Tue, 14 Jan 2014 Feature Article

Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell’- a viable policy on Homosexuality in Ghana.

Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell’- a viable policy on Homosexuality in Ghana.

In recent years arguments and counter arguments have surrounded the issue of homosexuality in Ghana. As a Ghanaian and practising Christian, I have spent some time considering these issues and deem it necessary to make a comment or two on the subject. As always, the intended audience for this article is the analytical and discursive reader and definitely not the myopic simpleton!

This article will undertake a critical analysis of the reasons put forward by both sides of the debate on homosexuality.

Firstly, the anti-homosexuality side labels the practise as patently unchristian, devilish and abominable. That the bible condemns the practise of homosexuality is indubitable! However, if you have read the bible at all you will have to admit that the bible condemns sin in all its various forms. Indeed, as long as the bible is concerned 'whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, is become guilty of all'. If one lies or gossips but hates homosexuality, that person is guilty of all sin, including homosexuality. It is important to appreciate the fact that, as far as the bible is concerned, there are no gradations to sin. Hence 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God' regardless of what type of sin, if any, you have done. All sin is sin! Period! The nuances that exist today amongst sins are only a human endeavour aimed at pacifying the consciences of overly legalistic Christians who opt to live by the law rather than by grace. If the preceding is true, then homosexuality is 'unchristian, devilish and abominable' only to the extent that lying, gossiping, fornication, laziness and all the other sins are also unchristian, devilish and abominable!

Last week, an acquaintance bemoaned a video that he had seen which involved a homosexual couple engaged in sexual congress. Such was the disgust he expressed about the video that I had to, at one point, ask him to calm down. After he managed to calm down, I put it to him to consider how he would have felt if the video contained two women rather than men. His countenance immediately softened at that question! He explained that sexual congress between men was far more repugnant than it was between women. Of course there was no basis to that assertion since both are homosexual acts and were condemned by Paul in the first chapter of his epistle to the Roman. The fact is that, quite a lot of Ghanaian men have less loathing towards female homosexuality than they have about male homosexuality- a stance which is patently inconsistent and hypocritical! Furthermore the act of heterosexual anal intercourse is on the rise amongst many Ghanaian couples. Undoubtedly the preceding act is included in St. Paul's condemnation of the 'exchange of natural sexual relations for unnatural ones'.

Secondly, the anti gay movement demand a strong governmental response to homosexuality and the continual criminalisation of the act. In many African countries, the anti-gay movement has taken it upon itself to seek out, prosecute and even lynch homosexuals –witness Uganda. In the latter country there is a designated government department fancifully called the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity. This is a full government department with staff and a minister in the person of the very reverend and 'saintly' Simon Lokodo. Among other things, it is the duty of this directorate to actively seek out homosexuals and prosecute them much like the inquisition undertook in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. Additionally this Directorate also criminalises anyone who knows of a homosexual and fails to report it to the police-another requirement that is chillingly reminiscent of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. Personally I think the preceding amounts to a gross misuse and waste of scarce government resources. The fact that whoever wants to practise homosexuality can practise it in private renders the enforcement of the law totally futile. If indeed the honourable and very reverend Simon Lokodo seeks to preserve the integrity and morality of the Ugandan nation, then he may as well pursue all liars, gossips, lazy persons, drunkards, fornicators and all other 'sinners', not forgetting his president, Yuweri Museveni, who has monopolised political power in that country since 1986 and refused to give way to the political will of the august people of the Ugandan nation. To single out homosexuals and females wearing revealing clothing, as he is doing, is at once both canting and victimising. Thankfully the Christian God doesn't need an armada of fighters or jihadists who go about enforcing his will since we do not fight against flesh and blood! The bible makes it clear that there is coming a time that each man will have to answer to the Lord and clearly that time is not now!

In Ghana, albeit homosexually remains a crime in the statute books, its monitoring and policing has not been at the forefront of the country's policing priorities. Indeed given the rampancy of armed robbery, police and governmental corruption, it would be highly irresponsible, if also demagoguing, to divert scarce national resources towards policing how consenting men at the age of majority wish to use their manhoods!

The arguments from the gay-rights side of the argument also have many flaws. Firstly, this new spate of pro- homosexual movement is counterproductive and, quite often, insulting to many Ghanaians and, indeed, Africans. Though this writer cannot assert that homosexuality is not part of the Ghanaian or African way of life, it is fair to say that the public display of gayness is pretty damn alien to any Ghanaian! Whiles it is impossible to conclude that homosexuality is alien to Ghana because the practise often happens in camera, this contempo demand for attention and recognition is undoubtedly too abrupt and an assault on the sensitivities of the Ghanaian population. This writer has never understood the need for this 'coming out' that so many homosexuals feel so obliged to do. In the last month two sportsmen in this not-so- United Kingdom; namely Tom Daley and Tom Hitzlsperger, have decided to, as it were, 'come out' about their homosexuality. The question is 'what exactly have they come out from? To have come out suggests that they were in some kind of hiding! As a heterosexual or 'straight' man, this writer has never once thought about 'coming out' with his sexual orientation. The argument which often prompts this 'coming out' is that having being discriminated against and held down in the past, the homosexual feels the need to now assert his sexuality al fresco. The parallel argument will be that since northerners have been maligned in Ghana in terms of employment and opportunity, they ought to 'come out', announce and assert their 'northernness' everywhere they go. Who cares whether you are a northerner, homosexual, heterosexual or all of the preceding? The point is that if you do 'come out' as a homosexual in Ghana and many other African countries, you will be targeted, victimised and possibly brutalised because most of these countries' citizens are not ready to accept such public displays of sexuality, homosexual or otherwise!

In seeking to 'come out' with their sexuality, the homosexual community and their apologists ought to necessarily bear in mind the sensitivities of the Ghanaian populace. Whiles they may have a right to be homosexual if they choose to; there is the need to ensure that the exercise of their sexual freedom does not stoke the flames of disgust that most Ghanaians feel towards their sexual preference and end up in their lynching. Until recently, it was taboo to see a Ghanaian couple, even married, showing public affection. In fact, AB Crentsil's song 'Moses' was banned in the 1980s for its supposedly lurid content. I am sure the reader will agree with me that, that same song now sounds like 'child's play' when compared to the content of quite a lot of contemporary hip-life songs. The key to this evolution is 'time and patience' and definitely not this alien idea of hairy-legged, bare-chested macho men in g-strings, 'coming out' on the airwaves and on the streets of Ghanaian towns and cities!

To the homosexual, I say that I am sure you will practise your sexuality by all means but don't flaunt it in public (given its criminality and bearing in mind the sensitivities of the Ghanaian) much in the same way a heterosexual will, in many cases, not announce their sexuality or engage in sexually explicit behaviour in public in Ghana.

To the church, I say that all sin is sin as far as the bible is concerned and if the church will take stance against homosexuality then it has to take the same unflinching stance against lying, gossiping, fornication, laziness, anger, strife, envy, jealousy and all other sins. It is important to focus on the beam in your eye before you focus on the splinter in someone else's. Love, indeed, covers a multitude of sins!

To the government of Ghana, I say don't spend scarce government resources on policing homosexuality given that it is impossible to do so anyway. Ghana has too many problems for it to focus on what men and women wish to do in their closet. It is better to spend such resources on building schools, hospitals, monitoring armed robbery and eradicating corruption.

A policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' is thus apt for now in Ghana.

Bernie d'Angelo Asher; Lecturer of Business and Economics Email: [email protected]

Editor's Note: