Ghana’s Gays Organise to Fight British Criminal Law
Page, March 5, 2005
Gays and lesbians in Ghana are taking new steps to be
decriminalised. In an appeal to government, their association threatened to
boycott the December polls if no party supported their quest. It’s not known
if they implemented the threat. Currently, colonial British criminal law
criminalizes same-sex relations and regulations also make treatment of
sexually transmitted diseases impossible.
Prince MacDonald‚ the leader of the organisation for
gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals in Ghana, on 18 August 2004, sent
an urgent appeal to the global society and to Ghanaian authorities. He called
for an immediate decriminalisation of homosexuality to meet Ghanaian gays’
and lesbian’s needs of health treatment and their human rights.
- We are discriminated upon because of our sexual
orientation and no one dares talk for us, says Mr MacDonald. “The police
beat and punish people who are found to be gays ... in our communities when
found, you are treated as an outcast or lowered to beatings from people who
call themselves straight,” he describes the situation in Ghana.
Also regarding sexually transmitted diseases, such as
HIV/AIDS, homosexuals are deprived of public services, according to the gay
activists. “When we get an infection, we are asked to provide our partners
before treatment. How can I provide my male partner in such a bad
environment?” he asks.
Homosexuality keeps being criminalized in the criminal
code of Ghana. “Unnatural carnal knowledge of any person”—or
homosexuality as Ghanaian judges read it—is a sexual offence comparable with
bestiality, assault and rape in the criminal code. This law is a relic of
repressive British sodomy laws from the colonial era.
The legal situation in Ghana reflects the situation for
homosexuals in most of Africa. Where homosexuality is legally mentioned, laws
mostly origin in ancient English, French or Portuguese anti-gay legislation.
Many other countries, where anti-gay legislation does not exist, homosexuality
is still such a social taboo that it is sanctioned by local society. One of
the few exceptions is South Africa, where gay rights are specifically
guaranteed by the constitution.
In Ghana, where social dialogue has come far in national
media, the issue of homosexuality has only recently found its face in Mr
MacDonald’s organisation. While homosexuality is illegal, the Ghanaian
constitution offers citizen the rights to associate with any group or
organisation, making the group’s existence more or less possible.
It however remains problematic to run a gay association n
Ghana. The constitutional rights against discrimination based on sex and
gender “do not work for us,” Mr MacDonald says. The ancient British
criminal code in practical terms prevents this.
- Our criminal code which was written during the British
rule in Ghana is still the same. It has no new or modernized laws, writes Mr
MacDonald. Even though its does not say it is illegal for a man to have sex
with another man ... clearly, its states that such action is ‘unnatural’
and when caught, you will be sentenced to prison. Now, there are lots and lots
of people in our prison home who have been caught by this unfriendly law.”
In addition to having to cover up their sexual
orientation, Ghanaian gays and lesbians are caught in double fire if they
catch a sexually transmitted disease such as AIDS. “Most of my colleagues
too are dying from the deadly HIV-AIDS,” the gay activist says.
As most doctors are hostile to homosexuals, there is no
treatment accessible. Gays and lesbians that cannot reveal their sexual
partner, according to Mr MacDonald, have to “leave the hospital
disappointed” and go to drug stores to try their luck. “In some cases, the
drug stores will also ask you to go back to the hospitals for treatment.”
The Ghanaian activists were however determined to change
this situation prior to the December elections.
“It’s election time and the President or the other
political parties will not say because we are gay ... we should not vote.”
Therefore, Mr MacDonald says, Ghanaian gays will demand a health policy for
them in return for their votes.
We are not criminals, he concludes. “We don’t kill,
we don’t steal, we are not lawless; the only difference is our sexual
Source: afrol News
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