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A Ghanaian transgender, Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi, has said Ghana’s Members of Parliament are “ignorant” about the LGBTQI+ community in the country.
Speaking to Ewura Adams Karim in connection with the proposed anti-LGBTQI+ Bill being championed by Ningo Prampram MP Sam Nartey George and seven other legislators (Bedzrah Emma Kwasi, Helen Adjoa Ntoso, John Ntim Fordjour, Alhassan Suhuyini, Rita Naa Odoley Sowah, Dafeamekpor Etse Rockson-Nelson and Della Sowah), the Board member of LGBTQI+ Ghana, said the anti-LGBTQI+ sentiments expressed by Ghanaians in general, as well as the country’s lawmakers, toward his ilk, are dismissive of their humanity.
Answering a question about how his family took his transition from a male to being transgender, Va-Bene said: “Just as we are experiencing now … – if I use the word ignorant, permit me – I have understood now that a lot of Ghanaians, even educated people, misunderstand ignorance as an insult”.
However, Va-Bene explained, “ignorance just means that ‘lack of information and knowledge’”.
“So, yesterday [Monday, 26 July 2021], I heard Ras Mubarak [ex-MP for Kumbungu] getting angry that they used [the word] ‘ignorant’ for him but I would use it again that just as our ignorant Members of Parliament do not understand our feelings and our identity and our comforts, it’s the same way our families were battling with it”, Va-Bene noted.
“For me, when everything started, the fear of my family was not about what they felt about me, it’s about what the society would say about them. That was the problem”, the artist said.
“I remember very well that my mum – actually that’s not my biological mum but that’s my mum – always would say that what do you think the church would say about me as an elder in the church that my child has transitioned. So, this fear is actually ignorance and this is perpetuated by people who are in power and who could have very much educate the citizens and the public but rather misinforming them”, Va-Bene added.
The Bill is proposing a 10-year jail term for offenders, including promoters of any sexuality that falls within the LGBTQI+ spectrum other than between a man and a woman.
The 36-page Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021, which is yet to be considered by parliament, seeks to unequivocally criminalise LGBTQI+ activities.
Among other things, it says people of the same sex who engage in sexual intercourse are “liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than seven hundred and fifty penalty units and not more than five thousand penalty units, or to a term of imprisonment of not less than three years and not more than five years or both.”
It covers any person who “holds out as a lesbian, a gay, a transgender, a transsexual, a queer, a pansexual, an ally, a non-binary or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female.”
The legislators behind the Bill submitted a copy of the draft to the Speaker of parliament on 29 June 2021.
The Bill is not only targeting persons of LGBTQI+ orientation but also promoters of such sexuality.
For instance, it proposes that: “A person who, by use of media, technological platform, technological account or any other means, produces, procures, markets, broadcasts, disseminates, publishes or distributes a material for purposes of promoting an activity prohibited under the Bill, or a person uses an electronic device, the Internet service, a film, or any other device capable of electronic storage or transmission to produce, procure, market, broadcast, disseminate, publishes or distribute a material for purposes of promoting an activity prohibited under the Bill, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than ten years.”
Additionally, it suggests that persons who engage in any activity that “promotes, supports sympathy for or a change of public opinion towards an act prohibited under the Bill” be held liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years or not more than ten years.
It also wants all LGBTQ+ groups, societies, associations, clubs, and organisations disbanded.
Flouters of this section could face up to not less than six years or not more than ten years imprisonment.