Ghanaian LGBTI campaign faces censure

Among the men at the Capri Club, the organisation knew two SSN members were visiting the US, says Bicknell. By Naomi Budwell BBC News, Accra The debate over homosexuality has raged in Ghana and…

Ghanaian LGBTI campaign faces censure

Among the men at the Capri Club, the organisation knew two SSN members were visiting the US, says Bicknell.

By Naomi Budwell

BBC News, Accra

The debate over homosexuality has raged in Ghana and other parts of Africa for centuries.

But recent years have seen a resurgence of opposition to gay rights and lifestyles in the country.

In June last year, there was a mass removal of toilets and other facilities for LGBTI members from the streets of the capital, Accra.

The US government eventually intervened to establish that the targeted actions did not respect the right to assembly.

But some activists say the government has only been too happy to ally itself with America’s far-right wing, and the First Lady has publicly voiced her opposition to same-sex relations.

In 2015, she said of same-sex marriage, “It is not logical for us to insist on same-sex marriage even when we are Nigerians and say we are a Christian nation”.

The US government’s State Department even warned against travel to Ghana by gay men and women and their supporters.

NIGERIA: Timeline of radicalisation

The worst of the crackdown has probably come from groups like Student Christians Against Homosexuality (SCAH), a group that local gay rights activists believe is funded by some of the US billionaire’s, Sheldon Adelson.

It claims to have had a plan to entrap homosexuals in Ghana before it was stopped by members of parliament, but subsequently extended the campaign across the continent.

They have recruited, among others, 3,000 boys and girls to meet in secret locations, torture and harm those who refuse to join their ranks.

They have posted pictures of victims who have been gang-raped and made to disappear.

The local Gay Men’s Rights Society (GMRS) insists that many of the culprits are sent back to Nigeria after they have been tortured or killed.

What’s now being done about the gangs of SSN members?

For years, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBTI) community has suspected that one man or woman within the family may have secretly experimented with homosexuality.

Years later, this ‘out’ brother or sister may have had their first same-sex relations with their family members, unaware of what was happening until it was too late.

The story became international news in 2013, when the US-based Centre for Constitutional Rights’ (CCR) legal team won an injunction against the SSN’s planned removal of a wind turbine from the property where the SSN suspected their second brother was living.

CCR claims the windmill was a symbol of a second family, and that the SSN wrongly claimed they were mistreating the windmill.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the SSN claimed that CCR was in the pay of Adelson, and was “as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan”.

Beyond SSN, there is a danger that Ghana’s youths may be influenced by what has happened, even if they don’t identify as gay.

Online groups and comments are constantly sending a message about what’s acceptable – and what’s not.

We are encouraging our children to leave church to lead their own lives, but are also afraid that we may end up like these homosexual couples.

One prominent Ghanaian politician, Mr Kilaku Kutu, went on national television recently to urge gay rights activists to leave his country for the sake of their own lives.

He said it was time for women to “submit” themselves to men.

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