Ghanaian parliamentarian Samuel Nartey George announced on Facebook on Monday that he and seven other members of parliament were introducing a bill to “ban the advocacy and act of homosexuality in all its current and future forms.”
The announcement comes weeks after local outrage from government ministers and religious groups caused the country’s first community center for LGBTQ+ people to close. After receiving death threats and experiencing abuse online, the center’s founder said it needed to protect its staff, according to the Guardian.
“The proposed bill would strengthen and augment existing legislation on the subject,” George wrote. “We owe it to ourselves and the people of Ghana to uphold that which gives us our identity as a people.”
The country’s penal code criminalizes consensual “unnatural carnal knowledge” with people over the age of 16 under section 104, according to a 2018 report by Human Rights Watch on discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in Ghana. While the law is considered a legacy of British colonialism and does not explicitly refer to same-sex activity, it has been used to target members of the LGBTQ+ community and is known as the “anti-gay law.”
Members of Ghana’s government have commented on their decision to not repeal the law or decriminalize same-sex activity.
Sarah Adwoa Sarfo, the minister-designate for gender, children, and social protection, said during her confirmation hearing last month that Ghana’s laws are clear and homosexual acts are “criminal,” according to CNN.
Regarding President Nana Akufo-Addo’s stance on same-sex marriage, Ghana’s communications bureau released a statement in 2018 that explicitly stated “it will NOT be under [Akufo-Addo’s] presidency that same-sex marriage will be legalized in Ghana.”
Human rights advocates say the plan to criminalize LGBTQ+ advocacy suggests that various sectors of Ghana’s government are working together to create a “hostile environment” for LGBTQ+ people, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Amnesty International and LGBT+ Rights Ghana are just two organizations that have spoken out against the discrimination of sexual minorities. In an open letter to the president shared Monday, LGBT+ Rights Ghana listed the ways that members of the LGBTQ+ community are harassed and mistreated.
“Our plea is not one which seeks to institutionalize same-sex civil unions. Ours at this very point is to have some peace in our country and to feel safe,” said the letter.
Last week, prominent celebrities, such as Idris Elba and Naomi Campbell, signed an open letter in support of Ghana’s LGBTQ+ community, calling on the Ghanaian government to protect them. A total of 67 celebrities, politicians, and other influential people have joined the campaign, employing the use of the hashtag #GhanaSupportsEquality to garner online support.
While human rights organizations and advocates ask the government to end discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana, George and other MPs who support the ban of LGBTQ+ advocacy hope to pass their bill before the parliamentary session ends on March 31.