07.06.2011 General News

Gays Can Be Tried. The Law Is Silent On Lesbians

07.06.2011 LISTEN
By Seth J. Bokpe - Daily Graphic

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms Gertrude Aikins, has indicated that persons caught engaging in homosexual activities could be liable for prosecution.

Responding to calls for the country to enact laws to ban homosexuality, she stated that Section 104 (1) (b) of the Criminal Code made the act a criminal offence.

Section 104 (1) (b) of the Criminal Code states, 'Whoever has an unnatural carnal knowledge of any person of sixteen years or over with his consent is guilty of a misdemeanour,' while (1) (a) of the same code, which makes reference to sodomy, states, “Whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge of any person of the age sixteen or over without his consent shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than twenty-five years.'

The law is, however, silent on any form of punishment for lesbianism, that is, sexual relationship between two females.

Ms Aikins said persons engaged in such activities fell foul of the law but admitted that compared to sodomy, homosexuality carried a less severe sentence as far as the Criminal Code was concerned.

Ghanaian laws prohibit unnatural carnal acts — a definition which is widely understood to include homosexuality, although, in practice, very few have been prosecuted for homosexual acts.

In 2003, an Accra Circuit Court jailed four gay men for engaging in homosexual activities.

Debate on homosexuality in the country has heightened with a recent Daily Graphic publication that 8,000 homosexuals had been registered by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Western and some parts of the Central regions, with majority of them infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS.

In a highly religious Ghana, homosexuality is seen as an imported foreign lifestyle choice and a moral aberration.

While churches have been at the forefront of leading a crusade against what they describe as a moral canker, some human right activists in the country consider the subject a human rights issue.

Others are averse to it, describing it as alien to Ghanaian culture and way of living.

Unlike in the West, where homosexuals practise their act in the open, gays and lesbians in Ghana maintain their relationships underground because of the social stigma associated with their sexual orientation.

While politicians remain vocal on almost all issues, few in Ghana are willing to take the political risk of advocating tolerance for the rights of homosexuals.

In 2006, the government banned a conference for gay men and lesbians that was to be held in the country.

Gay marriages may be legal in South Africa, but across the continent many devout and traditional Africans view homosexuality with horror.

Uganda came close to concrete legislation on the issue but the Anti-Homosexuality Bill — dubbed the 'Kill the Gays' bill — remains in limbo after Parliament adjourned without debating or voting on the controversial bill.

Ugandan Members of Parliament (MPs) were set to debate the bill, which could allow the death penalty for homosexual acts in some cases.

Adding his voice to calls for legislation to prohibit homosexuality, the Moderator of the Global Evangelical Church, the Rt Rev Dr Emmanuel Gbordzoe, has called on the government to enact laws that make homosexual activities illegal in the country.

According to him, although society frowned on those activities, it was imperative for the government to take stringent measures to discourage them in society.

He discredited assertions that even if the activities of homosexuals were outlawed people would still engage in it underground, saying, “Armed robbery is illegal but people do it, but with fear that they can be in trouble with the law.”

The Rt Rev Dr Gbordzoe objected to the notion that homosexuality was a human rights issue and explained that “armed robbers also have economic rights but we all know that you can’t kill someone just because you need money”.

The Moderator said homosexuality was an abnormality and that was why God, in His divine wisdom, condemned it.

He urged the government not to give in to any pressure to promote human rights that were foreign and inimical to the moral and spiritual health of the country.

“Homosexuality is a foreign culture that is destroying our society. If we don’t nip it in the bud, it will lead to the destruction of our moral values. It is demoralising and can pollute people’s minds, both physically and spiritually,” he added.

But Dr Clement Apak, a human rights activist and lecturer at the University of Ghana, said although laws were enacted to promote what society deemed acceptable, those laws should not target people because of their sexual orientation.

He said even though society might not agree with others’ choice of lifestyle, it did not mean 'we should do anything to infringe on their rights'.