The Speaker of Parliament in Ghana has backed a new anti-LGBTQ bill and warned that the struggle for LGBTQ equality is an evil “pandemic” that’s worse than Covid-19.
According to local media, Alban Bagbin – who previously served as Minister of Health – recently spoke out in support of a private members bill that aims to criminalise LGBTQ advocacy and “activities” at a speaker’s prayer breakfast meeting.
“I am very clear in my mind that the Parliament of Ghana will pass this Bill [to criminalise LGBTQ]. I have gone through it and I will confirm that the Bill will be a reference point for many countries. It has gone through all the provisions of the constitutions, laws, and international obligations,” he is quoted as saying.
“This pandemic must be fought by all of us. I can tell you [it] is worse than Covid-19,” Bagbin asserted.
He continued: “The President has spoken, our traditional leaders have spoken, our religious leaders have spoken together, and Ghanaians have spoken with one voice, and we don’t want to do anything that has to do with LGBTQ activities. I will always do what is right because good will always triumph over evil.”
A renewed campaign to target LGBTQ people was sparked by the opening of an LGBTQ community centre in the capital Accra in January. Under pressure from religious leaders and the media, the centre was raided and shut down by security forces.
Despite the country’s Constitution protecting the right to freedom of speech, expression and assembly, these rights are routinely denied to LGBTQ citizens. Those found guilty of “unnatural carnal knowledge” under section 104 of the Criminal Offences Act also face a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.
In May, 21 activists were arrested in the city of Ho by Ghanaian police for conducting paralegal training on the protection of the human rights of sexual minorities. After spending three weeks in jail, they were finally granted bail.
Human rights groups have pointed out that the arrests were unlawful and unconstitutional. While same-sex sexual activity is illegal, there is no basis under the law to arrest LGBTQ people simply for meeting or advocating for their rights. The proposed new law appears to be an attempt to address this.