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The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) has called for a critical appraisal of the bill that seeks to criminalise lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) practices, as well as individuals and institutions that will promote the acts.
The Director-General of the GAC, Mr Steve Gyeremeh Atuahene, said passing the bill would drive practitioners to hide their identities and thereby discourage people living with HIV/AIDS from seeking medical treatment.
He said the bill, in its current form, would drive “them underground”, preventing them from accessing life-saving drugs in the country.
“Countries that have passed similar laws have seen a high increase in HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with other men,” he said.
Mr Atuahene was one of the representatives of institutions appearing before the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament taking memoranda for consideration in the discussions around the passage of the bill into law to justify their positions.
Those who expressed their support for the passage of the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021 were the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC) and the Church of Pentecost.
The Group of Concerned Ghanaian Citizens (GCGC), a group of academics, lawyers, researchers, civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights activists, and the Human Rights Coalition also explained their stance against the passage of the bill.
The parties opposed to the bill argued for its outright rejection in its current form, as it grossly violated every constitutional provision on fundamental human rights.
The group in support of the bill urged Parliament to take note of the general mood of the nation to pass the bill to assuage the pent-up anger imposed on the people due to attempts to impose alien practice on them.
The hearing by the committee, chaired by Mr Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, is to allow all the stakeholders who had submitted their respective memoranda to make inputs into the bill.
Cost and charges
Offering justification for the bill to be rejected by Parliament, the Spokesperson for the GCGC, Mr Akoto Ampaw, said under Article 108 (2 and 3) of the Constitution, it was the President or his agents who could introduce bills in Parliament that imposed a charge on the Consolidated Fund or any public fund.
He said it was only when a bill did not impose any charge on the Consolidated Fund that it might be introduced as a private members’ bill.
Abuse of human rights
The legal practitioner argued that it was the view of the GCGC that provisions in the bill violated fundamental human rights provisions in the Constitution, as they stigmatised the LGBTQI+ community as inhuman and taboo to the Ghanaian society
“The bill grossly violates Article 12, which guarantees fundamental human rights for every person, as well as Article 17 (2) on the equality of all persons before the law,” he said.
Threat to value system
Throwing the full weight of the GPCC behind the bill, the Spokesperson for the council, Apostle Ofori Kuragu, described the bill as a bold attempt to consolidate and fill the lacuna of existing legislation to meet the demands of the fast-shifting legal landscape occasioned by the activities of LGBTQI+ and the inherent threat they posed to the pristine Ghanaian value system.
He said the bill was in sync with the 1992 Constitution, as it sought to affirm the fundamental human rights of all Ghanaians and protect the most vulnerable against the influence of LGBTQI+ practitioners.
He was optimistic that the bill, when passed, would defend Ghana’s territorial integrity and customise home-grown efforts to protect its peculiar system.
Uphold Ghanaian values
Speaking on behalf of the Church of Pentecost, its General Secretary, Apostle Alexander Nana Yaw Kumi-Larbi, said with the church having followed the activities of LGBTQI+ globally and their attendant influence on culture, economies, youth development, health, academia, traditional systems and the moral upbringing of children, it had resolved to support the current bill in Parliament.
He said although the church, with its firm Christian faith and values, did not seek to impose its faith on all others in a country where there was freedom of speech and religion, it was of the conviction that there was the need to uphold and promote proper Ghanaian value system.
Eroding democratic gains
Speaking on behalf of Human Rights Coalition, Professor H. Kwasi Prempeh said the bill, if passed, could turn Ghana into a vigilante society or a police state where not just the people the bill was directly aimed at but all manner of persons who lent support to LGBTQI+ would be targeted.