Ghana | LGBTIQ+ groups sue govt over discrimination and arrests

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Several groups in Ghana are challenging the government’s unlawful arrest and detention of 21 LGBTIQ+ activists and community members last year.

According to a media statement, two separate suits were filed in the Ghana High Court on 14 June against the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of Ghana to seek amends for the violation of the constitutional rights of the litigants.

The cases stem from a 20 May 2021 police raid of a paralegal and human rights training workshop on intersex rights hosted by two Ghanaian LGBTIQ-led organisations in Ho, Volta region.

The 21 participants and organisers (popularly referred to as the “Ho 21”) were arrested and taken to the police station, where they were detained and charged with “unlawful assembly”.

After being denied bail several times, the detainees were finally granted bail by the Ho High Court on 11 June 2021 on the basis that not doing so would be an infringement of their fundamental rights.

In August 2021, the case was dismissed by the Ho Circuit Court due to the Prosecutor and AG acknowledging there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the group for unlawful assembly with the supposed purpose of promoting same-sex activities.

Throughout their unlawful arrest and detention, the individuals were subjected to harassment, assault, discriminatory treatment and other violations of their constitutional rights.

The litigants are being supported by Queer Ghana Education Fund (QuGEF)/Coalition For SupportGH, other LGBTIQ+ organisations in Ghana and the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) who are acting as legal advisors.

The one case filed in the High Court on behalf of three of the arrestees challenges the State’s actions as violations of the right to freedom of assembly, discrimination, unlawful arrest and detention and malicious prosecution and seeks to utilise Resolution 275 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The second case is on behalf of an intersex woman who was a participant in the workshop and who was singled out by prison guards for harassment and discriminatory treatment while in detention for her intersex status.

The issue of LGBTIQ+ equality has become a headline-grabbing topic in Ghana in recent years, with politicians, journalists and religious leaders stirring up anti-LGBTIQ+ sentiment on the basis of “family”, religious and traditional “values”.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalised with up to three years in prison under Ghana’s existing Criminal Code. Despite this, the country’s parliament is considering the appalling Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill.

If passed, it will not only criminalise all LGBTIQ+ people but will also make it illegal to advocate for LGBTQI+ rights in any way with up to ten years in prison. The bill would further outlaw any medical gender affirmation interventions, gay adoption and same-sex marriage, as well as banning any transgender person from getting married.

Earlier this month, members of the Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values, accompanied by some of the proponents of the anti-LGBTIQ+ bill condemned a series of innocuous billboards promoting LGBTIQ+ inclusion. Soon after, some of the billboards were torn down.

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