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25.09.2006 General News

What is Ghanaian culture? – Gay group leader asks

By chronicle
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The leader of a group representing Ghana's homosexual population says their association never planned a conference that was reportedly banned last month by the Ghanaian government. Prince Kweku MacDonald, president of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Ghana, told The Chronicle his group never planned any conference.

"The association has not even thought of a conference," he said. "The association has no money to organize a conference. The association has no plans even for any such conference in the near future. And Prince never said anywhere that there was going to be any gay conference. I never said that. It's a fabricated story."

Controversy has swirled around the issue of homosexuality since Mr. Kwamena Bartels, Minister of Information and National Orientation, released a statement on August 31 banning a purported international conference on gays and lesbians, which was rumoured to be scheduled for Accra in late September.

"Government would like to make it absolutely clear that it shall not permit the proposed conference to take place anywhere in Ghana," the statement said. "Government does not and shall not condone any activity which violently offends the culture, morality and heritage of the entire people of Ghana," it added.

Mr. MacDonald said he believed rumours about the conference were started by the media, and he was surprised the minister would have released a statement banning a nonexistent conference. "I was shocked that a minister, a home minister of state, would quickly be pushed to offer such a statement," he said. Mr. MacDonald further said he believed the outcry about the alleged conference is part of a "plot" to discredit him and his group.

"I believe that people, the media and the religious fundamentalists or whoever, think that this gay thing is only Prince and some two or three guys somewhere who are gay. So they better stop Prince and those three or four or five people so all this thing will stop, and that's what they're trying to do.

"But the fact is that there are hundreds and millions there who would not show their faces, because they know when they show it, this is the reaction they will get from Ghanaians," he disclosed.

Members of the Clergy, both Christian and Muslim, have publicly supported the government and condemned the supposed conference, saying homosexuality is prohibited in holy books. Mr. MacDonald dismissed such concerns, saying the holy books were written in another time and that not every edict within them is followed today.

"The same place [in the Bible] that mentions that, mentions that you don't even sew polyester with cotton together. It says, it mentions that slaves are to obey their masters. And today you can't own a slave," he said. "The other question is, is the Bible Ghanaian? Who brought the Bible, and what culture did they belong to?" he queried. "If the Bible is Ghanaian, how did it become Ghanaian? How can we as a nation use the Bible to set moral standards for people?"

In addition to the clergy, other members of the public have also spoken out against the imagined conference, saying it offended the culture and morality of Ghana and furthermore homosexuality is illegal in the country.

But, MacDonald said, "These laws are colonial laws by the British. And in Britain now, they have same-sex marriages." National discussion needed? He added that he believes Ghanaians should have a critical discussion about what is truly Ghanaian and what is not Ghanaian. "So we say 'gayism' is culturally not acceptable. What is culture in Ghana's context?" he asked. "The culture for Ghana in dressing is people wearing small pants with a small part on the waist. It is not the person wearing suits. Vehicles, is not Ghanaian culture; the Ghanaian culture is walking. And using shadows for time; so the watch is not Ghanaian culture. Ghanaian culture is not sitting in a restaurant and eating. Ghanaian culture is eating in the family house where you sit on stools behind small tables and eat. Ghanaian culture is not perming your hair, but almost every woman perms her hair today. So where did this culture come from?" he asked.

"I think we need to talk more about what is Ghanaian and what is not Ghanaian again, so that we see whether we need to be incorporated into society, given a voice to tell our story how it is." MacDonald also called on the gay and lesbian people of Ghana to "come out of the closet," saying then all Ghanaians would see that homosexuals are not bad people but rather are among their family, friends and neighbours.

The Gay and Lesbian Association estimates that about 10 per cent of the Ghanaian population ¨C or approximately 2 million Ghanaians ¨C have been involved in same-sex sexual relationships. During the past year, the group said its research has identified nearly 2,000 gay and lesbian people in Accra and Tema alone.

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