, an activist queer from Ghana, speaking of the impact of an anti-LGBTQ+ bill introduced in parliament a year ago: “Attacks by individuals, communities, as well as an increase in so-called remedial violations.”
Corrective violations, the punishment to “cure” lesbians in Peru
Leila describes a recent case she has worked on, in which six men robbed and raped three women in their 30s. She also explains the case of a 15-year-old girl who was raped by men who claimed that she was a lesbian. Many of these violations go unreported because the aggressors are relatives of the victims or members of their community.
“The mere presentation of the bill has made many ignorant people behave as if this initiative had already prospered and the law had been approved,” laments the activist: “And they believe that this gives them carte blanche to murder, commit abuses or stop, in any way they see fit, LGBTQ+ people.”
one of the toughest
If approved, this legal initiative against LGBTQ+ people presented to the Ghanaian parliament last August and which is being reviewed by a parliamentary commission, would be one of the harshest and most radical laws on the African continent.
The current draft of the bill, proposed by opposition MPs and publicly endorsed by members of President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government and the ruling New Patriotic Party, criminalizes homosexual acts and queeras well as identifying as an LGBTQ+ person, with penalties of up to five years in prison.
Defending LGBTQ+ people is also punishable, with sentences of up to 10 years in prison. Anyone who hosts groups or meetings to defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people in a physical place or on a website that they own is also committing a crime. Any person who witnesses or has knowledge of acts typified as a crime in the bill will have the obligation to report them.
Activists have denounced that this bill aims to extinguish and put an end to gay identity and queer in Ghana, as well as creating the conditions for greater control and attacks against sexual minorities. “Transvestism” would also be persecuted. Under the draft bill, the state would “direct” intersex people to undergo corrective surgery.
The constitutional review commission examining the bill is expected to recommend amendments in the coming weeks, so it is possible that some articles of the current draft will be modified. However, the content of the draft has made a certain message sink in the country. The mass hysteria against LGBTQ+ people -and those who defend the rights of this group- has intensified in the last 18 months.
In February of last year, a community center – which offered a meeting place and provided support for gay people and queer- was forced to close after being attacked by politicians, civil and religious groups, and the media. Although it was not the first center to offer a service of this type, it was the one that achieved the greatest notoriety, since it announced its help without the usual discretion that groups that defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people usually use to be able to operate in Ghana. .
The presence of foreign and European diplomats at the opening of the center was seen as an act of provocation, as gay and queer identity is often claimed to go against African culture and is promoted by the West.
Alex Donkor, founder of the group LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana has indicated that reported attacks have increased, especially outside of Accra, with regular raids on gatherings suspected of participating in LGBTQ+ people.
“At a party held last month the police arrested 30 people for being homosexual, they were detained and extorted by the police,” he says. “It’s just one example of the kind of situations we see frequently.”
Leila is one of 21 people who were arrested in Ho city in March at a training event for people who provide legal advice to sexual minorities. They were detained for months and some were abused by the police before being released.
“It’s been more than a year and I’m still struggling to get back on my feet,” she laments: “We got out of jail and they hit us with a bill against LGBTQ+ people, I feel like my life has stopped. if you are a person queerIt’s like this bill is trying to erase your existence.”
Since the end of last year, the constitutional review commission has been holding public hearings to hear the opinion of groups that are for and against this initiative.
Rita Nketiah, an expert on the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people at Human Rights Watch, indicates that, although it is foreseeable that the bill will be approved, the hearings have been important since they will help shape the final content of this law.
“It has given LGBTQ+ advocacy groups a rare opportunity to make their case directly and openly in parliament,” he says.
“The constitutional review commission has made it clear that the bill is not going to stop, but what is being debated is its content. They want to make sure that the final text stands the test of time well.”
The bill has shown the ignorance of parliamentarians on issues of gender and sexuality; also the ignorance around what it means to be an intersex person. In fact, in the last year the situation of vulnerability of this group has become very evident.
Last year, police in Ho arrested an intersex woman. The officers stripped her naked in public at the police station and questioned her gender. The police accused her of denying her status as a man, they assigned her to a men’s cell and encouraged the inmates to rape her “because she says she is a woman and maybe that way she stops having this doubt in her sick mind.” ”.
Sam George, an MP and prominent supporter of the bill in the country’s media, has supported this initiative and the state’s right to force intersex people to undergo corrective surgery.
Translation by Emma Reverter.