In the past days, LGBTQ people living in Ghana have been facing heightened homophobia from the Ghanaian government, human rights lawyers and other interest groups over the opening of a center by LGBT Rights Ghana, a non governmental organisation. The center, located in Tesano, Accra, was established to provide support and community for queer Ghanaians but the country’s criminalisation of homosexuality has been a basis to mount pressure for the center to be shut down.
Since then, anti-gay sentiments have percolated through Ghana’s social media, queer Ghanaians enduring antagonism, bigotry and being forced into hiding. At the forefront of this crusade are the Catholic bishops, who have gotten unsurprising support from Ghanaians and lawmakers. Now president of Ghana for the second time, Nana Akufo-Addo has jumped on the anti-gay bandwagon, and has gotten the police to clamp down on the operations of the LGBTQ center.
All these points to how African governments can quickly launder their political image when they target vulnerable LGBTQ populations in their countries, garnering support from the homophobic public. But it’s also a reminder that this affront on queer Ghanaians can be extended to other communities or populations a government chooses to oppress, especially if the endgame is to maintain their hold on power.
The silence and inaction from other African countries and even from Nigeria, Ghana’s closest neighbour on account of geography, is indeed telling, implying that the systemic maltreatment of queer Ghanaians is fine. But human rights is absolute, can’t be cherry-picked or selected, and what is afforded to a person should be given to another regardless of nationality, sexuality, or class.
Believing in the universality of human rights would also mean condemning the anti-gay actions of the Ghanaian government. It would mean coming to the rescue of helpless LGBTQ Ghanaians via crowdfunding or just raising awareness on the injustice they are facing. Across Africa, liberation movements (case in point, Nigeria’s #ENDSARS) love to wax lyrical about human rights violations, and while we have seen pockets of support from Nigerian feminists, the movement has been quiet because 1) its conveners share the same anti-queer beliefs or 2) they can’t see how Ghana’s queer antagonism feeds into existing systems of oppressions that can be weaponised against them.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.