Analysis: Ghana’s parliament passes the most draconian anti-LGBT+ bill in history

Insights from The Accra Times, Stonewall, TBIJ, and The Guardian

Same-sex couple sit together during a discussion on the topic of Fiducia Supplicans, a Declaration approved by Pope Francis, that allows Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples, in Accra, Ghana. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko.


Ghana’s parliament has passed one of the strictest anti-gay bills in Africa, expanding the scope of its existing provisions as part of a growing crackdown on LGBTQ+ people.

Sponsored by a coalition of Christian, Muslim, and Ghanaian traditional leaders that have links to U.S. conservative Christian groups such as the World Congress of Families, the bill increases the punishment for gay sex from three to five years in prison and imposes a new five-year maximum sentence for anyone who participates in the “willful promotion, sponsorship, or support of LGBTQ+ activities.” It also details a new sentence of up to three years in prison for anyone convicted of identifying as LGBTQ+.

Ghanaian civil society groups condemned the bill and said they will file legal challenges if it is signed into law by the president, Nana Akufo-Addo.

More than 30 African countries criminalize homosexuality. Last year Uganda passed a new law imposing the death penalty for some same-sex acts. Only South Africa has legalized same-sex marriage on the continent.

An LGBT+ activist wearing a Ghana pride shirt poses for a photo in a safe house.

Global insights on the story.

Africa’s homophobic laws are linked to the legacy of Christian colonialism

Sources: Stonewall, The Guardian

“There is a direct correlation between countries which belong to the Commonwealth, and therefore have previously been under British rule, and countries that still have homophobic biphobic and/or transphobic legislature in their constitutions,” the LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall reported, pointing to how many African countries see homosexuality as a “white disease.” Numerous African societies did not view and practice gender as a binary, compared with European nations such as Britain and France, before colonization and the spread of fundamentalist Christian attitudes. The growth of Islam and Christianity on the continent further challenged Indigenous social and religious systems, “paving the way for the taboos that prevail today,” an author wrote in The Guardian.

Advances in LGBTQ+ rights have been viewed as ‘anti-African’ by some states

Sources: CNN, TBIJ, Human Rights Campaign Foundation

The rise of this bill represents a “deep shift in the nation,” reported CNN. Ghana was “a bit liberal” compared with countries such as Uganda, one gender rights activist said, with a “live and let live” mentality. However, discussions about LGBTQ+ rights by leaders including the U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris became paraded as examples of neocolonialism, as conservative Ghanaian politicians claimed the West was imposing its values on local customs. Activists have called this rise “imported homophobia,” while investigations by Human Rights Watch found U.S. conservative Christian groups such as the World Congress of Families were funding Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ movement.

Anti-LGBTQ+ laws have put people’s health at risk

Sources: The New York Times, The Accra Times

The Anti-Homosexuality Act enacted in Uganda last year has threatened “to renew the [HIV] epidemic as LGBTQ citizens are denied, or are too afraid to seek out, necessary medical care,” The New York Times reported. In addition to a rise in LGBTQ+ evictions from homes, clinics and hospitals estimate that the number of people coming in for HIV testing, prevention, or treatment has dropped by at least half. If Ghana implements its new bill, there could also be economic consequences: a New York Times report found that Uganda’s hospitality industry faced cancellations within weeks of its draconian law passing. The Accra Times cited Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya — which have all passed stringent anti-LGBTQ+ measures — as “cautionary tales” for international backlash, saying that Ghana’s new bill could trigger “a talent drain that could diminish the workforce quality available to Ghanaian businesses.”

Article by Taylor Abbot, with research.

Taylor Abbot is a 23 y.o. staff writer for GAY45 and MA student at the University of Oxford. Previously he studied at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is passionate about journalism, contemporary literature, poetry, technology, socio-political involved art forms and queer implications in society. He wrote previously for several magazines as Bay Area Reporter or Männer. Nerdy curious, passionate about the weird parts of life and the good stories written by great journalists. Taylor decided to delete all his social media accounts two years ago. Lives and works between Berlin and London.

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