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Ghana’s LGBT Fight; the backstory

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Wilhemina Nyarko attends a rally against a controversial bill being proposed in Ghana's parliament Credit: africanews
Wilhemina Nyarko attends a rally against a controversial bill being proposed in Ghana's parliament Credit: africanews

When my university sent out a notice to all Bachelor of Laws students to begin submission of their final year dissertation topics for approval, I had to contemplate for a long time on what subject of law I should write on. With over five years of experience working on the Justice For All Programme for remand prisoners, I was tempted to explore the many challenges facing Ghana’s criminal justice delivery system.

But over the years I had already written many articles and research papers on that subject, so I thought of something else that had prospect for real impact and at the same time was different from what everyone else was probably writing about. And so I decided to write on the subject of Ghana’s international human rights law obligations and how they intersected with the country’s national laws, morals and customs.

This decision was also influenced by the heated debate going on at the time on the controversial Proper Sexual Human Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill (2021) which had just been presented before Ghana’s parliament. And so I decided to center this intersection of law on assessing the case of sex workers and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ+) persons.

My findings during the course of my research were beyond eye opening, they present a side of the debate no one looks at, a testimony of the many people whose realities are daily impacted by the conversations that have gone on since the resurgence of the topic on LGBT rights and the ensuing Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill (2021) before parliament seeking to criminalize their very existence.

Read Also: Ohemartin claims there’s an NGO enriching themselves with funds donated to help LGBTQ+ members

During my data collection phase I reached out to a number of activists who were willing to share their stories and also connect me with victims who had suffered abuse as a result of their sexual orientations or gender identities. One of the very first videos I came across was of a young Nigerian man called Uche (not real name). In that video, the young man can be seen lying naked on his stomach as a group of men flogged him with sticks and wires as they questioned him using derogatory words and threatened to kill him for being gay. I recognized the victim in that video from a body building competition I had attended months earlier. He had accompanied his friend who was one of the participants. After running an Instagram search I was able to find his account, but the last post on his timeline was in February of 2021. The events of that video happened in January 2021. Till date Uche’s account has not been updated, I have tried reaching out to people who may know him but no one seems to figure out what happened to him or his whereabouts.

Uche’s story is similar to Kwamena, another victim who volunteered to speak with me. His ordeal in the hands of ‘set up boys’ as he called them was one that forever changed his life.

“I met this guy online, we vibed very well and he seemed genuine. We met a few times at public places and continued to talk for months. After that we agreed to meet so he told me he was at a mechanic’s workshop so I should meet him there. He sent me a location pin but when I got there it was an isolated uncompleted building. I got out of the car and 4 guys came out and ordered me into the building, they stripped me naked, beat me and asked me to unlock my phone which they used to make a video of me as they forced me to confess that I was gay. Then they emptied my wallet of all of cash and forced me to give them the pin to my ATM card and threatened me that they’d kill me if I lied to them. One of them drove to an ATM and withdrew all the money I had in my account. When he came back they beat me till I could barely see. I drove home that day without my clothes on. By the time I got to the gate, my dad was standing outside on the porch looking worried.”

Uche would soon find out they had sent the videos they made to every contact on his whatsapp including his church and whatsapp groups.

“I could not face my family, I could read the embarrassment and disappointment in their faces. I contemplated suicide, I couldn’t imagine life after that incident. Thankfully, my family has been very supportive but I have lost so much; friends, my job and most of all, faith in humanity.”

Kwamena may have picked the pieces of his life and moved on, but that was not the case for 23-year-old Francis (again not real name) who committed suicide in 2021. News of his death was widely carried around by both traditional and social media with many attributing his demise to mental health issues. But one of my interviewees who happened to be close friends with Francis told me that he had received a message from Francis saying he was scared and confused, his elder brother had seen messages between him and another guy and had forwarded them to their father. Unfortunately, unlike Kwamena, Francis could not face his family so he took his own life.

These kind of attacks are very common on LGBT persons, these people (referring to persons who target gay people) know that because the society is against us no one will do anything to them” says Dan, an activist with one of the vocal advocacy groups in the capital Accra.

After several calls and messages, another victim of homophobic attack finally agreed to a face-to-face meeting with me.

A cluster of wooden shacks at a slum in Alajo, a suburb of Accra.

A cluster of wooden shacks at a slum in Alajo, a suburb of Accra.

 

It was a wet Saturday morning when I set off to meet Kamal (not real name) at a slum in Alajo. When I arrived at the street pub where he had asked me to wait at, it took about 10 minutes before he finally showed up, he told me he wanted to be sure he was safe before coming to me. I understood his fear. After winding through narrow roads and shallow gutters, we arrived at the wooden shack which had become Kamal’s home.

Several months earlier, Kamal was in his room at his family home in Nima, a mostly Muslim dominated suburb in the capital, when he heard loud noises outside his door shouting his name and demanding he came out.

when I went outside I saw a group of men outside with one guy who also lives in the area. I immediately became scared because I used to chat with him on WhatsApp and I had told him that I liked him. I didn’t know he was going to tell his friends” Kamal narrated with his head bowed as if to express regret.

they asked me if what the boy said was true, I tried to deny but they started slapping me and asked me to unlock my phone for them. They saw some pictures and gay porn on my phone and they started beating me more. I managed to run inside my room and lock the door and later escaped through my back window.”

Kamal could not face his Muslim parents, so he left home and has since not returned.

When a local group opened a community center at the Tesano suburb of Accra in late January last year, the prospects were high. The center was to among other things provide shelter for people like Kamal who were displaced as a result of their families rejecting them due to their sexual orientation and also serve as a support and information center where LGBT persons could access essential services including health information and access to health facilities in a safe space.

Diplomats and activists cut sod for the opening of an LGBT center in Accra. Credit: Twitter/LGBT Rights Ghana.

Diplomats and activists cut sod for the opening of an LGBT center in Accra. Credit: Twitter/LGBT Rights Ghana.

 

But those prospects never saw the light of day as a few weeks after its opening, some members of parliament, government ministers and religious groups had demanded the closure of the center.

The whole issue was misrepresented by the media, the center is supposed to provide a safe space for LGBT persons and not for recruiting young people into ‘gayism’ as is being propagated by the media” says Alex, who is the executive director at LGBT Rights Ghana, the local group which operated the center.

The so-called Promotion of Proper Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill has come under heavy criticism by the academic community in Ghana, civil society and the international community, with many describing it as a gross violation of the rights of LGBT persons and a total disregard for Ghana’s obligations under international law to protect the right of every citizen regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

For many conservative Ghanaians, this Bill is a bold statement. A perfect representation of the Ghanaian agenda. To them, LGBT rights are a foreign construct, contrary to Ghanaian culture and an affront to their religious faiths.

But even as these political debates linger, the reality is the many lives torn apart by the resolve of a country for a group of people that seems to be stronger than its love for humanity. One wonders what kind of family values the bill promotes, if its main aim is to divide families.

A group of people accused of unlawful assembly arrive at a court for a bail hearing in Ho, Volta Region, June 4, 2021.  Credit: REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

A group of people accused of unlawful assembly arrive at a court for a bail hearing in Ho, Volta Region, June 4, 2021.  Credit: REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

The damage is already visible. In May this year, an Intersex woman was among 20 participants at a paralegal training workshop who were arrested for unlawful assembly by police in the Volta Region.

She recalls being sent to a male cell. “the officers told the men in the cell to rape me since I was insisting that I am a woman.”

Statements like these are not uncommon apparently. “Since I decided to live openly as a lesbian woman in Ghana, I get a lot of threats from men. They threaten to rape the spirit of lesbianism out of me. Even though I always try to put up a confident front, I am still scared because I have heard stories of such happening to other women” says Rashida, a 34-year-old lesbian who agreed to speak with me over the telephone.

While gay men are mostly targets of homophobic attacks, the plight of lesbian, intersex or transgender women cannot be overlooked.

But the danger of this path chosen by the Ghanaian society is beyond the law. The passage of this new law may drastically affect Ghana’s human rights records and its status as a beacon of democracy in Sub-Sahara Africa. But above all, it puts the lives of LGBTQ+ persons at grave risk of homophobic attacks.

And so we wait, in anticipation of what becomes of the “Anti-Gay” Bill as it is now popularly called, when Parliament resumes in October to vote on its passage.

As I wrap up my conversation with Kamal, he wipes his eyes with the back of his palms and tells me, “I have really missed my parents, but I don’t know how to face them or how they will react if I go and visit them.”

 

 

About the writer

Solomon Terkimbi Akumun known professionally as Solomon Ter, is a Radio presenter and Producer for Asaase Radio in Accra. He is also a writer, researcher and Law scholar with over 7 years of experience in communications, justice advocacy, media and PR, academic research and brand consultancy. He’s currently the host of Accra-Lagos-Joburg on Asaase Radio 99.5mhz, a Pan-African radio show that connects Africa through music, people and culture. Twitter: @LordTer995 Instagram: @solomonter_

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People & Lifestyle

Call for entries: Lifebuoy Opens Applications for handwashing ‘Chief Education Officers’

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Lifebuoy GHD CEO Globle KV002

Unilever’s Lifebuoy, the world’s number one hygiene soap brand, has launched a creative competition that will see two (2) Chief Education Officers aged between 6-12years appointed to raise awareness on the importance of handwashing among school children.

Leveraging the power of peer-to-peer learning, the ‘CEOs’ will be selected from public and private schools in Ghana to help create impact by teaching other children about handwashing and personal hygiene in a series of fun and exciting activities.

The campaign dubbed ‘Lifebuoy H for handwashing CEOs’ is part of Lifebuoy’s activities to mark Global Handwashing Day which occurs every year on the 15th of October.

 Global handwashing day is an international handwashing campaign dedicated to motivating and mobilizing people worldwide to improve their handwashing habits as a strategy for disease prevention.

In 2020, Lifebuoy launched the H for Handwashing campaign to transform the letter H into a symbol for handwashing and to integrate hygiene awareness into the school curriculum. In 2021, Lifebuoy launched its first ever children’s book- an “H for Handwashing” alphabet book – in which children can explore the Alphabet with Azzy the horse. The book is intended to support school curricula all over the world, whenever and wherever children are taught the ABCs.

This year, Lifebuoy is going a step further by passing on the baton to the next generation who will teach their peers about handwashing, as studies have shown that children are more likely to change their behaviour when influenced by their peers.

Lifebuoy is encouraging Children from public and private schools in Ghana between the ages of 6-12years to take up this unique and exciting challenge.

Parents, Guardians and Teachers are also urged to encourage their children and pupils to participate in the competition by following these guidelines:

  • Share a 30- 45 seconds video of your child reciting their campaign manifesto by explaining what hygiene means to them and how they will promote better hygiene in their schools.
  • All entries must include the #LifebuoyCEOgh #GHD2022 hashtag and be submitted on Facebook and Instagram only via the brand’s pages @LifebuoyGhana.
  • Entries are open until the 10th of October, 2022.

The two selected CEOs will get the chance to become part of Lifebuoy’s award-winning ‘H for Handwashing’ movement and receive a certificate from the Unilever Ghana Leadership Team for their participation and commitment to the cause.  As part of celebrations to mark Global Handwashing Day, they will also visit the Unilever headquarters and factories to teach employees the importance of handwashing

The ‘CEOs’ will commit a minimum of ten hours a year to help spread the message of handwashing with soap to other children, at home and in schools. To enable them perform their roles, they will be trained in the use of Lifebuoy’s decade-old and well-proven  behaviour change material which will equip them to take the message forward.

For more information, follow Lifebuoy on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @LifebuoyGhana

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MTN Urges Customers To Register Their Sim Cards Before The September 30 SIMRegistration Deadline

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Customers registering their SIM cards at Temporary Registration point at Goaso in Ahafo Region

With only three days to the  September 30, 2022 deadline for SIM registration, MTN is urging its customers to have their SIM cards fully registered to avoid being disconnected.

All customers with voice and data SIM in phones and devices are mandated to register with the Ghana card before the deadline. All SIM cards that are not fully registered at the end of 30th September 2022 will be disconnected from using all services on the network.

Customers who are yet to register should start the process by dialing *404# or use the registration web portal https://simregistrationportal.mtn.com.gh to link their SIM to the Ghana card. Customers who have linked their SIM cards to the Ghana card can complete their registration by either visiting the nearest service centre/agent for the biometric capture or download the SIM Registration Self Service app on google play to complete the registration.

Read Also: MTN delegation meets Nana Addo

Commenting on the SIM registration deadline, the General Manager Regional Sales and Distribution, South, MTN Ghana,Abubakar Mohammed said, “we are encouraging our customers to register immediately to avoid long queues at registration centers and subsequent blocking of SIM cards after the deadline.”

“Customers who are not sure of their status can check their registration status by dialing *400#. “B-Cap Yes” means a customer is fully registered”.

To ensure all customers are fully registered before the 30th of September 2022 deadline, all MTN field staff have been deployed to different locations to check registration status and register customers who have not yet registered their SIM cards.

The Ministry of Communications and Digitalization announced the mandatory re-registration of all SIM cards in Ghana last year. The registration exercise which started in October 2021 is scheduled to end on September 30, 2022.

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AIDEC Consultancies International & Academic City sign MoU to deepen practical AI knowledge

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The teams from AIDEC and ACity in a group photograph

Africa Integrated Development and Communications Consultancies (AIDEC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Academic City University College (ACity) to provide practical knowledge in areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

The MoU was executed on behalf of the two organizations represented by Mr. Ambrose Yennah, Executive Chairman of AIDEC and Professor Fred McBagonluri, President, and Provost of ACity.

Executive Chairman for AIDEC Consultancies, Ambrose Yennah, said: “the agreement seeks to provide students with practical hands-on-training in Data Science, Machine Learning, Robotics and other advanced technological training in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in areas of STEAM needed to efficiently work in the job market.”

He said the MoU is a private sector initiative between the two organizations to compliment government’s effort at digitalization and will enable them to collaborate with other Consortium Partners for the roll out of several Digital Solutions and Services.

“The agreement will include but not limited to the study and application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, Robotics, Data Science, Machine Learning, Business Process Outsourcing Services (BPO) with specific focus on the health, and Educational Sectors including Executive Training for the Country Ghana and scaling up to the continent of Africa in the near-term,” he added.

President and Provost of ACity, Professor Fred McBagonluri, said the MoU will help in developing ready job skills by providing access to AI programmes that would help student use technology to pursue research initiatives that is focused on solving the needs of the society.

“The MoU, as part of its objectives, agree to establish, implement and create an enabling environment for students to engage in research and practical consulting assignments as a collaboration between industry and other academic institutions for practical, hands-on training, research, and fieldwork for their mutual good,” he said.

The Consortium Partners, he added, will provide top notch business, educational and technology solutions and services including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platform as a virtual and open educational resource facility to our target customers in the public, private and third sectors.

AIDEC and ACity in collaboration with other Consortium Partners will identify projects ideas and invest in them to generate employment in IT/Digital Solutions and Services and generate income for the Consortium Partners whilst providing an avenue for upgrading the skills and competencies of students with creative and innovative technologies that will expose and prepare them for the job market including Students exchange programs for practical hands-on training, research and fieldwork.

The Consortium Partners agree to work to improve and expand their Institutional capacities in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Data Science, Machine learning including online learning platforms and programs to whip up the interest of students enrolling for higher education for STEAM, SparX leaning Xperience and other competency-based professional training programs for an all-inclusive digital transformation.

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