The issue of human rights, particularly regarding individuals with different sexual orientations, has gained importance in Western nations and is now becoming significant in developing countries. There is pressure on leaders in these countries to recognize the fundamental rights of all individuals, including LGBTQ members. The debate over LGBTQ rights in Ghana has persisted since the administration of John Evans Atta Mills. Over time, the recognition of individuals' freedom and rights has become more prominent, but several Ghanaian MPs, religious bodies and civil society organizations still oppose it. A group of MPs have sponsored a bill to criminalize LGBTQ activities, which has generated controversy and attention from the Western world. The bill has not passed yet.
Undoubtedly, the recent visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris has sparked a discourse on Ghana's stance on LGBTQ rights, with concerns that it may compromise its position. The Ghanaian President, Nana Akuffo Addo, has not taken a definitive stance and has deferred responsibility to parliament. Ghana has therefore taken a conciliatory approach to the matter of LGBTQ rights for diplomatic reasons.
What then constitutes the rights of LGBTQ individuals? LGBTQ individuals have inherent human rights, including the right to exist and make choices freely. These rights cannot be infringed upon by external forces or individuals, and any attempt to do so constitutes a violation of their human rights. LGBTQ individuals have the freedom of sexual orientation and the right to determine the course of their lives as they see fit. Social norms cannot serve as the benchmark for individual choices and freedoms. Societies uphold social norms and perceive the practices of LGBTQ individuals as deviant from those norms. The expectation is that everyone should adhere to societal norms and values, and laws are enacted to ensure social behaviour and maintain order.
However, it is important to note that adhering to social norms and values is a voluntary act, and an individual's choices and freedoms in regard to their way of life are their own until they violate any laws. Therefore, LGBTQ individuals cannot be categorized as criminals as long as they are not breaking any laws. Society has evolved to respect people's inherent characteristics and attitudes, despite social norms, which have now become voluntary. Choosing to live differently does not make someone a criminal, as they are merely exercising their natural choice and freedom. While we may disapprove of their unconventional lifestyle, we cannot strip them of their inherent rights as they will ultimately bear the consequences of their actions.
The discourse on this topic remains ongoing, yet it is paramount to acknowledge that individuals who identify as LGBTQ are indeed human beings and as such, ought to be afforded the privilege of making personal choices and bearing the associated consequences. This is an incontrovertible truth. Regulating these individuals' choices can give rise to feelings of oppression and control, irrespective of the social norms at play. It is worth noting that, in some cases, individuals choose to engage in prostitution, and their right to freedom of choice is universally recognized. Therefore, what differentiates those who identify as LGBTQ from others? Over time, society has embraced a multitude of non-traditional lifestyles, and it is probable that more will emerge in the future. However, it is critical to remember that these individuals are human and, as such, should be allowed to exercise their inherent right to choose and freedom while simultaneously accepting accountability for their actions.
(Demographer, Social Activist, Human Rights Advocate, Educator)