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Ghana: Let Them Be Gay

The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) in Ghana has begun investigations into the growing rate of homosexuality in the Western and Central regions.

About eight thousand homosexuals were registered by a non-governmental organization at a workshop in the Western and some parts of the Central regions. This has prompted a heated debate in the Ghanaian blogosphere about homosexuality.

In a post titled “Debating Homosexuality in Ghana”, Kajsa said that there is very little public debate about the issue:

Under Ghanaian law male homosexual activity is officially illegal. Photo: Holli's Ramblings blog

Homosexual acts are forbidden by law in Ghana and there has been very little public debate that would suggest Ghanaians in general would like to change the status quo.

“Let them be gay,” said Ghanaian blogger Ato. Ato began his post by saying that he finds it difficult to understand why a virile man will want to have anal sex with another man:

With that in mind, I don’t give a toss who is having sex with whom, where and how. Mostly. When I hear a story of a pastor desecrating the inner sanctum of teenagers in his congregation, of course, that gives me cause for concern. But I don’t care if Kwaku Mensah in Fanteakwa, a full-grown man who works hard to feed himself, decides to have anal sex with Kwabena Bonsu of Atonkyini, another full grown man.

What they do in their bedroom is entirely their business and I don’t see why anyone should hate them for choosing how they derive sexual pleasure. It’s like hating someone who enjoys watermelons, simply because I don’t like watermelon.

Much as I don’t understand why people become gay, I also don’t understand all the hatred being spewed on people in this country who have chosen to be gay.

So, what’s all the fuss about men having sex with men?

One reader commented on his post by quoting Bible verses suggesting that homosexuality is a sin. Ato responded:

Why? You think everyone reads and believes in your bible?

Another reader, Rasta, said:

Ato,if a moral deficiency is at it peak in our dear country Ghana,and all that you can attribute this uncouth and unruly behaviour to, is to liken it to some class preferring watermelons to oranges and apples,then its a shame on your path as a journalist to come out with such pronouncements!

Ato's response:

Shame on you too! What is moral decay? People having anal sex or people stealing our money, spending it on worldly pleasures while the whole nation wallows in abject poverty? I will choose a gay man over a thief parading as a politician any day.

On June 8, 2001, Ato wrote Let them be gay part II. He used various Bible verses to add flesh to his original post. According to the Bible, he said, we are all sinners:

With this in mind, when an adulterer was brought before Jesus by stone-wielding men and women ready to pelt him to death, our Gracious Saviour looked around at them all and said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

At that moment, the stones fell to the ground. We are all sinners. None of us can decide that our sins are less grievous than the other. The man who has regular virginal sex is as sinful as the one who has anal sex. God will not punish the gay man any more than he would punish the heterosexual man.

Christians should be the first to embrace homosexuals, he noted:

God is not homophobic. He loves us all. He loves the gay man and he loves the straight man. He loves the armed robber and he loves the prostitute. He loves the priest and he loves the cheat. And he enjoins us to love one another. Christians, therefore, should be among the first to warmly embrace gay people.

That’s what God wants us to do. Anyone who professes to be a Christian but is filled with hatred for homosexuals and discriminates against them is failing in his duty as a believer. It’s that simple. Therefore, even though I don’t like going to church and I feel there is a place already prepared for me in hell, I am glad that in my heart I harbour no hatred for any man who enjoys anal sex with another man. My willingness to embrace gay people and my failure to condemn them might just be my saving grace. But then, it’s not for me to decide. God decides – out of His abundant, amazing Grace and his infinite mercies.

He has also carried the same debate on Facebook:

Baaba Andoh Ato, nobody really cares what happens in someone’s bedroom and I certainly don’t think it’s a BNI issue. But it goes beyond apples and melons. Yes, all these societies have things we want but they have many others that we can live without. We should focus on the positive things that developed countries have. If someone wants to be gay they can go ahead, but I reserve the right detest what they do.

Ato Kwamena Dadzie No, you don't! How does what they do affect you? Who said that being gay is from the developed countries and that 1000 years ago, African men were not gay?

Sammy King Baiden Ato, the problem is that the community in which we are has already declared their stand on this issue and will see those who have contrary views as opposed to the “norm”

Adolph Addison Righteousness exalt a nation and sin is a reproach – Proverbs 14: 34

Philip Arthur Most of these things start from the secondary schools boarding houses.

Edmund Amarkwei Foley Ghana, there are other things to focus on at this point in our lives than on this!

Abusuapanyin Kwesi Aikins They need to be confined at a place and be delivered of this evil thing that they are doing…

Graham dissects 8 dumbest arguments against homosexuality in Ghana:

Animals don’t do it
This is my favourite argument. It attempts to define what is natural by using animals as an example. Animals are taken to define nature and, ipso facto, the natural. They argue that animals don’t do it, it’s therefore not natural and therefore human beings shouldn’t do do it.

These zoological experts could have done a simple internet search to discover examples of homosexual behaviour in over 1,500 species. Alternatively, they could come round my yard and watch the two male dogs in my house attempting a bit of bum fun! So as animals do it, does that now mean it is natural and it’s OK for humans?

It’s not our culture
This is at root an argument that claims “nasty things” come from the “Whites”. African culture (whatever that is) is seen to be pure, therefore homosexuality and I suppose adultery and child abuse must have been taught to Ghanaians (who are clearly helpless) from outsiders. It lumps all white people and all African people into two homogeneous groupings and presumes they all have the same values – the bad ones of the Whites and the good ones of the Africans.

It also assumes that homosexuality is a culture as opposed to an activity that takes place within all cultures. People are very quick to condemn their own culture when it suits them, such as the ‘evil’ of their traditional religion or some practises that are seen to be abusive to women or children, yet, on this issue, pretend they must be slaves to cultural traditions which must never change.

Graham's conclusion:

Ironically the loudest voices on homosexuality come from those opposed to it. They claim “gayists” are lobbying for special rights yet where are the voices of homosexuals in Ghana? They want us to believe they are secretly calling for special rights and converting more people to their “cause” resulting in the breakdown of society.

The truth is that the breakdown in traditional culture has created a space where individuals can choose their own path in life and where people have become less concerned with the private details of other peoples’ lives.

Ghana’s future depends on rational thinking and the challenging of mob mentality.

Kajsa hopes that this is only the beginning of a wider debate about homosexuality in the country:

Coming from a liberal standpoint, I feel odd about living in a country where homosexuality between consenting adults is illegal (although female homosexuality seems to be allowed?) and hope that the above blogposts are just a start of a wider debate. I believe the Ghanaian blogosphere can begin to discuss this Ghanaian taboo, but also examine the arguments against homosexuality – and the advantages of legalization – and maybe even challenge the status quo.

Back in 2009, Hollis discussed the issue in post titled, “When love is illegal – Homosexuality in Ghana today”:

Under Ghanaian law, male homosexual activity is officially illegal. Criminal Code 1960 – Chapter 6, Sexual Offences Article 105 mentions unnatural carnal knowledge – and homosexuality is included in this description.

This topic can spark heated debates if ever broached with Ghanaian colleagues in my office – though I am usually a lone warrior for the cause, inevitably against a tirade of Christian rhetoric about the evils of homosexuality and the belief that it is an illness that can be cured, or at least prayers can be said to cure a person of it.

She observed that homosexuality will not be decriminalized in Ghana but the lifestyle will continue to exist:

Again, I find it amazing that homosexuality is so abhorred by Ghanaians, when – if any Ghanaian will be honest with themselves – they know all about a common practice called ‘Supi’ – which is basically a condoned (or conveniently ignored) form of lesbian relationship that develops in boarding schools between older girls and the ‘freshers'. It is seen as a way for girls to develop their sexuality, but not viewed as homosexuality outright, despite the physical relationships that develop between the girls. I would love to discuss this particular topic further and encourage my Ghanaian friends and readers to contribute…

The bottom line is that no matter what the law states, or whether outside pressure will convince Ghana to decriminalize homosexuality, it will continue to exist, despite any raging debates in Ghana and beyond about whether being gay is chosen or genetic, cultural or contrived… and individuals will continue to struggle with their identities, mostly in private.

Update June 21, 2001:

Did Ghana register 8000 homosexuals? The facts behind the hype:

On May 30th a strange story circulated in the Ghanaian media. It claimed that 8,000 homosexuals, many with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, had been registered by an NGO. The figures also included students in junior and senior high school.

A few days later a group of Muslims tried again to lobby the government to bring the ‘homosexual crisis’ under control before Allah destroys Africa.

The original story should have raised questions that challenged its authenticity. In a country in which an open declaration of homosexuality will result in stigmatisation and intolerance, it seems hard to imagine that 8000 men would voluntarily register as homosexuals. What responsible NGO would keep such a list?

12 comments

  • Hi Ndesanjo, thanks for spreading the word on this debate!

  • [...] I posted on homosexuality in Ghana and the burgeoning online debate on the topic. This week the debate on homosexuality in Ghana has been summarized by Global Voices, which is good news for extending the discussion to other parts of the [...]

  • Thanks Kajsa. It was your post that led us to the whole debate.

  • Great piece Ndesanjo.
    Sometimes I’m not sure whether to be amused or be outraged about Ghanaian attitudes to homosexuality. Why are the resources of the Ghana Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) being wasted on investigating the “growing rate of homosexuality” while children are being trafficked and drug dealers are purported to be employing more sophisticated methods of smuggling narcotics out of West Africa?
    It is completely ridiculous.
    Just this week, a respected academic and imminent medical doctor Professor Sai came forward to challenge religious leaders on their views towards homosexuality. http://news.myjoyonline.com/news/201106/68100.asp. Professor Sai is a former presidential adviser on HIV.

    Predictably, Professor Sai’s comments have been condemned as shameful and dangerous by religious leaders.
    Of course the religious leaders are failing to see the irony in condemning his comments as shameful and dangerous.

  • Abena,
    I have read Professor Sai’s comments. He has raised very interesting questions, challenging what we call “unatural”. I am not surprised that religious mis-leaders will consider his thoughts dangerous.

  • [...] Ghana: Let Them Be Gay – http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/06/20/ghana-let-them-be-gay/ Burkina Faso losing thousands of hectares of forests each year – [...]

  • [...] attacks for gays in Ghana: Delivering a statement on the 30 years of the official discovery of HIV/AIDS on the floor of [...]

  • Prince

    great work….going on my blog

  • Elton Wilson

    Sex between two people is good so far as it is consensual.Weather homosexuality is legalized in Ghana or not,people will continue to be gay and there’s nothing the government or anybody can do about it.You can make all the noise you want but that won’t stop gay men from indulging in their sexual preference.

  • Elton Wilson

    Don’t worry about what people say or think,be proud of who you are.

  • [...] In June, I left Ghana for Europe. First stop was Marseille.  Then it was time for debating homosexuality. A debate that also made it to Global Voices. [...]

  • [...] the “Bidun” in Koweit (I was unaware of both the term and the phenomenon), another on homosexuality in Ghana (which, in addition to demonstrating the difficulties of being homosexual in Africa, deconstructs [...]

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