Ghanaian lawmakers are facing backlash over a bill before Ghana's parliament that aims to make gay rights advocacy illegal.
Eight lawmakers are sponsoring the bill, which was introduced in parliament Monday. The bill would impose a maximum 10-year prison sentence on people who support and advocate for same-sex and gay rights. Individuals or groups would also not be allowed to provide social or medical support to LGBTQ+ people.
Word of the bill had spread in recent weeks even before it was officially presented, prompting outrage among many Ghanaians.
Kwasi Prempeh, the head of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, which defends gay rights, told VOA the bill is a distraction.
"We're in almost a post-COVID situation and there are a lot of challenges to deal with," Prempeh said. "This is not the kind of distraction we need at this time. And unfortunately, it is being foisted on us by these crusaders who really will not stop."
Prempeh added that even if the bill is passed, it will be legally challenged.
"In parliament it may well pass, but I doubt very much it will survive executive scrutiny, hopefully not," Prempeh said. "If it does get presidential assent, I'm almost certain that it will be challenged judicially."
But opposition lawmaker Sam George, who is leading the effort to pass the bill, said it is not aimed at infringing on the sexual preference of individuals as long as they do not force it on others.
"I don't care what you do in the confines of your room or the privacy of your home," George said. "But when you want to make that a way of life, when you then want to demand that the rest of us accept your perversion and when you want to demand that the rest of us accept to your way of life and target our children, then we're not going to allow you to do that."
In January, police raided Ghana's first LGBTQ+ community center in Accra. Twenty-one gay rights advocates are now on trial after having been arrested at a workshop for allegedly championing LGBTQ+ rights.
The head of LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana, Alex Kofi Donkor, described the bill as backward and wants the international community to pressure the government to withdraw it.
"This is simply absurd and simply unacceptable in the 21st century," Donkor said. "I think this is the time that organizations and countries that believe in human rights begin to speak out about this hate bill that is being introduced in Ghana. Ghana needs to be called out on the international level."
In coming weeks, the Constitutional and Legal Committee of Ghana's parliament plans to consult the general public for possible amendments.