Kelly Sans Culotte


Africa

Gay Rights Dawn in Ghana
Faced with prison or blackmail, queers begin to organize.
By Toby Eglund


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AUGUST 27, 2003. Cobbled together from the West African British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland trust territory, Ghana became in 1957 the first country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. Lesbians and gays, though, are still waiting to be liberated from a repressive British legacy: sodomy laws.

A gay social life exists, mostly in the form of house parties, and a few queer-friendly clubs in the capital, Accra, but there are risks. Because homosexuality is illegal, club-goers, especially tourists, risk blackmail. If they don't pay, social and legal consequences can be serious.

In Ghana's criminal code, male homosexuality is lumped in with bestiality, and gay activity brings misdemeanor charges at minimum. According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association, some gay men reportedly have been abused while in prison. In 1993 a gay Ghanaian who demonstrated a pattern of violent harassment was awarded asylum in Britain.

Peter*, a gay Ghanaian who works as a human rights activist, told The Gully that, in addition, the police sometimes arrest gay men "and have sex with them, and then let them to go free." He added, "These are some of the issues that we are trying to address in Ghana."

He and a few others had scheduled a meeting in Accra to plan a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender group when it was reported on August 8 that four young men had been sentenced the previous day to two years imprisonment each for "indecent exposure" and "unnatural carnal knowledge."

According to the Ghanaian government's newspaper, The Daily Graphic, the police arrested them when they went to pick up a package that customs officers had identified as containing photos depicting three of them in "compromising homosexual acts." The fourth asserted his innocence, but was arrested anyway.

The arrests frightened some of the meeting participants, nevertheless, Peter said, "A few people have vowed to attend the meeting no matter the cost. If all human beings have rights, then gays and lesbians have rights too."

The meeting took place last week, and the participants outlined their goals. Their main priorities are legalizing homosexuality, and educating the general public about lesbian, gay, and transgender lives. "LGBT's are normal people, and have rights like other Ghanaians," Peter said. In the short term, the group wants to pursue the case of the four arrested men to make sure they get a fair hearing. Money is the first hurdle: the only legal firm so far that will represent them wants between three and five thousand dollars.

You can contact the newly formed Gay and Lesbian Association of Ghana at gaytourghana@yahoo.com or popeducation@zwallet.com.

*Peter is a pseudonym.


From the Web

Behind The Mask: A peek into the gay Ghanaian closet
Ghana: World Factbook


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