UN human rights experts have condemned the arrest and detention of 21 persons defending the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and gender diverse (LGBT) community in Ghana.
“We are deeply concerned by the arrests of the human rights defenders. All evidence available to us points to the fact that they were detained while they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” said the experts.
“Human rights defenders play a key role in protecting vulnerable groups from violence and discrimination and empowering them to claim their human rights. Ghana should ensure that no one is criminalized for defending the fundamental rights of LGBT people.”
The activists, made up of 16 women and five men were arrested at Godokpui, a suburb of Ho, for allegedly holding a workshop on reporting LGBT human rights violations.
They were subsequently arraigned, charged with unlawful assembly and placed in detention for three weeks. On Tuesday, June 8, the activists were denied bail.
In Ghana, same-sex sexual activity falls under the definition of “unnatural carnal knowledge” under section 104 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, which imposes a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.
“Detention on discriminatory grounds, including for combating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, is arbitrary by its own nature and violates international human rights law. The Government of Ghana must release them immediately and unconditionally,” the experts said.
The debate about the legalization of LGBT rights in Ghana was revived earlier this year after police raided and closed down the offices of the LGBT community in Ashongman in the Greater Accra Region.
Many religious bodies, parliamentarians, ministers, human rights advocates, supporters of the movement and other relevant stakeholders have waded into the discourse about the legalization or criminalization of homosexuality in Ghana.
While some say the practice, if allowed, will serve interests that are abhorrent to the culture and values of the Ghanaian people, others have insisted that the rights of LGBT persons must be protected.
Following the Ashongman LGBT office raid and renewed pressure on the executive arm of government on the matter, President Akufo-Addo had stressed that it would not be under his presidency that marriage between persons of the same sex will be legalized in Ghana.
“For same-sex marriage to be legalized in Ghana, it will not happen in my time as President,” he stated emphatically.