Release 21 detained LGBTQI advocates – UN human rights experts tell gov’t

United Nations (UN) human rights experts have entreated the government to release 21 suspected lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) persons who were arrested for unlawful assembly.

The group was arrested after a mass gathering at the Nurses and Midwives Hotel, in  Ho, on May 21, 2021.

In a statement condemning the arrest and alleged arbitrary detention of the persons, the UN experts said the 21 were arrested for “defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse (LGBT) community”.

“We are deeply concerned by the arrests of the human rights defenders. All evidence available to us points to the fact that they were detained while they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association,” the UN’s independent human rights experts said in a statement.

“Human rights defenders play a key role in protecting vulnerable groups from violence and discrimination and empowering them to claim their human rights. Ghana should ensure that no one is criminalized for defending the fundamental rights of LGBT people.”

The experts also pointed out that the root of the arrests allegedly lies in the criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct.

In Ghana, same-sex sexual activity falls under the definition of “unnatural carnal knowledge”, under section 104 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, which imposed a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.

“Detention on discriminatory grounds, including for combating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, is arbitrary by its own nature and violates international human rights law. The Government of Ghana must release them immediately and unconditionally,” the experts said.

In February, the LGBTQ+ community came under the spotlight after national security locked up an apartment serving as an office for LGBTQI+ Rights Ghana in Accra.

This caused a stir with human rights advocates frowning on such activities, while churches, the Islamic community, and traditional leaders backed the government’s decision against the legalization of LGBTQ+.

The UN experts are Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Melissa Upreti (Vice-Chair), Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Ivana Radačić, and Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-chairperson), Mumba Malila, Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Priya Gopalan, Working Group on arbitrary detention; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.


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