Ghana’s president softens country’s stance on draconian anti-LGBTQ law as Kamala Harris visits | CNN


Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said that “essential elements” of a draconian anti-LGBTQ law under scrutiny by parliament have been “changed” following intervention by his government.

Akufo-Addo made the revelation Monday at a joint press conference with US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is touring through the West African country.

He pointed out that the proposed legislation, framed by “Family Values” — which aims to introduce some of the toughest anti-LGBTQ laws on the African continent — was not legislation introduced by his government, but rather a bill for private members. The bill was first introduced to Parliament in August 2021.

“The bill goes through Parliament. The Attorney General has found it necessary to speak to the Committee (the Parliament’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee) on the constitutionality of… several of its provisions. Parliament is dealing with it. I’ll come in at the end of the process,” said the Ghanaian leader called.

After parliamentary deliberations, a final bill is submitted to the President for approval.

“My understanding…is that essential elements of the bill have already been changed as a result of the attorney general’s intervention,” Akufo-Addo said.

Akufo-Addo hinted that the bill could potentially be watered down in the amendment process, adding that he is confident that Parliament will take into account the bill’s sensitivity to human rights issues, as well as the feelings of the Ghanaian people, “and come out with a responsible response.”

However, one of the MPs who introduced the bill, Samuel Nartey George, insists the proposed law remains “rigid and strict”.

“The bill has not changed significantly. The law remains as tough and rigid as it was,” George told local media in a TV interview.

He added: “When the bill goes to the House (Parliament), you will see that the focus of the bill is on annulling (gay) marriages, preventing adoption or fostering of children, cracking down on platforms and media houses who advertise, advocacy, or promote these materials will continue to be enforced.”

George also hinted that restrictions on “expressions, be it lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, are all still there. “So when he (Akufo-Addo) says the bill was watered down, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

The proposed aw would result in LGBTQ Ghanians being jailed or forced into so-called “conversion therapy” – a widely discredited practice debunked by many international medical and psychiatric communities.

Under the bill, supporters of the LGBTQ community would face up to 10 years in prison; Public displays of same-sex affection or cross-dressing could result in a fine or jail time, and certain types of medical assistance would be made illegal.

The new law would also make it illegal for news organizations or websites to disseminate material deemed pro-LGBTQ. It urges Ghanaians to report those they suspect are from the LGBTQ community.

Harris, the US Vice President, said at the press conference that supporting the freedom and equality of the LGBTQ community is very important to her.

“This is an issue that we consider a human rights issue and that is not going to change,” she said.

Ghana’s Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah also told CNN on Tuesday that the outcome of the parliamentary debate on the law could differ from its original provisions.

“The bill is currently in the approval process. What will come out of adoption, when 275 Members have their say and start working on it clause by clause and clause by clause, may end up being different than what was proposed. You propose a law and Parliament… can tweak it and make it tougher or less tough…it’s in the hands of Parliament now,” Nkrumah said.

However, the minister also stressed that the Ghanaian government was under no pressure to relax existing legislation on homosexuality.

“We are in no way pressured to focus on things that are not necessarily among our top priorities. Our number one priority is to get the Ghanaian economy on track and that is what we are focused on.”

“This conversation is not part of our mainstream conversation here in Ghana,” he added.

Old sodomy laws dating back to 1960 are still in Ghana’s law books but are rarely enforced.

Activist Danny Bediako, who runs the NGO Rightify Ghana, told CNN that life in Ghana would become more difficult for the LGBTQ community if the law passes Parliament.

“This will make it harder for the (LGBTQ) community to exist. They’re just trying to wipe out the community through this law, so it will definitely lead to an increase in attacks,” said Bediako, who added that his organization has documented 27 cases of violent attacks against the LGBTQ community in the country this year.

“There have been different types of cases, but the most dominant is the activities of violent groups and they are widespread. So if this law is passed, these activities will continue and it will only get worse.”

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