“Why can’t the law protect us? We are all Ghanaians,” says Hillary, a 27 year-old Ghanaian gay resident in Accra who has adopted a female name as his alias. “We all have rights that must be protected,” he adds.
Hillary and members of his homosexual fraternity were recently attacked and chased out of a party by the Ga-Mashie Youth for Change in Accra for what the group described as the growing phenomenon of gay marriage in the area. There was speculation that a gay marriage ceremony between two lesbians was taking place in the area and the youth group will not entertain such a thing which they described as ‘taboo’.
But Hillary says a gay marriage never occurred. “It wasn’t a lesbian marriage it was just a party, there were heterosexuals among us,” he says.
“They beat some of our lady friends who were not able to run, took their phones and money and stripped them naked,” he says. “They chased us with canes, cutlasses, stones, and bottles.”
The gang assault on the suspected homosexuals, which happened on Sunday March 11, 2012, left the victims with no alternative but to leave the community and seek refuge with FIDA and the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Police Service.
The Ga-Mashie Youth for Change claims the activities of the gay people are eating into the moral fiber of the community and therefore must do something to stop the progression of the act in the community.
“We invaded the place with the intention of stopping them but not to hurt anyone or beat them,” says Daniel Wettey, coordinator of the youth group. “We want to register our feelings against it (homosexuality),” he adds.
He admits they chased the homosexuals out with sticks and ordered the disc jockey (DJ) to stop the music; their main aim was to stop the activity and nothing else. “We didn’t beat anyone.”
“When they saw the crowd, they started running, with some of them leaving their belongings behind. Those who run were those that fell and hurt themselves,” Wettey says.
But Hillary disagrees and says the youth group continued with its attacks days after the incident.
The group went to the homes of the gay people and threatened them to either leave the community or face the consequences.
“I had to run and leave James Town because I was scared,” Hillary says. “We have all left our homes.”
In show of their determination to completely drive away the gay people from the community, the youth group sent a petition to the James Town District Police Command notifying them to go on a peaceful demonstration in their fight against “sodomy and lesbianism”.
Excerpts of the petition read, “With the recent trends of sodomy and lesbianism eating into the moral fiber of the Ga Mashie community, we the youth for change in the community wishes [sic] to create awareness of immorality of such acts and demonstrate peacefully against such acts throughout the Principal Streets of the Ga-Mashie community.
“We wish to converge at [sic] the Mantse Agbonaa Park on Friday (yesterday) 30th March 2012 at 9am and move through the principal streets of Accra Central and end at the Bukom Square.”
As of Friday, the demonstrators had not gotten permission to protest from the police. The demonstration has been pushed back indefinitely.
Hillary is now in a dilemma over his safety as he says he has no support. “It was only Human Right Advocacy Centre who helped us by taking us to the police headquarters to file our complaint and we were brought here (DOVVSU); as at now they have not said anything.”
Under Ghanaian law, male same-sex sexual activity is illegal. Gay men can also be punished under provisions concerning assault and rape, only if “in public or with minor”.
Criminal Code 1960, Chapter 6, Sexual Offences Article 105states, “Whoever is guilty of unnatural carnal knowledge (a) of any person without his consent, is guilty of first degree felony; (b) of any person with his consent, or of any animal, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
The Constitution of Ghana also guarantees the protection of all human rights for Ghanaian citizens but does not mention sexuality.
The issue of gay rights has dominated the local media for some time, with pressure on the president to declare his position, especially in view of the conflicting information from government quarters against the thorny issue of gay rights. Last November, President John Evans Atta Mills, finally, in response to British Prime Minister, David Cameron’s statement that international aid would be cut from countries that fail to respect gay rights said, “I as the president, I will never initiate or support any attempt to legalize homosexuality in Ghana.”
President Mills said Cameron was entitled to his own views but that he did not have the right to dictate to other sovereign nations what they should do.
He said Ghana has societal norms that are different from those of the UK’s.
Martin Amidu, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, had said at a press conference in Accra even before his exit from the government that the laws of Ghana only frowned on homosexuality when it involved a minor or when one partner was forced into a sexual act.
Amidu explained that when two consenting male adults had sex with each other in the privacy of their rooms, such a situation could not be described as illegal and the participants were at an absolute liberty.
“The law does not follow you to see what you do; your house is your castle. Your room is your castle; what you do there is nobody’s business. It is only when you rape an adult by way of unnatural carnal knowledge that you become a subject of prosecution,” he said.
Nana Oye Lithur, executive director of the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC), finds the current situation at Ussher and James Towns surprising because “it’s a tolerant society”.
She says it is difficult to address the level of tolerance as both pro and anti-gay groups are now more vocal on their position on the issue.
She says the position of the organization is that homosexuals have rights.
“We believe that they are human beings and every single right that is granted through the constitution, they are equally entitled to,” she says.
She explains that finding the act homosexuals engage in offensive does not mean people’s rights should be violated.
“For me, what they do behind closed doors is their own business,” Oye Lithur says.
Religious Views On Homosexuality
Religious groups have been at the forefront of the fight against homosexuality. They threatened even to the point of blackmailing that gay right would be made an election issue, forcing the president to take a position.
The Presbyterian Church of Ghana described the former Justice Minister’s position on homosexuality as “illogical” and one that smacked of a “dead sense of morality”.
The church’s moderator, Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Martey, argued on an Accra-based radio station that the consequences of what went on in the bedrooms of homosexuals affected the larger society and not just the partners.
The Moderator said there was nothing private about homosexuality because it affects everyone.
“So if a mother kills her child in her room, if a husband kills his wife in their room, it is the privacy of their room, why should the law then follow them?” he questioned.
In the same vein, the Christian Council of Ghana took a critical view of the practice of homosexuality and asked government not to pass it into law. Some pastors threatened to tell their congregation to vote against any party that endorses the practice.
According to them, homosexuality is “detestable and abominable act” and opined that if passed into law, in Ghana the country shall incur the wrath of God “and the consequences will be unbearable”.
The National Chief Imam, Sheik Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, on behalf of the Muslim community also bemoaned the act, stressing that homosexuality and lesbianism was detestable in the sight of Allah.
He said if Allah wanted human beings to practise homosexuality and lesbianism, He would not have created a woman when Adam wanted a partner in the Garden of Eden.
Sheik Sharubutu thus implored Ghanaians to frown on homosexual and lesbian practice in order not to incur the wrath of Allah.
The Coalition of Muslim Organizations, Ghana (COMOG) also called for the law making body of the country, Parliament to introduce the ‘Prohibition of Homosexuality and Lesbianism Bill’ which would imprison homosexuals without the option of a fine.
COMOG bemoaned homosexuality and called for a collective effort from government and religious groups to battle it.
Isaac MacCarter, a 32 year-old member of the youth group in James Town, says the activities of gay people are crippling the moral values in the community.
He says marriages are being dissolved, children are not being cared for and business in the community is not progressing because of the gays in the community.
“We used to get a lot of money from the trading business we do here but since we noticed them here things have been difficult for us; things are not moving on smoothly as it once used to be.”
He says married women who are also lesbians neglect their role as mothers and concentrate on their lesbian partners.
He says the children also need their parents together, “so if this will tear apart families we will stop it”.
Comfort Quartey, 32, once a lesbian, says homosexuality isn’t something that one should crave.
“(Homosexuality) isn’t something good,” she says. “It draws people back and it gives bad luck, when something good is coming your way it hinders it.”
She says she and her peers once engaged in homosexual acts and it destroyed their lives.
“When you see yourself, you will realize you are not what you used to be,” she says.
Nonetheless, Hillary wants government to do something about the situation.
“We are not asking the government for gay marriages we are asking the government for our human rights,” he says.
He says government should let people know that they are also part of the community and are human beings with blood flowing in their veins.
Nana Oye Lithur emphasizes the need for a dialogue between the two factions in the community.
She says the youth have taken the law into their own hands and that can lead to a breakdown of law and order, thus government has the responsibility to protect the people.
“The state institutions should be carrying their mandates and be protecting the people of Ghana,” she says.
She says there is also the need for the people to reduce homophobia by understanding the issues related to homosexuals.
“Whether we like it or not, we have homosexuals living in Ghana,” Nana Oye says.
Jamila Akweley Okertchiri