Ajoa Yeboah Afari writes: Of the ‘low hanging fruit’ factor

I’ve often wondered why in this country the persistent reports of all sorts of sexual and other assaults of children, and brutalities against the vulnerable, especially women, never seem to excite the sort of overwhelming outcry that even the merest hint of homosexual news attracts.

Is it because people with different sexual orientations represent the ‘low hanging fruit’, easy prey?

In July, 2021, some Members of Parliament submitted to the House a draft law which criminalises homosexual practices, and which seeks to imprison offenders identified as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers and others (LGBTQ +).

Eight MPs, seven from the opposition National Democratic Congress, and one from the ruling New Patriotic Party initiated the Bill.

The Honourables, from the NDC: Sam Nartey-George; Della Adjoa Sowah; Emmanuel Bedzrah; Alhassan Suhuyini; Rita Naa Odoley Sowah; Helen Adjoa Ntoso; Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor; and, from the NPP, John Ntim Forjour.

I believe that to people like me, dismayed by the draconian approach of the Bill, news of a memorandum to Parliament on September 29, by a group of concerned citizens, calling for the outright rejection of what it describes as “this dangerous bill”, came as a huge relief.

Unfortunately, owing to space limitations, the following are only a few lines from a summary of the group’s 30-page memo, read by Lawyer Akoto Ampaw at their press conference in Accra, on October 4:

The LGBTQ+ Bill currently before Parliament is a major step backwards for democracy, inclusiveness, the protection of minorities and the vulnerable in society, and of fundamental human rights in Ghana.

Violation of fundamental freedoms
The Bill violates virtually all the key fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, namely:

1. the right to freedom of speech and expression;
2. the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief;
3. the freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such in practice (which includes the freedom not to practice any religion);
4. the right to assemble, including the freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations;
5. the freedom of association and the right to organize;
6. the right to freedom from discrimination; and
7. the right to human dignity.

This Bill, which has been laid before Parliament as a private member’s bill, in fact, imposes a significant charge on the Consolidated Fund or other public funds.

By the express terms of Article 108, however, a Bill that does this cannot lawfully be introduced or acted upon by Parliament as a private member’s Bill.

Accordingly, the introduction of the LGBTQ+ Bill as a private member’s bill in Parliament, irrespective of the Bill’s merits or demerits, constitutes a direct and gross violation of Article 108 (a) (ii), and is therefore unconstitutional.

Denial of humanity and identity of LGBTQ persons
The Bill … stigmatises the being and identity of LGBTQ+ persons and denies them their humanity.

It directly violates Article 15(1) of the Constitution which provides that “The dignity of all persons shall be inviolable.”

Criminalising right to assemble and organise
Clause 15 of the Bill seeks to disband existing LGBTQ+ organisations, and Clause 16 prohibits the formation or registration of groups, associations or organisations set up to engage in any activity having anything to do with LGBTQ+ causes.

Anyone who does so is liable upon summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than six years and not more than ten years.

The sponsors of the Bill have not provided, and cannot provide, a shred of evidence to demonstrate any cognizable harm that LGBTQ+ persons or their activities pose to society.

Cultural and traditional values
It is Ghanaian LGBTQ+ persons who are fighting for social tolerance and acceptance.

Secondly, it is simply not true that LGBTQ+ tendencies and inclinations are foreign to Ghanaian or African societies

Hypocritical condemnation of ‘foreign imposition’
The main proponents of the Bill, the Coalition has, in fact, collaborated with, and received considerable assistance from the Western global anti-gay and anti-abortion network, the self-styled World Congress of Families.

Therefore, there is nothing original or homegrown about this Bill.

When all the fanciful justifications, supposedly grounded in culture, tradition and religion, are stripped of their beguiling clothes and adornments, what is left of the high sounding “Bill for the Protection of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values” is an Orwellian nightmare.

We urge that the Bill ought, with respect, to be firmly rejected by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, and by Parliament as a whole.

It has no place in our constitutional democratic republic.

Members of the group:
1. Mr. Akoto Ampaw
2. Professor Emerita Takyiwaa Manuh
3. Professor Kwame Karikari
4. Professor Kofi Gyimah-Boadi
5. Professor Audrey Gadzekpo
6. Dr. Rose Mensah-Kutin
7. Dr. Yao Graham
8. Professor Dzodzi Tsikata
9. Professor H. Kwasi Prempeh
10. Mr. Kwasi Adu Amankwah
11. Dr. Kojo Asante
12. Mr. Kingsley Ofei-Nkansah
13. Mr. Akunu Dake
14. Mr. Tetteh Hormeku-Ajei
15. Professor Raymond Atuguba
16. Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby
17. Dr. Joseph Asunka
18. Nana Ama Agyemang Asante.

⃰ ⃰ ⃰

As the group stated at the press conference, it’s not about whether lesbianism or gayism is right or wrong; it’s about “the blatant violation of human rights, as contained in the Bill.”

Even if one strongly disapproves of gays, to me that is no reason to criminalise them or their families and associates; or jail them.

Why prescribe such severe, unjust penalties?

Incidentally, I asked a very senior clergyman reported to have expressed support for the Bill a simple question: “I’m wondering what you would do if you found out that one of your relatives is a homosexual. They should be jailed for ten years?”

That WhatsApp message was sent on August 12.

Since then, we have communicated many times but, significantly, my question remains unanswered.

My support for the memo is in the spirit of the Martin Luther King stance: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere … Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

And there’s the Akan proverb which underscores succinctly the importance of empathy: “Wo yↄnko da, ne wo da.” (‘Your neighbour’s plight/misfortune is yours’).

I congratulate the 18 on their brilliant memo, so well-articulated; and I pray that it helps to achieve a fair and just outcome.

Well done, group, for championing the cause of the vulnerable, the voiceless and the powerless.

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