Page semi-protected

LGBT rights in Ghana

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from LGBT history in Ghana)
Jump to: navigation, search
LGBT rights in Ghana Ghana
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Male illegal since 1860s (as Gold Coast)
Female always legal.[1]
3 years imprisonment if consensual
Gender identity/expression

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Ghana face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Male same-sex sexual acts are illegal in Ghana, although it is uncertain whether female same-sex sexual activity is legal.


There is historical evidence of homosexuality in Ghana. In the 18th and 19th century Asante courts (modern day Ghana) male slaves served as concubines. They dressed like women and were killed when their master died. In the kingdom of Dahomey, eunuchs were known as royal wives and played an important part at court.[2]

Homosexuality in Ghana was criminalised in the 1860s.[3]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Under Ghanaian criminal law, same-sex sexual activity among males is illegal. It is uncertain whether same-sex sexual activity among females is illegal.

Chapter 6 of the Criminal Code, 1960, as amended by The Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 2003, provides:

  • Section 104. Unnatural Carnal Knowledge.

(1) Whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge —

(a) of any person of the age of sixteen years or over without his consent shall be guilty of a first degree felony and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than twenty-five years; or

(b) of any person of sixteen years or over with his consent is guilty of a misdemeanour; or

(c) of any animal is guilty of a misdemeanour.

(2) Unnatural carnal knowledge is sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal.[4]

Under Section 99, "unnatural carnal knowledge shall be deemed complete upon proof of the least degree of penetration".[5]

According to Section 296 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which applies because of Section 1 of the Criminal Code, a misdemeanour is punishable by imprisonment for not more than three years.[5]

Whilst the law may not be actively enforced, reports suggest that instances of persecution are widespread and common.[6]

Section 12(2) of Chapter 5 of the Constitution of Ghana provides that, "Every person in Ghana, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this Chapter but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest."[7]

Any person in Ghana who believes he/she has experienced discrimination on the basis of HIV status, gender identity or sexual orientation may report an incident through the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) stigma and discrimination reporting portal.[8]

In 2013, the United States offered to help Ghana develop legislation to protect the rights of LGBT persons.[9]

Specifics on Lesbianism

A well-known lawyer, John Ndebugri has once challenged views on the illegality of lesbianism in the Ghanaian law. According to him, by the law lesbianism which is also homosexuality does not involve penetration with a penis and therefore can not be described as sexual intercourse or unnatural, based on section 104 of the Criminal Code.[10] He added, “females don’t have penis. They cannot penetrate,” in a story captured by MyJoyOnline.[10]

Adoption of children

A single person may apply to adopt a child if that person is a citizen of Ghana, except that a single male may adopt only if the child to be adopted is his biological child. Same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt children.[11]

Living conditions

According to a 19 August 2004 Afrol News report, Prince MacDonald‚ the leader of the organisation for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals in Ghana, commented that "there are lots and lots of people in our prison home who have been caught by this unfriendly law". He said that the "police beat and punish people who are found to be gays".[12]

On 1 September 2006, the BBC reported that the Ghanaian government had banned an LGBT rights conference that was alleged to be taking place on 4 September at the Accra International Conference Centre and at a venue in the city of Koforidua.[13] Minister of Information and National Origin Kwamena Bartels said, "The government does not condone any such activity which violently offends the culture, morality[,] and heritage of the entire people of Ghana. Supporting such a conference, or even allowing it, will encourage that tendency which the law forbids. Government would like to make it absolutely clear that it shall not permit the proposed conference anywhere in Ghana. Unnatural carnal knowledge is illegal under our criminal code. Homosexuality, lesbianism[,] and bestiality are therefore offences under the laws in Ghana." The conference eventually appeared to be a hoax.[14]

On 21 July 2011, Paul Evans Aidoo, the Western Region Minister, ordered all gay people in the west of the country to be rounded up and arrested and called on landlords and tenants to inform on people they suspected of being gay.[15]

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November 2011, then President John Atta Mills pledged to never initiate or support any attempt to legalize homosexuality in Ghana. This was in response to British Prime Minister David Cameron's comment that the United Kingdom would consider cutting off aid to any country that failed to recognize gay rights. Mills said that Cameron "does not have the right to direct other sovereign nations as to what they should do especially where their societal norms and ideals are different from those that exist" in Britain.[16]

The U.S. Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Report found that,

LGBT persons faced widespread discrimination [in 2010], as well as police harassment and extortion attempts. Gay men in prison were often subjected to sexual and other physical abuse. In June 2010[,] more than 1,000 protesters in Takoradi, Western Region, participated in a peaceful rally against reports of gay and lesbian activities in their city. This was reportedly the first such protest in the country. In May 2010[,] an HIV/AIDS training workshop was held in Takoradi for health- care workers. After the workshop, The Daily Graphic announced that 8,000 gay persons had been "registered" in the Western and Central Regions. However, experts in the field denied that there had been any such "registration". After the workshop[,] there was significant negative reporting in the media about homosexuality. In a June 2010 interview with The Daily Graphic, the Western Region minister called on the government to take steps to combat homosexuality. He included the possibility of police raids on locales frequented by gay men and lesbians, efforts by community leaders to "wean young people" away from homosexuality, and a public condemnation by the government. However, no arrests of persons were made in connection with his comments by year's end, and he did not repeat his call. It was reported that four men who worked within the community of gay men were arrested in May 2010 in connection with an alleged sexual assault and were later charged with sodomy. The case was first brought to the Takoradi Circuit Court on August 24; however, it had not been heard by year's end.[17]

The U.S. Department of State's 2012 Human Rights Report found that,

LGBT persons faced widespread discrimination, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts. Gay men in prison were often subjected to sexual and other physical abuse. In March a gang of men assaulted nine people they believed to be LGBT individuals in Jamestown, a neighborhood of Accra, forcing them from their homes and attacking them with canes and sticks. The victims filed a complaint with a legal human rights organization. They said their homes were burgled while they were chased out. No arrests had been made in the case by year's end. In May a peer educator employed by an NGO to instruct sexual health education workshops was assaulted by a group of boys at a school in the Volta Region. The assault occurred after they discovered he was carrying safe-sex presentation materials such as condoms, wooden sex organ replicas, lubricant, and pamphlets.The peer educator was detained by police but later released. The boys were not charged.[18]

In February 2012, President Mills reiterated the Ghana government's stance on LGBT rights, stating that,

We have made our positions well known. Ghanaian societies frown on homosexuality ... if the people's interest is that we do not legalize homosexuality, I don't see how any responsible leader will decide to go against the wishes of his people. I heard what the secretary general said and I wasn't surprised because of where he is coming from, but we only listened to him. We have all made our positions well known. Nobody can say in Ghana we discriminate against homosexuality, there is no witch-hunting on homosexuality ... that is their own problem so we only listen and move on. The secretary general has made his views known and we have also made our views known so the value is the same.[19]

Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2012

The United Nations Human Rights Committee in October 2012 completed a Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in Ghana. The following recommendations were made to Ghana (the country that initiated the recommendation is listed in parentheses):[20]

  • Decriminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults (France,[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.16 Slovenia,[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.17 Czech Republic[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.18)
  • Promote tolerance about same-sex relations (Czech Republic[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.18) and combat homophobia (Slovenia,[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.19 Belgium[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.20)
  • Combat violence, stigmatization, and discrimination towards persons based on their sexual orientation (Portugal[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.21)
  • Eliminate the crime of "unnatural sexual relations" and adopt measures to eradicate discrimination motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity (Spain[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.22)
  • Ensure that the constitutional guarantee of equality and dignity are applied to LGBT persons. Ensure thorough and impartial investigation into all allegations of attacks and threats against individuals targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (Norway[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.23)
  • Consider which recommendations of the High Commissioner on sexual orientation and gender identity can be taken into account in the further detailing of government policies (Netherlands[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.24)
  • Train police, first responders, the justice system, and social services officials to respect and fully protect the human rights of LGBT persons (United States[20]:page: 23 ¶ 126.23)

Ghana rejected all of these recommendations.[20]:page: 22 ¶ 126

Comments by elected officials

While serving as president of Ghana, the late John Evans Atta Mills vowed in 2011 not to legalise homosexuality despite UK Prime Minister David Cameron's threat to cut aid to Ghana because of its record on human rights for its gay population.[21] In February 2017, Speaker of the Parliament Aaron Mike Oquaye called for amending the laws of Ghana to ban homosexuality entirely.[22]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal No For male (Penalty: Up to 3 years imprisonment) / Emblem-question.svg Possibly For female
Equal age of consent No For male / Yes For female
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (Incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Emblem-question.svg
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also


  1. ^ Where is it illegal to be gay?
  2. ^ Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Encyclopedia of Africa, Volume 2 OUP, USA, 2010
  3. ^ "Where is it illegal to be gay?". BBC News. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Acts of Ghana, First Republic, Criminal Code, 1960 (ACT 29); "Ghana Country Survey", International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
  5. ^ a b "Ghana LGBTI Legal Resources", Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid
  6. ^ Human Dignity Trust - Ghana Report
  7. ^ The Constitution of the Republic of Ghana
  8. ^
  9. ^ "US offers Ghana assistance in moving forward on LGBT rights", GayStarNews, reported by Andrew Potts, 7 October 2013
  10. ^ a b Boateng, Michael Ofori Amanfo. "There is no law on homosexuality; Prez Mahama is not the law- Ndebugri". Retrieved 2017-03-18. 
  11. ^ Intercountry Adoption: Ghana, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State, October 2010
  12. ^ "Ghana's gays organise to fight British criminal law", Afrol News, 19 August 2004
  13. ^ "Ghanaian gay conference banned", BBC News, 1 September 2006
  14. ^ "Somewhere over the rainbow", authored by Mark S. Luckie
  15. ^ "Ghana cracks down on gays", Star Online, 21 July 2011
  16. ^ "I will never support legalizing homosexuality, Ghana's President says", National Post, 2 November 2011
  17. ^ 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ghana, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State
  18. ^ 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ghana, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State
  19. ^ "No responsible leader will legalise homosexuality - Mills", I am a Ghanaian
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Ghana, U.N. Human Rights Council, A/HRC/22/6, 13 December 2012
  21. ^ "Mills replies David Cameron; you can't threaten us with gay aid!". Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  22. ^ "Amend Ghana's laws to ban homosexuality – Oquaye". Retrieved 18 March 2017.