Ghana’s parliament begins public hearings on new anti-LGBT + law

Ghana’s parliament will hold its first public hearing on Thursday on a new law that would make it illegal to be gay or to defend gay rights, its press office said.

The so-called family values ​​bill is currently before the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which said it had received more than 150 memoranda from individuals, groups and religious organizations about the bill.

The committee is expected to hear 10 petitions each week in a series of public sessions before the bill is put to a vote, said Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin.

Gay sex is already punishable by prison in Ghana, but no one has been prosecuted in years. The new bill would go much further, criminalizing the promotion and financing of LGBT + activities, as well as public displays of affection, cross-dressing and more.

Ghanaian Parliament Speaker Alban Bagbin promised in his opening speech last month that the parliament would pass the bill “as soon as possible.”

People who were detained by the police on suspicion of promoting an LGBT + agenda in an illegal gathering arrive in court for a bail hearing in Ho, Volta region, Ghana, on June 4, 2021 (credit: REUTERS / FRANCIS KOKOROKO).

UN human rights experts have urged lawmakers to reject it, saying it would establish a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence against sexual minorities.

LGBT + rights groups in Ghana said they have seen an increase in homophobic attacks since the bill was introduced in August.

Arbitrary arrests, blackmail and evictions have more than doubled since then, and people are targeted if they are suspected of being gay, said Danny Bediako, director of the human rights organization Rightify Ghana.

“Our greatest concern is the health and safety of the members of our community,” he told Reuters. “I have never seen so many people wanting to leave the country.”

The bill has been promoted by conservative Christian groups in Ghana, which has become a hot spot for the debate on LGBT + rights in Africa.

The United States-based World Congress of Families (WCF), a group that works to promote anti-gay laws and policies around the world, held a major regional conference in Ghana’s capital, Accra, in 2019.

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