Updated: Aug 2
PART ONE: The savage oppression of a convenient scapegoat
Out of Africa's 54 countries, discrimination against LGBTQ persons is illegal only in Angola, Botswana, Cape Verde, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, and South Africa. The rest of the African countries have varied penalties for homosexuality up to and including death, e.g. Uganda, or are revamping old laws to render them more severe, e.g. Kenya. In this political climate, anti-LGBTQ+ mob attacks on Africa’s continent have risen exponentially and will continue to do so as more African countries increase and harshen anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
The case of Uganda: a rabidly anti-LGBTQ society
On May 26, 2023, Uganda’s corrupt and authoritarian President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a draconian anti-LGBTQ bill, which includes life in prison for admitting to being gay, and a death sentence for “aggravated homosexuality."
Practically foaming at the mouth, Museveni once described homosexuals as “disgusting.”
Uganda is one of the most perilous places in the world for LGBTQ+ persons. Ugandans murdered for being gay include Noah Matthew Kinono, stabbed to death in August 2022, and activist David Kato, beaten to death in his home by a man wielding a hammer.
The case of Ghana: A bill set to kill
On July 7, 2023, Ghana’s 275 members of Parliament unanimously passed an extreme anti-gay bill known as the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values, which is set to tighten laws against members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Proper human sexual rights is, of course, double-speak for enforcing heteronormative standards of behavior and identity while excluding LGBTQ+ identities and experiences under the guise of protecting "traditional or societal norms.” There’s no evidence that the LGBTQ+ community threatens traditional and family structure in Ghana or that there ever will be that threat.
Some of the features of Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill are listed in brief below.
dissolution of all and any LGBTQ+ groups or association
6 to 12 months for any “public show of romantic relations."
3 to 5 years of imprisonment for engaging in same-sex intercourse;
5 to 10 years of imprisonment for anyone who produces, procures, or distributes material deemed to be "promoting LGBT+ activities;"
A requirement for citizens and institutions to "promote and protect proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values;"
A ban on providing trans healthcare.
The Bill's brief history is that on January 31, 2020, an LGBTQ advocacy and resource center opened in Accra (Ghana's capital). Delegates from the EU and Ghana's Australian and Danish Ambassador were in attendance, which clearly wasn’t a very good look. Thereafter, incensed Ghanaian officials issued multiple calls for sanctions on the two ambassadors. This event transformed simmering resentments over the presence LGBTQ+ people and events into a boiling cauldron. The timeline reveals how, by July 21, 2021 when a first draft of a parliamentary bill was leaked, a serious movement was well under way to establish criminalization of LGBTQ+ people.
Hot air out of a blast furnace of willful ignorance
Member of Parliament (MP) Sam George, (a pious man who describes himself as "Son of God” on his Twitter profile) was the main sponsor of the Bill. He has stated that, “Homosexuality is not a human right, it is a preference. Show me where, in the 1992 [Ghana] Constitution, it says that sexual preference is a fundamental human right."
But by his logic then, a heterosexual preference isn’t a human right either, and theoretically a bill criminalizing heterosexuality could be brought before Parliament as well. The baffling question is, why do you want to criminalize a sexual preference?
An inconvenient truth
What George either doesn’t know or has conveniently failed to acknowledge is that there is one internationally ratified document that does specifically seek to protect the rights of people of all sexual orientations and gender identity, and that is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), to which Ghana is a signatory. The updated version of the UDHR (to which Ghana is still a signatory) states:
Freedom from discrimination
All people are entitled to all these rights and freedoms regardless of race, skin color, sex, religion, family background, political opinions, sexual orientation and gender identity, no matter where they are born, what language they speak, whether rich or poor, or whether they own property. No one should be discriminated against for any reason.
Tossing Ghana’s Constitution into the garbage
But if George and his 274 Parliamentary cohorts don’t care about international and universal declarations (I suspect they don’t), the Bill would violate multiple provisions of Ghana’s Constitution. At Accra’s International Press Center, a group of concerned citizens held a press conference back in 2021 to express their opposition to the proposed Bill and show how it violates virtually all the key fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution. So, what exactly is the point of the Constitution?
Clause 12 of the Bill criminalizes ideas, views, and expressions promoting or advocating support for LGBTQ+ practices, including in movies; broadcasting of LGBTQ+ comments or opinions on the internet; and in text messages that express support or sympathy for, or solidarity with LGBTQ+ identity, cause, views and activities.
Under Clause 12, any person who engages in any of these acts commits an offense which, on conviction, is liable to imprisonment for not less than five years or more than ten years. This Clause violates Article 21(1) (a) of the Constitution, which provides “All persons are entitled to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include the freedom of the press and other media.”
If the gravity of this hasn’t hit yet, realize that a journalist in Ghana, foreign or Ghanaian, writing an article about LGBTQ+ concerns, even if taking a neutral stance, could be rounded up and jailed according to the provisions of the bill. Freedom of the press is a fundamental pillar of democracy. So, this means that under the guise of “protecting societal norms” (or whatever the phrase is) from the menace of the LGBTQ+ community, 275 members of parliament are set to tear down Ghana’s freedom of the press. This is a reckless, thoughtless, and callous descent into the abyss, and the parliamentarians want to pull the entire country with them.
Clause 12 also makes it a criminal offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years or more than 10 years for hosting an LGBTQ+ guest, even in a non-sexual context. If this “situation” is reported, e.g. by a nosy neighbor, the police reserve the right to violate the privacy and property rights of the host and guest by making an authorized entry into the home on the basis of a “gay suspicion” alone. Clause 12 also places a duty on a parent to report a son or daughter, or siblings to report brothers and sisters, to the police on suspicion of their being gay.
Clause 15 of the Bill seeks to disband existing LGBTQ+ organizations, and Clause 16 prohibits the formation or registration of groups, associations or organizations established to engage in any activity having anything to do with LGBTQ+ causes. Anyone who does so is liable upon summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than six years and not more than ten years. Clause 15 is in direct contravention of Article 21 (1) (e) of Ghana’s Constitution, which provides as follows “All persons shall be entitled to freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form or join trade unions and other associations, national and international, for the protection of their interest.”
Terror in the streets
Article 21 (4) (e) of the Constitution charges Parliament with the responsibility to enact laws that protect vulnerable and unpopular minorities in the community from being targeted for hatred by a majority or another section of the community. In a cynical and hypocritical clause, the Bill purports to criminalize individuals who take the law into their hands by attacking, beating, or lynching LGBTQ+ persons.
But negative bias, the tendency to be influenced more by harmful notions than good ones operates just as well in Africa as it does elsewhere. Thus, the notion that a hate-filled lynch mob will be fearful of striking out at a gay man because of a feeble threat in the law is simply laughable. Even more significant is that the Ghana Police doesn’t look favorably on LGBTQ+ people, so when a gay man is attacked, the cops may side with the assailants and allow the marauding to proceed. There is at least one documented case in which hoodlums attacked a gay party and robbed everyone at knife-point. After the traumatic event, the police were called, but they had little or no interest in the muggers. Instead, the cops arrested the party-goers.
In 2020, a US court of appeals ruled that a mob attack on a Ghanaian gay man from Accra who barely escaped with his life was enough to grant asylum. The petitioner, a gay man in his late 20s, said he had a secret relationship with a friend from his Muslim school days in Accra. In 2016, when his father found out about the gay relationship, he flew into a rage beat his son, doused him with kerosene and threatened to behead him. The petitioner escaped, naked and bleeding. UN Human Rights experts say an anti-gay law in Ghana would amount to nothing less than state-sponsored violence.
In 2014, a man called Yaw Nkrumah struck up a friendship in Nima (an Accra neighborhood) with a “known” homosexual, Salisu Nkrumah. The pair reportedly started "flaunting their romantic relationship,” and a 30-man mob hunted Yaw down, stripped him naked, and beat him to death.
Now, a story with which I’m more directly connected. One of the private investigators in Ghana that I hire to go underground and provide me with intel forwarded me the Facebook video (which went viral at the time) below showing a young man in Accra being interrogated by a large group of people on the street who eventually stripped him to his underwear and whipped him for being gay.
But before we get to that, there’s a back story to the video. Days after the horrific event, my PI interviewed the young man, whom we will call “Pete." Pete was a “known” gay man in the community of Nima, a heavily Muslim neighborhood of Accra. Muslims abhor homosexuality even more than Christians. How do you get to be a “known” gay in the neighborhood? Well, put away the image you might have of a sunny, tree-lined street with spacious houses. Nima is a dense, urban environment (featured multiple times in my novels) where people live in extremely close quarters that make it difficult to maintain privacy, let alone secrecy. Another aspect you should know is that Ghanaians have an uncanny ability to watch you without letting on your being watched.
Pete had long been the subject of resentment in the Nima community, and apparently, vigilantes had been waiting for a chance to pounce, and the opportunity eventually came calling. One day while Pete was out, he spotted an attractive young man we’ll call “Sal” standing with a friend on the street. Pete struck up a conversation with Sal, letting him know he “liked him.” Sal is reportedly not gay, but he exchanged numbers with Pete. Mind you, trading numbers, even between strangers, is very common and normal in Ghana and for the most part has no “creepy” motive.
But they didn’t realize a man on the block had been watching them. Once Pete had departed, the man called Sal over to ask what the interaction had been about, deciding that this was the opportunity he and his vigilante friends had been waiting for. He asked Sal to call Pete and invite him to a nearby Total station, a convenient, centrally located meeting place for many. With some reluctance, Pete agreed, and by the time he and Sal met at the agreed point, night had fallen. Pete suggested that, since the bright gas station lights weren’t affording much privacy, they could move around the corner to talk where it was a little more shadowy. There was no sexual exchange whatsoever--only conversation.
Once the rendezvous was over, Pete headed back home only to find himself waylaid on the way by a group of men, the leader of which began to interrogate Pete while filming. The leader repeatedly accused Pete of going to the “dark corner” with Sal to have sex him, and Pete repeatedly denied it. But the crowd had already tasted blood, and they never intended to release Pete on the basis of his denials. Instead they stripped him to his underwear and made him lie on a board. That’s when the lashings, inflicted by multiple men in the group, began. In order to inflict more powerful strokes, the leader handed his phone to someone else to continue the filming.
The language on the video is Hausa, widely spoken by Muslims across West Africa, but my PI translated it for me. The idea was that after the group lashing the gay out of Pete, they would bring him a woman to “baptize” him with vaginal sex, so that he would never want to be with another man again. This, of course, is based on the still-prevalent belief that gay people “choose” to be that way and with enough punishment can be dissuaded from their choice.
The full length of the video is a little over five minutes. Only those with nerves of steel will be able to watch the entire length. In other words, I am now officially issuing a GRAPHIC VIDEO warning in the clearest language I can, that the video depicts the violent whipping of this young man who is writhing in pain and screaming. That depiction may already be too information for you, but if you still wish to proceed, click on the screen-expand icon on the bottom of the video, and it will open up in FB.
There is an alternative: I’ve compressed the ordeal down to about forty seconds, but the warning stands: GRAPHIC VIDEO that you may not be able to get out of your mind. You may weep uncontrollably if you look. I did, and I do have nerves of steel.
I don’t show this video for sensational motives. I show it so you can understand exactly why I titled this blog the way it is to include the word savage. The African part of my African-Americanism is in anguish right now.
Sam George and his fellow parliamentarians are quite aware of this violence toward LGBTQ+ people, yet not one of them has expressed concern about such "mob justice," or is this part of the “Ghanaian societal norms” to which you refer?
Oh, the hideous cruelty.
How do you sleep at night and look yourselves in the mirror the next morning?
**Note: In Christian doctrine, Jesus Christ is unique in his identity as the "Son of God." This belief is fundamental to mainstream Christian denominations, which hold that our Savior Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. As it says in John 1:12, we can become “children of God,” but Son of God is a specific title reserved for one being, and one being alone. Hint: it ain’t Sam George.