Ghanaian Parliament Passes Legislation Cracking Down on LGBTQ+ Rights

By: Cynthia Achieng

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

GHANA – On February 27, 2024, the Parliament of Ghana passed legislation that severely restricts and penalizes the LGBTQ+ community. Ghana is the latest to impose hefty penalties against those who identify as LGBTQ, as part of a growing opposition to LGBTQ rights in conservative West Africa.

A same sex-couple sitting together during a session on LGBTQ rights in Accra, Ghana. | Photo Courtesy of Francis Kokoroko/Reuters.

The bill seeks to punish those who engage in LGBTQ sexual acts as well as those who advocate for their rights with prison sentences ranging from six months to three years. It also imposes a three-to-five-year sentence for wilful promotion, sponsorship, or support of LGBTQ activities. This new legislation will take effect if signed into law by President Nana Akufo-Addo. 

Human rights activists across the world have expressed discontent, calling the bill a set-back for human rights while urging President Akufo-Addo to reject it. However, the bill has received backing from Muslim, Christian, and Ghanaian traditional leaders who form a large part of the Ghanaian Parliament.

In 2022, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Africa’s human rights watchdog, rejected applications by three Human Rights Organizations (HROs) for Observer Status on the ground that “sexual orientation is not an expressly recognized right or freedom under the African Charter” and is ‘contrary to the virtues of African values.” The groups, two of which were founded in Africa were Alternative Côte d’Ivoire, Human Rights First Rwanda, andSynergia–Initiatives for Human Rights. In their statement, the organizations expressed their dismay over the decision of the African Commission which, they said, departs from measures to protect the LGBTQ people and violates the African Charter’s principles of non-discrimination and tolerance.

Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights provides that:

“Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.”

The HROs argue that “other status,” as used in the Charter, is not limited to the grounds indicated in the Charter but extends to others, including sexual orientation.

According to Amnesty International, 31 African countries currently criminalize same-sex consensual sexual activities. As of March 4, the bill had not yet reached President Akufo-Addo.

For further information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – Ghana’s Parliament passes anti-LGBTQ Bill – 28 February 2024  

Amnesty International – Africa: Barrage of discriminatory laws stoking hate against LGBTI persons – January 9 2024

BBC – Ghana passes Bill making identifying as LGBTQ+ illegal – 28 February 2024

Joint Statement in Response to Decision of African Commission – N.D.

Reuters – Ghana parliament passes stringent anti-LGBTQ law – 28 February 2024

Reuters – Ghana’s president says anti-LGBTQ bill has not reached his desk – 5 March 2024

Author: Sydney Krause