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Africa: Ghana

Mon 19 Mar 2007 In: International News

As the West African country of Ghana celebrates 50 years of independence, UK gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has called on President John Kufuor, visiting London this week, to speak to his country's gay community. "As Ghana celebrates 50 years of independence, it is time to repeal the anti-gay laws," Tatchell said. A letter from Tatchell urging an end to the persecution of gays and lesbians in Ghana was handed over to President Kufuor. It also called on the Ghanaian government to open a dialogue with gay and lesbian groups. In deeply religious Ghana, homosexuality is seen as an imported foreign lifestyle choice and a moral aberration. Last year, a proposed gay and lesbian conference was banned. "Ghanaians are unique people whose culture, morality and heritage totally abhor homosexual and lesbian practices and indeed any other form of unnatural sexual acts," Information Minister Kwamena Bartels said in a statement banning the conference. Gay marriage may be legal in South Africa, but across the continent many devout and traditional Africans view homosexuality with horror. There are gay bars in Ghana's capital Accra and some organisations do work with the gay community, raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, but mostly their work is underground. Such is the opprobrium that homosexuality attracts that even normally vociferous Ghanaian human rights organisations are subdued in their support for gay rights. "In the first place, I do not know if I want to promote homosexuality in Ghana," said Richard Quayson, deputy commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the country's leading human rights organisation. "As a human rights organisation, if someone comes forward and says their rights are violated, it is my duty to protect them. As a Ghanaian, I don't think I can openly go out and promote it in the country," he said. In the experience of 23-year-old Joseph Hilary Afful, people do make their disapproval clear, sometimes in violent ways. Pointing to scars on his forehead, he describes how he and four friends were attacked last August in an Accra suburb, Chorkor. "We have to hide ourselves if even walking in the afternoon, someone can throw stones at you," he said. Ghanaian laws prohibit unnatural carnal acts - a definition which is widely understood to include homosexuality although in practice, few have been prosecuted for homosexual acts.     Ref: BBC News (m)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Monday, 19th March 2007 - 12:00pm

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