News / Africa

    Ghana Parliament to Review Legal Status of Homosexuals

    Ghana's President John Atta Mills (front,C)  (file photo).
    Ghana's President John Atta Mills (front,C) (file photo).

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    • Clottey interview with Catherine Afeku, a legislator in Ghana's parliament

    Peter Clottey

    In Ghana, legislators are set to begin discussions on strengthening legal sanctions against practicing homosexuals.

    This came after British Prime Minister Dave Cameron threatened to withdraw aid from countries that ban homosexuality. But Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills sharply says his government will never legalize homosexuality.

    President Atta-Mills was quoted as saying “no one can deny Prime Minister Cameron his right to make policies, take initiatives or make statements that reflect his societal norms and ideals.  But he does not have the right to direct other sovereign nations as to what they should do especially where their societal norms and ideals are different from those which exist in the Prime Minister's society.”

    Member of Parliament Catherine Afeku says there seems to be overwhelming support from legislators backing a review of the penal code to address homosexuality.

    “Ninety-nine percent of the members in the chamber support the statement that as a people, our cultural norms, our societal upbringing, does not accept homosexuality,” said Afeku. “But, once we have brought out the emotional condemnation, we have to put our thinking caps on and look at the law... What people do in their rooms cannot be legislated upon because we don’t have anything on the books right now that will punish that act.”

    Section 104 (1) (b) of Ghana’s penal code stipulates that “whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge of any person of sixteen years or over with his consent is guilty of a misdemeanor.”  It described unnatural carnal knowledge as “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner.”

    Homosexuality is usually frowned upon in Ghana, despite its reported practice.

    But Afeku said it is unlikely any proposed bill that legitimizes same sex marriage would have parliamentary support.

    “If any sector of the ministry should sponsor a bill legitimizing same sex marriage, it will be dead upon arrival,” said Afeku. “There has not been a debate on the penal code and how to extend it, what will be the punitive measures and how to go about it.”

    Afeku also called for an open debate about how to either reform them or help them live without fear of persecution.

    “There is no doubt about it that all Ghanaians were actually not in support of [homosexuality], but you still have to deal with the pragmatic issue of what about the one percent? They are also Ghanaians, said Afeku. “As a society, now that we have stated our stance, what do we do with a fellow Ghanaian who is practicing? And that is where the debate should go and it has not reached there yet.”

    She said an open and honest discussion on the state’s views on homosexuality should not be stigmatized, as she said, it is today.

    Senior officials of Uganda, Zambia and Ghana have pushed back against Prime Minister Cameron’s statement threatening to withhold funds from countries that persecutes gay people.

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