Ghana Ministers Orders Gays to be Rounded Up
A minister in Ghana has issued an order that all gays in his region of the African country be rounded up and placed under arrest, Ghanaian radio station JOY 99.7 FM reported on July 20.
The order followed months of anti-gay activism from a religious group called the Christian Council of Ghana, noted the article.
The minister in question, Paul Evans Aidoo, is in charge of the nation's Western Region.
"He has tasked the Bureau of National Investigations and all security agencies to smoke out persons suspected to be engaging in same sex," the article said. "He also enlisted the services of landlords and tenants to provide reliable information which will lead to the arrest of homosexuals."
Added the article, "Only yesterday, the Christian Council of Ghana capped months of protestations against the practice of homosexuality with a strongly worded message against the practice and courting Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals."
The article characterized the region as a "beehive" of gays, saying that between the Western and Central Regions of Ghana it was thought that there might be as many as 8,000 gays and lesbians. Aidoo said that he gave no credence to the report, because the number seemed too high.
"I don't believe it; nobody believes it," said Aidoo, a married Christian politician with five children. "We do not see them," he went on to say.
Even so, a report citing that figure brought anti-gay Christians and Muslims into the street for demonstrations. Aidoo assured the public that "all efforts are being made to get rid of these people in the society."
Ghanaian law condemns "unnatural carnal knowledge," the report said, but some lawyers view this as unenforceable and vague.
Ghanaian political party the People's National Convention (PNC) issued a statement in support of Aidoo's call for mass arrests of gays, British newspaper the Independent reported on July 22.
"Homosexuality is abhorrent," the PNC said. "Media discourse across the world is being dictated by the vulgar opinions of homosexuals. Ghana and probably Africa cannot sustain the menace of homosexuals."
Demonstrations against GLBTs in Ghana are a recent phenomenon, having begun only last year. The first such protest took place in the city of Sekondi Takoradi and drew "thousands of angry youth," according to June 4, 2010, GhanaWeb article. The protest was organized by a Muslim group, but received support from other religions as well, including Christianity.
The protest in Takoradi was reportedly prompted by "reports of alleged gay marriages and parties in Tanokrom and other suburbs of the city," the article said.
The GhanaWeb article was riddled with claims about gays that sound identical to anti-gay talking points from American religious opponents to the gay equality movement, including claims that young Ghanaian males were being turned gay by older men and that homosexuality is a choice. Moreover, gays were condemned as tempting God to punish Ghana.
"Ghana will suffer more than the experience of Sodom and Gomorrah, should we embrace this practice in this country," said protest leader Saeed Hamid, whose group even then was lobbying Aidoo to take action against the areas gay population.
The upswell of anti-gay sentiment worried HIV activists from the start, according to a June 8, 2010, article posted at African GLBT media site Behind the Mask. Those fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS have long warned that criminalizing and stigmatizing gays and men who have sex with men (MSMs) could drive those segments of the population further underground and stymie efforts to provide education about safer sex, testing, and treatment.
Fear had an immediate effect in Ghana when the anti-gay protests began, according to the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana's Mac-Darling Cobbinah, who told the press, "Already they are becoming uninterested to access services because they fear what might happen to them."
The article noted an inherent contradiction in Ghanaian law regarding gays.
"The Ghanaian constitution affirms and protects all human rights for Ghanaian citizens and this contradicts the Criminal Code 1960 - Chapter 6, Sexual Offences Article 105, which criminalizes homosexual behavior amongst gay men," the article observed. "There is no law in Ghana that prohibits homosexual acts between women."
Anti-gay sentiment has been on the uptick in many African countries in recent years. In Uganda, a highly controversial "Kill the Gays" bill sought to impose the death penalty on men who had repeat sexual encounters with others of the same gender, or who had even a single sexual encounter if he was HIV positive. That law also provided criminal penalties for anyone who might know about a same-sex relationship but did not report those involved to the authorities.
The bill was introduced by Ugandan MP David Bahati shortly after a rally headlined by three anti-American evangelists took place. Bahati was later found to have ties to an anti-gay American evangelical organization.
A Malawi male couple was thrown in jail for celebrating an engagement party in 2009. They were charged under that nation's "decency" laws, and kept imprisoned for months before being put on trial. They were found guilty and sentenced to 14 years of hard labor, but pardoned shortly afterwards in the face of international pressure.
The Independent noted that in South Africa -- the only nation in the world to enshrined GLTB-specific guarantees of equality in its constitution -- the law of the street is quite different from the laws of the state. In some townships, the "practice of 'corrective' gang rape of lesbians seems on the increase," the Independent noted.
Many former colonies of the British Empire retain anti-gay laws and social attitudes. Ghana became independent in 1957 and has become one of Africa's more prosperous nations. It has a population of about 24 million. Statistically, anywhere from a quarter million to half a million gay men -- or, possibly, significantly more -- could be expected to reside in Ghana.
Though homosexuality seems to occur in every human society at the same rate, and have been observed in more than 7,000 non-human species, there is no universally agreed upon metric for who qualifies as "gay" versus "MSM" or "bisexual," and estimates vary widely as to what percentage of any given population might be gay.