AFRICANIZATION OF HOMOPHOBIA: CULTURAL VALUES VS DEMOCRATIC


Read Time: 7 minutes

REPUBLICANISM: AN EXAMINATION OF THE LGBTQ+ DEBATE IN GHANA

BY SAMIRA MOHAMMED IBN MORO

Ghana’s Parliament has been considering before it a bill titled “Promotion of Proper Human

Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021” that seeks to criminalize identification

as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Allies (LGBTQIA+). The bill

also seeks to criminalize support and empathy for the community( p. 1). Avery (2021)

describes it as a retrogressive copy of similar laws active in Russia and Nigeria.

The bill was a culmination of a sustained effort by some politicians, civil society

organizations, traditional institutions, and religious bodies who raised reservations with the

interpretation of the freedom of association to include the right to identify with the LGBTQ+

community. This followed a public event in February 2021 where a facility meant to be an

office to direct pro-gay-rights campaigns as well as shelter victims of stigma and violence

was shut down by the Ghana Police Service(Kojo,2021).

What this paper seeks to argue is that the bill falls flat in the face of democratic

republicanism while tackling the religio-cultural arguments in the face of democratic-

republican conceptions of nationhood (Bellamy, 2008). The language of the law that

establishes the political dispensation in Ghana establishes a republic where the constitution

relies on a secular interpretation (Sajo, 2008). This paper will show that the bill and its

proponents rely on a fundamentally religious conception of Ghanaian constitutionality which

is inimical to secular state values.

The paper will also reveal that the bill is, by and large, an undemocratic proposal (Hamamoto, 2007) that hopes Ghanaian public antipathy towards gay rights is enough to criminalise a minority group of people and afford the government leeway to remove protections for such

people.

The bill and its advocacy

The bill was first read in the Parliament of Ghana on August 2, 2021(Bhalla,2021). It is

sponsored by eight legislators from the two main political parties: the perceived left-leaning

National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the perceived right-leaning New Patriotic Party

(NPP). The Christian Council of Ghana – an umbrella body of Christian churches in Ghana

and the Office of the Islamic National Chief Imam also support the bill; a country where an

the overwhelming majority are either Christian or Muslim (Heaton, James & Oheneba-Sakyi,

2009), the position of the two religious bodies is significant.

Sexual rights, if the bill is passed, can only be legitimately claimed by those who subscribe to

the binary sex categorisation of male and female identity assigned at birth (p. 23). A range of

punitive measures, including custodial sentencing of up to ten years, are prescribed for those

who identify with any of the initials so captured by the bill.

Secondly, the bill intends to criminalise associations as well as the advocacy or support for

those who identify with any of the initials in the queer community and as enlisted by the bill.

Proponents of the bill have also intriguingly made the case that the bill offers help to queer

people. That is to say, queerness is in essence abnormality and this abnormality could be

treated. (Ghartey,2021)However, what is worthy of note is that the threat to punish those who

do not adhere to “proper human sexual” behaviours relies on a conception of Ghanaian

family values as inscribed in the bill. The bill makes no mention of scientific bases as the

reasons for which it frowns upon the LGBBTTQQIAAP+ community, rather, the reasons are

cultural(Manuh,2021).

Defining Ghanaian culture

The main objective of the bill claimed by proponents is to show that neither LGBTQ+

humanity nor sexual relations between non-heterosexual individuals are fixtures of traditional

Ghanaian culture and as a result, non-Ghanaian family values should never be protected

under the law.

Amoaning(2021) asserts that, if Africans had the concept of homosexuality, they would have

had a word for it. It is an ontological argument that is of the view that we can affirm or deny a

claim if the rational possibility was sufficient evidence. Albeit the faults of this thinking,

including how it overlooks historical evidence, the cultural argument is quite popular, even

outside Ghana (Heerden,2019). Alimi (2015) asserts that the historical argument aimed at

dismissing homosexuality as non-African is unfactual and seems like a convenient myth as

historian Harari (2016) points out that, myths serve social utilities, and their scientific

veracity may never be necessary.

Republicanism and Ghana

When “republic” is termed as a people’s periodic opportunity to use their national

sovereignty without the overbearing impediment of authority, Ghana’s current republic is the

fourth since the country gained independence from Britain in 1957. The current dispensation is also the longest ongoing phase of democratic stability in the country’s history and even one of the longest in Africa(Dovlo,2006).

Schwelb (1960) holds that republicanism is more than just the absence of totalitarian and

colonial governments. Tentatively, there is an expatiation of three ingredients of

republicanism as proposed by scholars in the Western canon where the concept is buoyed by

a healthy interplay of opinions The ingredients are: the sovereignty of citizens,

constitutionality and institutionalism, and civic morality and public participation. (Rodgers,

1992; Zuckert, 1992; Kerber, 1985).

Classical republicans such as Adams (1788) emphasised the need for nations to be

constituted by individuals whose decision-making was neither forced nor in fear of powers

external to them. The themes of non-domination, non-interference, and autonomy run through

the treatises of the earliest republicans. The republican ideas of constitutionality and

institutionalism go hand-in-hand. Republicans favour an explicit and supreme rulebook that

spells the rules and regulations in a given polity. Institutions must also be created as part of

republican jurisprudence to inure to the rule of law and protect the sovereignty of the citizens

in different matters from the corruption of leaders, a threat to minority rights, and the

destruction of the environment (Pettit, 1996).

In the context of constitutions and institutions, Adams (1788) advised that states would be

better served by treating politics as a “science of social happiness”.By this, Adams (1788)

meant a non-ideological approach to governance where laws are made following scientific

methodology. In the affairs of the people, politicians are encouraged to stick to empirical

conclusions as the purpose of republicanism is to build a rational society.

Adams’(1788) “scientific” republicanism is shared by many modern thinkers including

Habermas (1971). This should be seen in the light that republican thinkers attempt to

advocate self-rectifying measures by first principles. While Habermas (1971) preached a

conceptual framework that made sure individuals utilised their autonomy for the benefit of

public sovereignty, others urged a wider democracy as a way to combat corruption by leaders.

Public participation is deemed necessary for the goals of the republic. Indeed, Pettit (1996)

postulates that citizens are encouraged to find fulfillment in participating in the communalism

of the republican project. People have free will and are urged to express it in conformity to

what the laws and institutions say.

As hinted above, Ghana’s republican projects have been interrupted by coups but in the last

three decades, the country has maintained a constitution that declares in Article One: “The

The sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare

the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down

in this Constitution” (Constitution of Ghana, 1992). Also, in Article Three, Clause Five, the

Constitution of Ghana (1992) empowers all citizens to defend the republic: “Any person or

group of persons who suppresses or resists the suspension, overthrow, or abrogation of this

Constitution as referred to in clause (3) of this article, commits no offense”.The above are the clearest indications that the country continues to aspire to a system that holds the features of republicanism in the highest esteem.

LGBTQ+ rights in Ghana

Ampaw (2021), maintains that when it comes to Ghanaian cultural and traditional values, the

Bill’s sponsors deliberately ignore the fact that not all Ghanaian cultural and traditional values

can withstand the rigours of inclusivity, diversity, and fundamental rights in a democratic

republic like Ghana. Therefore, just because these are part of Ghanaian and African cultural

and traditional norms and values, they are not acceptable in a modern democratic republic

like Ghana. It is the view of this paper also that Ghana stands to realise a better future should

the values of the democratic republic triumph over any assertions of traditional values and

culture.

Secondly, republicanism saves Ghanaians from answering to laws enacted based on religion.

The proponents have never hidden this agenda and some MPs have publicly touted the

support of religious bodies in their quest to criminalise queer humanity. The constitution of

Ghana notes that the country is a secular republic, and thus, no religion is to be given

prominence over others(Manuh,2021). The Ghanaian law must be based on a set of provable

axioms and empirical conclusions. Ampaw (2021) postulates that enacting laws based on the

evidence of faith cannot be a credible practice in a republic and it is bound to show itself as a

myopic yardstick. As argued by Adams (1788), organizing the state according to empirical

truth is a virtue in itself. Empirical truths are effectively ideology-free and we must not shy

away from the social utility of such truths.

Lastly, civic life requires the cultivation of public ethos that is not only defensible in the

long-term but goes further than the parochial identities of ethnicity, cultures, and religions.

Lovett (1970) opines that in republican societies, laws do not simply protect freedoms but

enable them. This is a fundamental legal framework for determining what a good republic is.

The laws made in Ghana must clarify the requirements of civic participation. These

requirements cannot be borne of the likes and dislikes of those with sectoral interests. Ethnic

and religious identities are too narrow and simply do not cut them. The law must enable the

humanity of all citizens.

Conclusion

The threat to the humanity and freedoms of queer people in Ghana is its most extreme form,

never before seen in the history of Ghana. Further from everyday and commonplace

homophobia, lawmakers are looking to put the final nail in the coffin on what it means to

exist as a self-owning and self-determining person in Ghana, as far as sexuality is concerned. The queerphobic politics of polite society has also invigorated the animosity shown toward queer

people by common society. There seems to have been a marked rise in violence unleashed

against queer people, and it is not known if these acts are coming to light because we have

become more attentive to the plight of that marginalized group or whether there is a statistical

increment to these violent acts.

The anti-LGBTQ Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill,2021 is not

ambiguous about what it wants to achieve. As argued above. The bill seeks to criminalise the

humanity of queer people, criminalise association with individuals who identify as queer, and

establish a religion-biased understanding of humanity and rights in a republic.

These cannot be allowed to stand.

Thankfully, within the Ghanaian constitution rests the legal tools to fight the agenda of the lawmakers who are bent on dehumanizing queer people. Ghana is a democratic republic to the extent that it entertains the non-domination of citizens, constitutionality, and the permission to organize the state in such a way to allow for the full humanity of its people and their uninhibited participation in the civic process.

To propose laws that truncate the full humanity of people is to act in contravention to the

spirit of and letter of the constitution of Ghana. There is absolutely no proof, secular or

religious, that encourages the truncation of the sexual liberties of some people in the empiric

interest of the republic. The challenge that remains obviously, is how many will come to

identify with the promise of Ghanaian republicanism vis-à-vis the attempt to institute a

religio-fascist legal regime.


22 thoughts on “AFRICANIZATION OF HOMOPHOBIA: CULTURAL VALUES VS DEMOCRATIC

  1. ทุกคนที่เข้ามาเล่นกับ UFABET ยังสามารถมีโอกาสรับชัยชนะได้อย่างมากมาย ด้วยลำดับเวลาการเช่นเดียวกับการจ่ายเงินรางวัลที่อันน่าทึ่ง ระบบการออกผลรวดเร็ว และความน่าเชื่อถือที่สร้างความเพลิดเพลินกับความตื่นเต้นในการเดิมพันฟุตบอลระดับโลก

  2. naturally like your web site however you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth on the other hand I will surely come again again.

  3. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.

  4. Hi, just required you to know I he added your site to my Google bookmarks due to your layout. But seriously, I believe your internet site has 1 in the freshest theme I??ve came across.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *