Passage of Strict Bill Regarding Human Sexual Rights and Family Values, Commonly Referred to As the Anti-LGBTQ Bill in Ghana Parliament

Ghana’s Parliament passed the Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill on 28 February 2024. It criminalizes LGBTQ relationships, as well as people who support LGBTQ rights. The bill, known as the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, was introduced by Sam Nartey George, the Member of Parliament for Ningo-Prampram. The bill prohibits LGBT activities and makes it illegal to promote, advocate, or fund them. Individuals caught engaging in the activity could face a jail sentence ranging from six months to three years, while those who support or promote the activity may be sentenced to three to five years in prison.

The Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill is one of the toughest pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Africa. Homosexuality is already illegal in Ghana and punishable by up to three years in prison. Under the new law, the maximum sentence will increase to five years. It would also bring in a custodial sentence for people convicted of advocating for LGBTQ rights and make the distribution of material deemed supportive of LGBTQ rights illegal.

The bill, which was privately sponsored by a group of traditional leaders from Ghana’s Christian and Muslim communities, now must be signed into law by President Nana Akufo-Addo. He’s widely expected to do so, though he has not said publicly whether he’ll sign the legislation. The Big 18 & Human Rights Coalition, an umbrella group of lawyers and activists in Ghana said that the bill “criminalizes a person’s identity and strips away fundamental human rights” and urged the president to reject it.

As the debate over the bill increased in recent weeks, so did attacks on members of the LGBTQ community. Students have been attacked and expelled from school, people have been robbed, and many have been subjected to extortion from community members. Some people have been banished from their hometowns, losing their jobs and all support from their own families. The United Nations warned in 2021 that the proposed law would create a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people in Ghana.

INERELA+ is deeply concerned about the passing of a bill that criminalizes same-sex relationships in Ghana, the latest in an upsurge of anti-gay political acts in Africa. Namibia’s lower house of Parliament recently passed a bill that bans same-sex marriages. In Kenya bill before Parliament seeks to ban gay relationships, same-sex unions, and LGBTQ activities and campaigns. In all instances, the bills propose harsh prison sentences and hefty fines. If these bills become laws, they will set back the substantial gains made towards ending the HIV pandemic as a threat to public health and individual well-being.

Ghana is respected as a stable country where the rule of law prevails and is a member of the Human Rights Council and a global leader in fighting inequality. African values and principles of Ubuntu, dignity, non-discrimination, equality, empathy, protection from violence, and care for each other shaped Ghana’s independence struggles and have continued to be at the heart of Ghana’s society and constitutional democracy. Approaches that are rooted in the inclusion of all people have been crucial to Ghana’s progress in the HIV response.

In Africa, 33 of the 55 countries punish gay relationships with imprisonment. In 2023 alone, six countries (Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Niger, Tanzania and Uganda) took steps to tighten anti-gay laws. Some of these countries also have the highest burdens of HIV, and anti-gay laws are associated with a higher HIV rate among men who have sex with men in Africa. There is an urgent need for the governments of these countries to work with, not against, communities most vulnerable to HIV.

 To achieve the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, it is vital to ensure that everyone has equal access to essential services without fear, stigma, or discrimination. Providers of life-saving HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care services need to be supported in their work.

If the Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill becomes a law, it will exacerbate fear and hatred, could incite violence against fellow Ghanaian citizens, and will negatively impact free speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of association. If it becomes law, it will obstruct access to life-saving services, undercut social protection, and jeopardize Ghana’s development success. Ghanaian civil society organizations are ready to file legal challenges against the bill.


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