Ghana moves closer to passing bill that would crack down LGBT rights

Thursday February 22 2024

People hold pride flags during the Gay Pride parade. PHOTO | REUTERS


Ghana's parliament on Wednesday moved a step closer to holding a vote on a bill that seeks to further clamp down on the rights of LGBT people, rejecting a proposal that would have seen jail terms for gay sex replaced with non-custodial sentences such as counselling.

A coalition of Christian, Muslim, and Ghanaian traditional leaders have sponsored the legislation, which is favoured by most lawmakers. It would punish the promotion of rights of those who are lesbian, gay or other non-conventional sexual or gender identities with up to 10 years in prison.

Gay sex is already punishable in the country by up to three years in prison and that would rise to five years under the bill.

Ruling-party lawmaker Alexander Afenyo-Markin withdrew his proposed amendment after it was rejected on Wednesday. He had argued that imprisoning people for LGBT offences would "worsen homosexuality and its promotion," which he said would defeat the bill's original intent.

Read: Ghana opposition head expresses anti-gay stance ahead of polls

The bill, one of the harshest of its kind in Africa, will now be fine-tuned for a vote in parliament. If approved, it would require presidential assent to come into force.


President Nana Akufo-Addo has not confirmed if he would sign the bill into law.

Promoters are seeking to have the bill passed by March.

Discussion of the proposed bill has heightened fears in an LGBT community that already faces abuse and hostility, activists say.

A 27-year-old lesbian and LGBT activist who asked not to be named told Reuters that the community was in a panic as the bill nears its passage.

"We would now have to be extra careful with our way of life," she said.

The UN said in 2021 that the proposed law, The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values, would create "a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence" against sexual minorities.

In May 2023, Uganda signed one of the world's toughest anti-LGBT laws, including the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality".

Activists said it unleashed a wave of abuse and the World Bank suspended new funding to the country.