It is common to hear stereotypes, misconceptions, barely disguised hate speech and even worse being lobbed at the LGBT community in Ghana through both traditional and social media channels.
On tv and radio, ignoramuses like Moses Foh-Amoaning and anyone interested in spewing hate speech against their fellow Ghanaians who simply don’t bang the same people they do are giving unlimited airtime to bash gays, call them evil, demonic and every other name in the book.
The worst part of this is that despite the journalistic requirement to get both sides to every story, pro LGBTQ voices are never given the chance to respond.
Luckily, for the first time in Ghanaian history, a concerted effort is being organized to push back against the bashing of gay Ghanaians.
A new body, the Coalition For African Values of Love, Unity and Tolerance, is fighting to push back on the hate and misconceptions often heaped on the heads of LGBTQ Ghanaians.
At a press conference held Sunday at the Miklin Hotel in Accra by the Solace Initiative in partnership with LGBT Rights Ghana, several speakers spoke on several topics to help the media get the side of the story of the gay community in Ghana.
Human Rights Lawyer and researcher Kuukuwa Andam, one of the speakers, spoke extensively on how the word ‘homos*xual’ itself is a recent construct introduced by the West.
For centuries, Africans had people with different sexualities among us living in harmony with their peers without being victimized.
However, after the Europeans arrived with their religion, that was when concepts such as ‘homos*xuals’ were introduced and then laws were passed to criminalize the act.
Without that European influence, Africans would most likely have simply let everyone enjoy their own s*xuality in peace – which is ironic since the anti-gay elements in Ghana rather claim gay rights is a Western import.
In fact, the religion which often influences their anti-gay rhetoric is rather a Western import, as is the law ‘unnatural carnal knowledge’ which is often used to persecute gay Ghanaians.
Another speaker, Shone Adjei, the Executive Director of Key Watch Ghana, spoke about the religious argument often used against the LGBT and debunked them one after the other. The strongest argument the religious use to support homophobia is that the bible forbids it – but the fact is there are a lot of things the Bible forbids which are not criminalized in Ghana. Why is it that when it comes to only this particular issue people want to use religion as an excuse to criminalize it?
When what the Bible forbids affects them – like fornication, adultery, eating shrimp or wearing cloth with different fabrics – people like to turn the other eye – but when it’s about the LGBT they all of a sudden want strict enforcement of the Bible.
Shone also made note of the fact that culture is fluid and dynamic thus the argument that homos*xuality is against our culture holds no weight.
One other speaker, a human rights activist and LGBT Ghanaian Alex Kofi Donkor, spoke about the emotional, psychological, financial and physical abuse gays have to suffer in this country simply for the fact of being themselves.
According to him, gay people are also Ghanaian like everyone else and deserve to live in a country where they are not abused simply for existing. He also made it clear they aren’t going anywhere and they’re part of the population.
For his part, Robert Akoto Amoafo, Country Director for Amnesty International, made a simple point – the constitution of Ghana protects the human rights of all human beings and shields them from all forms of discrimination.
He also warned leaders in authority, such as notoriously anti-gay Speaker of Parliament Mike Ocquaye, to be wary of the power their words hold when speaking derogatorily about gay people.
Ultimately, the Coalition is hoping to serve as a counterpoint to the poisonous misconceptions about gays being spread on a daily basis by not only ignorant but malicious actors who drum up public fury against gays who are only living their lives
It’s no doubt a commendable effort which needs support. If for nothing else the truth about being homos*xual deserves to be out there to compete against the lies and deceit – so Ghanaians can make more informed choices about their feelings towards the LGBT community based on facts and figures and not manipulated emotions.