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Ghana: Campaigners demand decriminalisation of homosexuality after spike in anti-LGBT violence

Human Rights campaigners are calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ghana after a new report found violence towards LGBT people by mobs and family members is on the increase.

The report, No Choice but to Deny Who I Am: Violence and Discrimination Against LGBT People in Ghana, has revealed the retention of a colonial-era provision in the country’s Criminal Offences Act prohibiting and punishing “unnatural carnal knowledge”, coupled with a failure to actively address violence and discrimination, is relegating LGBT Ghanaians to “effective second-class citizenship”.

The Human Rights Watch, which published the 72-page report, has also said LGBT people are continuing to be attacked by mobs or even by their own family members.

For example, in August 2015, in Nima, a town in the Accra region, members of a vigilante group known as Safety Empire brutally assaulted a young man they suspected was gay. And in May 2017, in a village outside Kumasi in the Ashanti region, the mother of a young woman organised a mob to beat up her daughter and another woman because she suspected they were lesbians in a same-sex relationship.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 114 LGBT people for the report, as well as representatives for human rights organisations based in Ghana, a Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) complaints officer, the assistant police commissioner and three diplomats.

Although LGBT people are rarely, if ever, prosecuted under the country’s anti-gay laws, Wendy Isaack, LGBT rights researcher for the Human Rights Watch, said it directly contributes to the climate in which violence against LGBT people is common.

“Homophobic statements by local and national government officials, traditional elders, and senior religious leaders foment discrimination and in some case incite violence,” she added.

“LGBT Ghanaians should have the same protection from the government as everyone else.

“And the government should work to address the stigma that subjects people to violence in their own homes, the place where they should feel safest.”

Lesbians, bisexual women and transgender men are frequently victims of family violence, the Human Rights Watch found, with many being beaten, threatened and driven out of their homes.