The Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Akanjolenur Whittal says the people of Ghana must decide whether or not they want to recognise rights of Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
According to him, it is time Ghanaians decided on the relevance of section 104 of the Criminal Code, which criminalises activities of LGBTI.
Human Rights Watch in its latest report documents what it calls systematic discrimination against gays and lesbians.
The 72-page report titled “’No Choice but to Deny Who I Am’: Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People in Ghana,” observes that prohibiting and punishing “unnatural carnal knowledge,” and failure to actively address violence and discrimination, relegate LGBT Ghanaians to effective second-class citizenship.
Section 104 (1)(b) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) states that whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge “of any person of sixteen years or over with his consent is guilty of a misdemeanor…”
Clause (2) of Act 104 further explained: “Unnatural carnal knowledge is sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal.”
But commenting on the matter Tuesday, in a discussion on the Super Morning Show on Joy FM, CHRAJ Boss, Joseph Whittal wants those involved in the lawmaking process to come to a decision point on Section 104 of the Act.
A young lesbian woman at an LGBT community center in Accra, Ghana. © 2017 Human Rights Watch
Repealing Act 29
He said the calls for the repeal of the law may have heightened due to the several international conventions that the Ghanaian government has signed on to.
“It is left to the people of Ghana, it is left to the members of parliament [and] it is left with the executive who are in the lawmaking chain to be able to confront section 104,” he stated.
Mr. Whittal also questioned the significance of the law that criminalises the act when not a single person has been charged and prosecuted for engaging in such acts.
“What is the relevance of the law that seems to officially criminalise acts that are not being taken on? In any case how are we able to even get persons who are engaged in those acts in their bedroom to prosecute?
“Laws are made based on where people have reached in a given time. If it is about time that we took a second look at our law, why not? If because of our culture and attitude we think it is not yet time that we should look at that law again, it depends on the people of Ghana to decide,” he argued.
The CHRAJ Boss indicated, that for now, LGBTI people just like other citizens, have rights which the Commission “will continue to protect” as well as “the laws that are currently in place until they are removed.”
he Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Ocquaye is reported to have stated that Ghana cannot make laws to legalise homosexuality because the societal values of the country frown upon it.
“The right for a human being to sleep with an animal is also becoming a human right and we are tired with some of these things and we must be frank about it.”
Professor Mike Oquaye made the remark last July during an interaction with officials from Amnesty International who had paid a courtesy call on him.
Robert Amoafo, who is the Executive Director at Amnesty International, Ghana, is concerned about the difficulty LGBTI persons face in reporting abuses they suffer as a result of their sexual preference.
Although Mr. Amoafo acknowledges efforts by CHRAJ at making it easy for victims of abuse to report via the e-reporting platform but that he pointed, falls below the expectation.
He said even police officers who are mandated to protect the citizens rather arrest LGBTI persons who report abuses and charge them for violating Section 104.
That he noted, points to the fact that CHRAJ has not done much with respect to educating the public on the need to respect the human rights of such persons.
“The fact that they can’t exhibit their basic human rights because they are lgbti people that is what we are talking about,” Mr. Amoafo asserted.