In Conversation With Ghanaian LGBTQI Activists About the Government’s Attack on the LGBTQI Community

Abdul-Wadud Mohammed, Activist, Communications Director for LGBTQI Rights Ghana

First of all, gay people have constantly been ignored in the country. Our problem is never acknowledged. We go through so many things. So many homophobic violence. A gay person may be walking in the street, minding their problems, then out of nowhere someone just comes on to them and hurl violence for the mere fact that the person is queer. There have been few cases of homophobic rape, conventions to remove queer people. We are being discriminated against in public institutions like hospitals. The doctor casts a look of askance and calls you Kojobesia, which is a local term for gay people. Asking why you are gay, trying to know if everything is alright. Sometimes when we are attacked, we report to the police and they do nothing about it. No follows ups because we are who we are. This is unfair because we are equally Ghanaians. That is not fair 

LGBTQI rights Ghana is a movement of young artists. We came together, mobilised some funds from donors and decided to open an office because of the several cases of abuses suffered by people due to their gender identity or sexuality. We wanted to create a safe space for people, where they can come and feel recognized, a place where they can belong. We wanted to empower them.

But unfortunately, when we decided to open the centre we had a ceremony and a fundraiser which we documented on our social media pages. Fast forward to a week later, there was an anti-LGBT coalition National coalition for proper human sexual rights and family values. They had a national secretary called Moses Harmony. He went in a media round campaigning against the LGBTQI center and why the government must shut it down because it is not in our values.

Knowing that their reporting wasn’t right, we decided to change and correct those facts in the media space by issuing a communique after which media Houses invited us for rounds that we attended. LGBTQI has never had media visibility. Yet, the media kept inciting hate whilst reporting. We started to receive hate from the Catholic Church, pentecostal churches and other denominations in Ghana. Even the Muslim community, the members of Parliament.

It made us really scared to live in this country. People started trying to locate the centre. One morning, we realised that the centre has been raided by the police. We, the ones at the forefront, have had to move elsewhere. Currently, we are in hiding because it is not safe. We have helped to relocate other queer people from highly dangerous places. This is what we’ve had to do to keep safe. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get through this. 

Dr. Godfried Asante, Assistant Professor of Communication, Difference and Disparities at San Diego State University. 

What are the issues being faced by queer people in Ghana? Especially with civilians.

One of the main issues is citizen arrest, violence and assault of, particularly effeminate men. On several occasions, LGBT persons can be apprehended by a group of people unprovoked and then beaten, slapped and stripped naked at market places. Another issue is also blackmail. For instance, “fake” gay men (not so much lesbians) chat with queer Ghanaians on gay hook up sites and eventually ask to meet. However, during the supposed meet-up, the queer Ghanaian meets a group of men who then beat him and rob him.  The worst of all is that they cannot report it to the police because officers consistently fail to prosecute such cases and in some rare cases, arrest the gay person until they pay them bribes.

Tell me about the recent call against the LGBTQI community in Ghana. 

This recent call to close down the supposed LGBT “office” is part of a concerted effort by an anti-LGBT group that calls itself the National Coalition on Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values. They have collectively lobbied against any form of LGBT equality for the past 7 to 9 years. They are heavily financed by the World Congress of Families––a group that has been labelled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their main contention is that the office is a place where LGBT people go and have sex. A gross mischaracterization of the purpose of the building which is supposed to be a collective safe space for healing and rejuvenation. 

What mediums are queer people exploring to keep safe. 

At this point, LGBT people have retreated to mostly virtual spaces such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I would add that the momentum has grown yet again and this time, it’s getting bigger and more effective at resisting the archaic and colonial laws that are being used to deny LGBT people their rights.

What is happening in Ghana is basically what is happening everywhere in Africa only to varying degrees. We are yet to fully come to terms with the fact that queer people exist and their existence is as valid as everyone else. And in Ghana particularly, this is a case of a failing government looking for soft targets because they know they know they can whip their base to stoke homophobic violence in order to deflect their failures as a government.

Ope Adetayo – Journalist at Minority Africa

Dr. Wunpini Fatimata Mohammed, media liaison officer for The Silent Majority, Ghana.

We issue this statement because for the entire month of February, queer Ghanaians have been under attack and we have come together to challenge the prevailing narrative that all Ghanaians are anti-gay. 

Rather, we want to show how it is the government and the church who hold the disproportionate power that is stoking this power of harassment. What we are doing here is that we are amplifying the voices of all Ghanaians who want to live in a safe, secure country regardless of the agenda, sexuality, class, fashion sense and other things.

This issue is directly connected to the other human rights issues that has been happening in Ghana for the past few years, for example the role of police in specifically harassing a set of people because they wear dreadlocks or are sex workers and  everyone who is marginalised in our community. 

The reason for this statement is basically to accept the right of Queer Ghanaians to live in dignity and safety because every Ghanaians life should matter and the core values of Ghana as a country is freedom and justice and so we want that for all Ghanaians to be able to live in their own country without being attacked for their sexuality in their own country and in safety and without fear for their lives. That is the reason for which we share this statement. 

In the last few years, a lot of people within this community have been under attack. Some queer people have been receiving death threats leading to suicide ideation. Some have lost their jobs. People are being killed out of their homes and parents are worried about their children. 

Pelumi Salako

Pelumi Salako is a freelance journalist and writer interested in the intersection of arts and culture

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