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A demonstrator attends a rally against a controversial bill being proposed in Ghana's parliament that would make identifying as LGBTQIA or an ally a criminal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison, Harlem, New York, October 11, 2021.  © 2021 Emily Leshner/AP Photo

Influential people in Ghana are speaking out against the country’s dangerous anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) bill.

Last week, Samia Nkrumah, a former member of parliament and chair of a major political party in Ghana, urged the president to veto an anti-LGBT bill, calling it “brutal, harsh, and unjust.” Nkrumah’s father, Kwame, is a towering figure in Africa and Ghana’s history, having led the independence movement and served as the country’s first president and prime minister in the 1950s and 60s.

On February 28, Ghana’s parliament passed a draconian bill that increases criminal penalties for consensual same-sex conduct and criminalizes individuals and organizations who advocate for the rights of LGBT people. Additionally, the bill criminalizes failure to report an LGBT person to the authorities and to report anyone who uses their social media platform to produce, publish, or disseminate content promoting activities prohibited by the bill.

Since then, prominent individuals, such as Nkrumah, have urged President Nana Akufo Addo to reject the bill. This includes a memo from Ghana’s finance minister to the president, warning of the bill’s disastrous economic consequences if it were to become law.

Ghana’s current criminal law, derived from British colonial-era laws, punishes same-sex conduct between men with a maximum penalty of three years in prison. The recent push for increasingly harsh legislation has already had consequences for LGBT people in Ghana. After the introduction of the bill in 2021, twenty-one LGBT activists were unlawfully arrested and detained for holding a human rights education meeting on the grounds that they were promoting homosexuality and that the gathering was an unlawful assembly.

On Ghana’s Independence Day, March 6, protestors gathered outside Ghanaian high commissions in London, Johannesburg, and elsewhere to demonstrate pan-African and global solidarity against the egregious and harmful bill. President Addo has said with regard to the bill that he will not allow the country to backslide on human rights and the rule of law.

A swift veto once the bill reaches his desk would make that pledge a reality. 

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