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We’re your ally – US gov’t to Ghana’s LGBTQI+ community, as Amb. urges Ghana gov’t to uphold gay rights

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The U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Stephanie S. Sullivan, has said this year “has been challenging for Ghana’s LGBTQI+ community”.   

At a reception and Pride flag hoisting ceremony on 28 June 2021 to commemorate Pride Month at the US embassy in Accra, Ambassador Sullivan recounted: “From the shuttering of the LGBTQI+ Advocacy Center in Accra, the arrests of 22 friends gathered in the Eastern Region, talk of an anti-LGBTQI+ bill, and most recently, the arrest and lengthy pre-bail detention of 21 human rights defenders in Ho, the community is facing increased anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric and actions”.

She thanked advocates like Shone Edem Lawrence “for speaking so passionately on behalf of the community here in Ghana”, adding: “I had the honour of speaking with Shone and a couple of members of the Ho 21 prior to this event.  I will tell you what I told them: the U.S. government is an ally of the LGBTQI+ community in Ghana”. 

The diplomat said during “my tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and especially this past year, I’ve made it a priority to urge national leaders in Ghana to uphold constitutional human rights protections and to adhere to international human rights obligations and commitments for all individuals”. 

“This, especially, includes the people in this room”, she noted, pointing out: “While many of these conversations are conducted behind closed doors, know that I, and other members of the diplomatic community here this evening and also those not present, are advocates for you to be accorded your constitutional human rights”.

She noted: “What began in the United States as a day in June to honour the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, New York, has become an international, month-long series of events to mark the past and present struggle for the human rights, dignity, and recognition of the LGBTQI+ community”. 

“It’s the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Therefore, we aim to increase the visibility of, and address the challenges faced by, the community as we stand against injustice toward not only women and girls and religious minorities but also toward members of the LGBTQI+ community”.

Currently, there is a raging debate in Ghana about a proposed anti-LGBTQI+ Bill which intends to criminalise LGBTQI+ sexuality and any form of its promotion. 

It proposes up to 10-year jail term for culprits. 

Read Ambassador Sullivan’s full speech below: 

Pride Reception 2021: “You are Included”

As Prepared Remarks for U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie S. Sullivan

Monday, June 28, 2021 | 4:00pm – 5:30pm

Chief of Mission Residence 

LGBTQ+ Community Members and Allies;

Esteemed Guests from the Diplomatic Corps;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good Afternoon.  Akwaaba to our home and thank you so much for joining us here today to commemorate Pride Month.  What began in the United States as a day in June to honour the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, NY, has become an international, month-long series of events to mark the past and present struggle for the human rights, dignity, and recognition of the LGBTQI+ community.

During this year’s Pride Month, we celebrate an important message: “You are Included.” On June 1, U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken reaffirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to increase our engagement on LGBTQI+ human rights issues abroad and to work with partners like those in this room to build a safer, more inclusive global society for all LGBTQI+ individuals. 

We aim to increase the visibility of, and address the challenges faced by, the community as we stand against injustice toward not only women and girls and religious minorities but also toward members of the LGBTQI+ community.

LGBTQI+ persons around the world, including in the United States, continue to face discrimination, violence, and other forms of persecution because of who they are and whom they love.

On June 25, President Biden outdoored Jessica Stern as the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons – a role critical to ensuring that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world.

The Special Envoy will play a vital role in leading implementation of the Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World.

At a time when the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons are increasingly threatened in all regions of the world, the Special Envoy will bring together like-minded governments, civil society organizations, corporations, and international organisations to uphold dignity and equality for all.

On Friday, President Biden said, quote: “For this community and for our nation and for the world, Pride Month represents so much.  It stands for courage – the courage of all those in previous generations and today who proudly live their truth.  It stands for justice: both the steps we’ve taken and the steps we need to take. And above all, Pride Month stands for love – being able to love yourself, and love whomever you love, and love this country enough to make it more fair, and more free, and more just.” End quote.

This year has been challenging for Ghana’s LGBTQI+ community.  From the shuttering of the LGBTQI+ Advocacy Centre in Accra, the arrests of 22 friends gathered in the Eastern Region, talk of an anti-LGBTQI+ bill, and most recently, the arrest and lengthy pre-bail detention of 21 human rights defenders in Ho, the community is facing increased anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric and actions.

Thank you to Shone Edem Lawrence for speaking so passionately on behalf of the community here in Ghana.  I had the honour of speaking with Shone and a couple of members of the Ho 21 prior to this event.  I will tell you what I told them: the U.S. government is an ally of the LGBTQI+ community in Ghana. 

During my tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and especially this past year, I’ve made it a priority to urge national leaders in Ghana to uphold constitutional human rights protections and to adhere to international human rights obligations and commitments for all individuals. 

This especially includes the people in this room.  While many of these conversations are conducted behind closed doors, know that I, and other members of the diplomatic community here this evening and also those not present, are advocates for you to be accorded your constitutional human rights.

This year’s celebration is a bit low key.  With the pandemic ever-present and the current sensitivities surrounding the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons in Ghana, many may have wondered whether a diplomatic mission Pride event should occur. 

Our answer at the U.S. Embassy is a resounding yes. It’s the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Therefore, it is important to take the time to gather, take stock, and reaffirm our determination to continue to promote the human rights of the community, with the community.

Just as senior officials raised the Progress Flag for the first time at the State Department last Friday, I’m happy to invite you all to watch as we hoist the Pride flag in honour of the people we celebrate this month and as a symbol of our continued commitment to the human rights, dignity, and inclusion of all LGBTQI+ people.

Thank you.

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