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Assent to LGBTQ+ Bill – Christian Council, others appeal to President

The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and the Ghana First Coalition (GFC) have appealed to the President to assent to the Promotion of Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill passed by Parliament into law.

The request by the two bodies is a major support the passage of the bill has received amid the controversy it has stirred internationally, with the US Embassy in Ghana and other international bodies expressing concern about the bill.

The CCG and the GFC said presidential assent was needed urgently to kick in the implementation of the law to deal with the threats that triggered the bill.

The two bodies stated their positions in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic following the passage of the anti-gay Bill.

The General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, Rev. Dr Cyril G. K. Fayose, said the council, which was one of the sponsors of the bill, welcomed its passage into law, stressing that the bill was in the right direction and that “we would want to encourage the President to assent to it”.

He said the bill went through a rigorous process and the invitation of views from civil society, religious and traditional organisations and that the comprehensive process gave opportunity to people to make inputs.

“I am satisfied with the outcome with it,” he said, adding that “I think due diligence was done.”

The US Embassy in Ghana has been one of the first critics of the passage of the Bill but Rev. Dr Fayose said the law was for Ghana and not the US.

He, however, welcomed the comments of some Ghanaians and civil society organisations on the matter since it bothered the citizenry.

“All the issues have been raised by competent people in our society and it has been looked out carefully, and this is the final verdict,” he said.

Rev. Dr Fayose said all those who opposed the Bill still had the right to their opinion on the matter, but collectively “this is what we have decided to do as a Parliament.

Parliament represents the people and not a single one of them said no to the Bill,” he said, adding that although it was overwhelmingly passed, people still had the right to their opinion.

He said the council would continue to educate those involved in the practice so they mended their ways since the council considered the practice a sin.

“The Christian position is that it’s a sin, but we still love the sinner; we don’t hate anyone and we would not encourage anyone to infringe on their human rights.

We respect them, love them but we just want them to do the right thing,” he said.

The GFC, for its part, expressed gratitude to Parliament for passing the bill.

The values, as upheld by the bill, it said, resonated with the desires of the majority of Ghanaians.

“We appreciate the strong bipartisan support for the Bill and congratulate both sides of the house on acting in the national interest.

Our special gratitude goes to the courageous and diligent efforts of the Bill’s sponsors, led by the Member of Parliament of Ningo Prampram, Sam George and seven other bipartisan Members of Parliament.

“We echo the clarion call from all citizens, urging and requesting the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to promptly give his assent to this Bill into law,” a statement signed by the Chairman of the GFC, Bishop Dr S. N. Mensah, said.

The assent to the Bill, it said, would enable the citizenry to begin playing their part in reversing the insidious advance of such practices and their encroachment on Ghanaian cultural values.

Meanwhile, the United States of America has raised concerns about the passage of the Bill.

It said it was deeply troubled by the Bill, contending that it would threaten constitutional freedoms.

“The United States is deeply troubled by the Ghanaian Parliament’s passage of legislation, officially called the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, which would threaten all Ghanaians’ constitutionally protected freedoms of speech, press and assembly,” a press statement signed by the US State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, said.

“The bill seeks to criminalise any person who simply identifies as LGBTQI+, as well as any friend, family or member of the community who does not report them.

“Limiting the rights of one group in a society undermines the rights of all.

The United States echoes the call by those Ghanaians who have urged a review of the constitutionality of the bill to protect the rights of all individuals in Ghana,” the statement added.

In a related development, the lead sponsor of the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, 2021, Sam Nartey George, has called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to assent to the bill passed by Parliament last Wednesday.

He said given the overwhelming support the bi-partisan bill received from Members of Parliament and Ghanaians in general, President Akufo-Addo must honour the commitment he expressed for the bill.

“It is our hope and prayer that the President will be a man of his words and stick to the words he spoke to the Anglican Church in the Eastern Region where he said that under his watch, the LGBTQ+ will not be established,” he said.

Speaking to the press in Parliament yesterday, Mr George reminded the President of the assurances he gave to the Clergy that he was going to ensure that anything that promoted LGBTQ+ would be dealt with.

“There is nothing that deals with LGBTQ+ better than this bill that has just been passed by Parliament and we expect the President to walk his talk and be a man of his words,” he added.

Mr George said it had been three years since the anti-gay bill was conceptualised to deal with the menace and advocacy of LGBTQ+ in Ghana.

He proposed that clauses 10 and 11 of the Anti-LGBT Bill, which deals with editorial policies of media firms, be subjected to Article 12 of the 1992 Constitution, which provides for the freedom of the media.

“The intent of the bill has never been to gag your Chapter 12 rights, your editorial rights to issues on the subject of homosexuality; issues on the subject of Ghanaian family values would continue to be protected by us as sponsors and the Constitution of the Republic,” he assured.

With the bill enjoying massive support from legislators from both sides of the House, Mr George expressed appreciation to his colleague MPs, particularly the former Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.

“We want to thank Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who played a pivotal role in passing this bill,” he said.

He underscored the unity among MPs in the House during the whole process that led to the bill’s passage.

Human rights activists
Prior to the passage of the bill, some human rights activists had also called on President Akufo-Addo not to assent to it if Parliament passed it.

A member of the coalition and lecturer at the Department of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana, Legon, Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo, made the call on behalf of the Coalition at a press conference in Accra last Tuesday.

The Anti-LGBTQ+ Bill, Prof. Gadzekpo observed, violated “key fundamental human rights provisions in Ghana’s 1992 Constitution.”

“In one swoop, this Bill seeks to infringe on, among others, the rights to dignity, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to partake in processions, academic freedom, equality and non-discrimination,” she added.

The Big 18 Human Rights Coalition, featuring prominent academics and civil society personalities, said the Bill would violate media and press freedoms by punishing citizens who broadcast or post publications, stories or reports that were considered to be related to LGBTQ+ activities.

The press conference followed a day’s sensitisation workshop on promoting human rights and covering stories on minority groups in the media. It was organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana).

Object of bill
The bill will impose three years’ minimum jail term and five years’ maximum incarceration for those who engage in and promote homosexual activities in the country.

If assented to by the President, the bill will criminalise and prohibit pro-gay advocacy, as well as those who fund the activities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual, among others.

The bi-partisan private members’ bill was introduced to Parliament on August 2, 2021, and the Speaker referred it to the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.

Given the sensitive nature of the bill, the committee received 120 memoranda and held 20 public hearings to seek wider inputs of interested stakeholders before presenting the bill to the House on March 31, 2023, for a debate to commence ahead of its consideration and passage.

It was sponsored by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Ningo-Prampram, Sam George; the NDC MP for Tamale North, Alhassan Suhuyini, and the NDC MP for Ho West, Emmanuel Bedzrah.

The others are the NDC MP for Krachi West, Helen Ntorsu; the NDC MP for South Dayi, Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor, the NDC MP for La Dadekotopon, Naa Ofoley Sowah; the NDC MP for Kpando, Dela Sowah, and the New Patriotic Party MP for Assin South, John Ntim Fordjour.

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