Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April 2014, 10:56 GMT

Ghana: Treatment of homosexuals by society and authorities and availability of state protection; names and activities of groups or associations promoting homosexual rights

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 2 October 2006
Citation / Document Symbol GHA101616.E
Reference 7
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ghana: Treatment of homosexuals by society and authorities and availability of state protection; names and activities of groups or associations promoting homosexual rights, 2 October 2006, GHA101616.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f1473820.html [accessed 23 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Legal status

The Research Directorate could not find any legislation explicitly prohibiting homosexuality in Ghana among the sources consulted in the preparation of this Response. However the Ghanaian Criminal Code, last amended in 2003, states the following in Section 104:

(1) Whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge -

(a) of any person of the age of sixteen years or over without his consent shall be guilty of a first degree felony and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than twenty-five years; or

(b) of any person of sixteen years or over with his consent is guilty of a misdemeanour; or

(c) of any animal is guilty of a misdemeanour.

(2) Unnatural carnal knowledge is sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal (12 Jan. 1961).

In a letter to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working for homosexual rights explained that although the Criminal Code does not expressly prohibit sexual relations between same-sex individuals, "it states that such action is 'unnatural' and when caught, you will be sentenced to [imprisonment]" (Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transsexuals of Ghana and CEPEHRG 18 Aug. 2004). Other sources report that homosexuality is "criminalized" in Ghana (Pink News 14 Mar. 2006; The Ghanaian Chronicle 22 June 2005; US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5; see also Sodomy Laws 2 June 2006).

Treatment and public perception

One pastor in Accra was charged with "having anal sex with a male student aged 18" and his trial was scheduled for 21 December 2005 (Public Agenda 16 Dec. 2005). However, information on the outcome of his trial could not be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate. Media sources reported in March 2006 that an Austrian man was facing deportation from Ghana after having been arrested for participating in homosexual activities (ibid. 10 Mar. 2006; Pink News 14 Mar. 2006).

Behind the Mask, an online magazine dedicated to reporting on homosexual issues in Africa, reported in August 2005 that a lesbian obtained bail after having been arrested in Accra for "luring an 18-year old girl into lesbianism" and was charged with "practicing unnatural sex with the victim" (1 Aug. 2005). A student at the University of Cape Coast was assaulted in March 2005 by four other students because he was suspected of being a homosexual (Behind the Mask 1 Mar. 2005). The four students responsible for the attack received suspensions of two to four semesters (ibid.).

The Gully, an online magazine addressing homosexual issues in circulation from February 2000 to March 2006, published an article in which the author described the general situation for homosexuals and his personal experience as a gay man in Ghana (24 June 2004). The author recounted that he was evicted from his first apartment because of his sexual orientation, that he was "beaten" on more than one occasion and when he sought the help of the police they threatened to imprison him (The Gully 24 June 2004). The author indicated that homosexuals are viewed as "pedophiles" and "criminals" and that thieves and muggers target homosexuals because "the police won't do anything about it, and most victims are too ashamed to report it" (ibid.). The author also stated that:

Gay people in Ghana live in such a state of fear it is a form of violence. We are isolated, harassed, and beaten. Friends commit suicide from despair. Poverty is a big problem because a lot of us have been thrown out of our houses by our families. Many don't have any education past elementary school. Those few gay men who do have good jobs are deep in the closet and won't have anything to do with gay associations ... (ibid.).

Behind the Mask reports that the current practice for lesbians in Ghana is to hide their sexual orientation to avoid harassment and being ostracized by society; they will even get married and have children to avoid suspicion (13 July 2005). Country Reports for Human Rights Practices 2005 reports that "gay men were particularly vulnerable to extortion by police" (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). One newspaper article indicates that gay men whose sexual orientation is discovered could face "discrimination, blackmail, imprisonment and torture" (The Ghanaian Chronicle 6 May 2004).

In an Afrol News article, the leader of an unnamed organization for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals in Ghana stated that homosexuals faced discrimination (19 Aug. 2004). In addition, the leader stated that homosexuals were "beaten" by police and by members of the communities and that homosexuals were "treated as ... outcasts" (Afrol News 19 Aug. 2004). According to the organization's leader, homosexuals do not have access to health services as they are asked to provide their partners before obtaining treatment and because "most doctors are hostile to[wards] homosexuals" (ibid.).

The President of the Gays and Lesbian Association of Ghana (GALAG), who is also the Executive/National Director of the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana (CEPEHR), provided the information in the following two paragraphs in 22 August 2006 correspondence with the Research Directorate.

In Ghana, homosexuality is "accepted" by certain communities (i.e., the Ga ethnic group) while other communities consider it a taboo and see it as "an abominable offence that attracts beating and even killing." Homosexuals face discrimination, name calling and stigma because of their sexual orientation. The President indicated that there have been cases in previous years where gay men were arrested because homosexuality is "illegal" in Ghana but that there has been no increase in the number of prosecutions. Lawyers were reluctant to take on such cases as their credibility would be questioned if they defended homosexuals. The President stated that extortion of homosexuals was frequent.

In addition, the President stated that, considering that the law is open to interpretation and has been used to prosecute homosexuals, in his opinion, it will continue to be used for such purposes and that "there is no protection of any kind [for] homosexual men or women". Judges are mostly very religious individuals and as a consequence it is very difficult for homosexuals to obtain justice. According to the President, lawyers are reluctant to take on such cases as it puts their credibility in question. Although the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has stated that they will investigate any cases of discrimination against homosexuals, the President questioned who would be receiving the complaint in the CHRAJ office and whether any homosexuals would be willing to come forward with a complaint.

A research fellow at the University of Ghana provided the following information to the Research Directorate in correspondence dated 4 September 2006. The Research Fellow reported that the Ghana Police Service disrupted a meeting of gays and lesbians in Koforidua in the eastern region of Ghana on 4 September 2006 and that this was an indication that homosexuals were subject to discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Two media sources reported that the Ghanaian government banned a gay and lesbian conference that was scheduled to take place in September 2006 in Ghana (Reuters 1 Sept. 2006; GNA 6 Sept. 2006).

Groups or associations promoting homosexual rights

Information regarding groups or associations promoting homosexual rights was limited among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, the following information refers to two such organizations. The Gays and Lesbian Association of Ghana (GALAG) was founded in 1998 as a non-profit organization that seeks to promote awareness on issues affecting gays and lesbians (GALAG n.d.). The objectives of GALAG include promoting various opportunities for gays and lesbians (i.e., educational, civil, social, political), representing and acting on behalf of homosexuals, gathering resources and materials in view of establishing a resource centre in collaboration with other organizations with similar objectives and making such resources accessible to homosexuals (ibid.). GALAG attempts to accomplish these objectives through counselling, education, training, research, lobbying and advocacy (ibid.).

The Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana (CEPEHRG), based in Accra, was established in March 2003 to "strive for the attainment of full, equal rights and the removal of all forms of discrimination in all aspects of life for young people, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual men and women in Ghana" (CEPEHRG n.d.a; see also Executive/National Director of CEPEHRG 22 Aug. 2006). Similarly to GALAG, CEPEHRG's objectives include promoting awareness of human rights and sexual health needs of homosexuals, supporting and advancing the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals (GLBTs), encouraging various opportunities for GLBTs and collecting resources and materials in view of establishing a resource centre in collaboration with other organizations with similar objectives and making such resources accessible (ibid n.d.b). Among other activities, CEPEHRG focuses on the following: advocacy, gender sensitization, research, training, education, civil activism, counselling and dissemination of information (ibid. n.d.a).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Afrol News. 19 August 2004. "Ghana's Gays Organise to Fight British Criminal Law." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

Behind the Mask. 1 August 2005. Evelyn Serwaa Akoto. "Lesbian on c10m Bail." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. 13 July 2005. MacDarling Cobbinah. "Giving Ghanaian Lesbian Women a Voice." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. 1 March 2005. Prince MacDonald. "University Students Suspended for Attack." [Accessed 18 Aug. 2006]

Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana (CEPEHRG). N.d.a. "Mission and Vision." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. N.d.b. "Aims and Objectives." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

Gays and Lesbian Association of Ghana (GALAG). N.d. "Gays and Lesbian Association of Ghana." << http://www.geocities.com/gayghana/<< [Accessed 18 Aug. 2006]

Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transsexuals of Ghana and Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana (CEPEHRG). 18 August 2004. "Same-Sex Relationships Remain a Crime: LGBT in Ghana to Boycott December Polls." (International Gay and Lesbian Association, ILGA Web site) [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

Ghana. 12 January 1961 (last amended in 2003). Criminal Code, 1960. (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – Refworld). [17 Aug. 2006]

Ghana News Agency (GNA). 6 September 2006. "Muslims Hail Decision to Stop Homosexual Conference." (TalkGhana Web site) [Accessed 28 Sept. 2006]

The Ghanaian Chronicle [Accra]. 22 June 2005. Jaime Jacques and Florence Gbolu. "Social Justice – Same Sex, Different Rights." (Factiva)
_____. 6 May 2004. Patrick Baidoo and Charles Methot. "Is Ghana Ready for Gay Rights?" (AllAfrica/Dialog)

The Gully. 24 June 2004. "Gay in Ghana: From Gay-bashings to AIDS." [Accessed 18 Aug. 2006]

Pink News. 14 March 2006. "Gay Austrian Faces Deportation over African Porn Films." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

President of the Gays and Lesbian Association of Ghana (GALAG). 22 August 2006. Correspondence.

Public Agenda [Accra]. 10 March 2006. "Austrian Homosexual Caught Live at Tantra Hill." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. 16 December 2005. "Homosexual Pastor in Court." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. 4 September 2006. Correspondence.

Reuters. 1 September 2006. Kwaku Sakyi-Addo. "Ghana Bans Gay Conference as Against its Culture." (Factiva)

Sodomy Laws. 2 June 2006. "Laws Around the World." [Accessed 18 Aug. 2006]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Ghana." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sources, including: 365gay.com, Accra Daily Mail, Advocate.com, Amnesty International, Factiva, Freedom House, ghanaweb.com, The Ghanaian Chronicle, Human Rights Watch, Integrated Regional Information Networks, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Judicial Service of Ghana, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, PlanetOut.com, United States Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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