Author: Humans Rights Watch
Publication Type: report
Date of publication: 2018
Ghana has a mixed record on its treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It criminalizes “unnatural carnal knowledge” in section 104 (1) (b) of its Criminal Offences Act, which the authorities interpret as “penile penetration of anything other than a vagina.” However, the law is a colonial legacy that is rarely, if ever, enforced, and unlike several of its neighbors, Ghana has not taken steps in recent years to stiffen penalties against consensual same-sex conduct or to expressly criminalize sexual relations between women.
At least two government agencies, the Ghana Police Force and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), have reached out to LGBT people and taken proactive steps, including through providing human rights training workshops to help ensure their protection. Nevertheless, LGBT people are very frequently victims of physical violence and psychological abuse, extortion and discrimination in many different aspects of daily life, because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
This report is based on interviews conducted between December 2016 and February 2017 in Accra (Ghana’s capital), Tamale (the capital of the northern region of Ghana), Kumasi (the capital of Ashanti region in southern Ghana) and Cape Coast (capital of Central region in southern Ghana) with 114 Ghanaians who self-identify as LGBT. It documents the human rights impact of section 104(1)(b) of the 1960 Criminal Offences Act (Act 29) on the lives of LGBT people in Ghana.
Despite the rare, if any, prosecutions under this provision, Human Rights Watch found that the criminalization of adult consensual same-sex conduct contributes to a climate in which violence and discrimination against LGBT people is common. The retention of section 104(1)(b) – commonly referred to as the anti-gay law – is often seen as tacit state approval of discrimination, and even violence, on the basis of real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity. The law also contributes to a social environment in which there is pervasive violence against lesbian, bisexual and gender non-conforming women in the home and LGBT people more generally in communities where they live.
This report documents how dozens of LGBT people have, on numerous occasions, been attacked both by mobs and members of their own families, subjected to sexual assault, intimidation and extortion. For instance, in August 2015 in Nima, Accra, a young man was allegedly brutally assaulted by members of a vigilante group known as Safety Empire simply because they suspected he was gay.
Also, several men described being severely beaten by mobs of young men—often after being lured into compromising situations and blackmailed on social media. In May 2016 in a village outside Kumasi in the Ashanti region, the mother of a young woman organized a mob to beat up her daughter and another woman because she suspected they were lesbians and in a same-sex relationship. The two young women were forced to flee the village.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ghanaians interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that the combination of the criminalization of adult consensual same-sex conduct and the profoundly religious and socially conservative Ghanaian context has an insidious effect on their individual self-expression. All the interviewees said that they either felt they had little choice but to adopt self-censoring behavior, or worse, deny their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid suspicion by family members and the communities in which they live.
Numerous interviewees told Human Rights Watch that in certain instances, such suspicion has led to violence, extortion and arrests. Lesbian, bisexual women and transgender men are frequently victims of domestic violence. While Pearl’s story of being subjected to a mob assault for being a lesbian is horrific, violence against this group of women in Ghana often takes place in the privacy of their own homes–the place where they ought to feel the most secure.
The report details the ways in which the intersection of gender and sexual orientation renders gender nonconforming women particularly vulnerable to domestic violence. While recognizing that the legal framework affects the lives of LGBT individuals generally, it is imperative to highlight the abuse that lesbian and bisexual women are subjected to in the private sphere, particularly by family members who exercise domination and control over women’s lives, bodies and sexuality.
Many LGBT Ghanaians told Human Rights Watch that their lives have been torn apart because of the stigma associated with homosexuality; the fear of violence perpetrated by family members and others in the community and homelessness, should their sexual orientation be disclosed. The negative public discourse about LGBT people, who are referred to in derogatory terms in public spaces, combined with the risk of physical violence has severe psychological implications. Many interviewees said they constantly struggle with the stress associated with hiding their sexuality, thus living double lives, to stay safe. Facing the risk of family rejection, many succumb to the pressure to marry. Others, ostracized from their families, find themselves with few economic options, leading some to rely on sex work as a means of survival.
To the President
- Publicly condemn all threats and acts of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including violence perpetrated by family members.
- Adopt measures and take steps aimed at raising public awareness of the harm of homophobia that prevails in the country, and the need to combat it. In particular, hold accountable all public officials who make homophobic statements.
- Propose comprehensive legislation that prohibits all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Invite the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Country Rapporteur for the Republic of Ghana to conduct an official visit to engage in constructive dialogue with the government and all stakeholders on the progress and challenges to domestic implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other relevant regional human rights treaties that Ghana has ratified.
- Repeal sections 104(1(b) of the Criminal Offences Act that criminalizes adult consensual same-sex conduct.
- Amend Chapter 5 of the 1992 Constitution on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms to include a specific prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Introduce legislative and policy measures to prevent, protect, punish and provide effective remedies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals who are victims of violence on the basis of their real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity and ensure enjoyment of their constitutional rights to equality and non-discrimination.
- Follow-up effectively on the various recommendations from the human rights treaty bodies, the universal periodic review and special procedures in order to ensure improved protection from violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in particular the recommendations contained in the Concluding Observations adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in August 2016 pursuant to consideration of Ghana’s initial report to:
- Take necessary steps to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons against all forms of discrimination, intimidation and violence and amend section 104 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, to ensure that sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex are not considered a misdemeanor and not punishable by law.
To the Inspector General of Police: Ghana Police Services
- Undertake prompt, independent, and effective investigations into allegations,of acts of violence against LGBT people—whether in public spaces or in the home—always taking into account that such crimes may be motivated by hatred of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Ensure that police stations provide a safe environment for LGBT persons to report cases of violence, including by establishing a human rights desk and a reporting hotline for cases of domestic violence.
- Ensure all law enforcement officials fully comply with the Ghana Police Service Standard Operating Procedures while executing their duties in respect of providing services to LGBT victims of crime, in particular, to identify and arrest perpetrators.
- Ensure that police apply the provisions on equality, human dignity and discrimination in the Constitution in all their dealings with LGBT individuals.
- To the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s Department Issue clear directives to prosecutors and members of the judiciary to ensure that reported cases of violence against LGBT people are effectively prosecuted without delay and perpetrators punished in accordance with the law.
- Conduct capacity-building workshops for court officials and related personnel and integrate human rights of LGBT people into educational curricula to enhance officials’ understanding of constitutional rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.
To the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice
- In accordance with the mandate to promote human rights set out in relevant provisions of the 1992 Constitution and Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice Act 456, 1993, implement public education programs focusing on LGBTI rights.
- Monitor, investigate and report on incidents of hate speech and incitement based on sexual orientation and gender identity in accordance with the protection mandate.
- Effectively implement the actions adopted at the March 2017 workshop hosted by the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions in Nairobi, Kenya for staff of national human rights institutions on sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights, in particular:
- Conduct internal training on sexual orientation and gender identity issues for all staff at regional and district levels.
- Organize symposia and workshops for police, non-governmental organizations, the judiciary, media, health practitioners and religious leaders on human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
- Continue to actively engage with LGBT human rights organizations to encourage LGBT persons to file discrimination complaints with the Commission.
- Launch a national public education campaign about rights protections, legal remedies, and social services available for victims of violence and discrimination, particularly as they relate to women’s rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
- To the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Urge Ghana to submit its long-overdue report on the general human rights situation in the country, including information relating to violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Conduct a visit to Ghana to assess the government’s compliance with regional human rights treaties it has ratified and to engage in constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, including LGBTI individuals, on progress, obstacles, plans and measures adopted to ensure implementation of ACHPR Resolution 275 on the Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.
- Increase financial and technical assistance to civil society organizations
- Providing services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who have suffered violence, including domestic violence, and discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Specifically, increase funding for community organizing, advocacy, and direct services, including short and long-term shelters, legal aid, crisis hotlines, counseling, medical assistance, and job training to lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender men.
Les Wathinotes sont des extraits de publications choisies par WATHI et conformes aux documents originaux. Les rapports utilisés pour l’élaboration des Wathinotes sont sélectionnés par WATHI compte tenu de leur pertinence par rapport au contexte du pays. Toutes les Wathinotes renvoient aux publications originales et intégrales qui ne sont pas hébergées par le site de WATHI, et sont destinées à promouvoir la lecture de ces documents, fruit du travail de recherche d’universitaires et d’experts.