*After one day of public hearing in parliament
Story: Atta Kwaku BOADI
Contrary to the expectations of Ghanaians, the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament has temporarily put on hold the public hearings in relation to the anti-LGBTQ+ bill.
Majority of Ghanaians were expecting that the public hearing of the over 150 memoranda would continue but parliament last week Thursday after first day of hearing suspended sitting indefinitely.
During the first public hearing, groups that were in support of the bill touted it as one that reflected the views of majority of Ghanaians on the subject matter, while the groups against the bill described it as one that was in breach of human rights and against Ghana’s cultural values.
The Committee is charged to give audience to the authors of 150 memoranda on the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values bill.
Closing the first session of public hearings on Thursday [November 11, 2021], Chairman of the Committee, Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, cited time constraints as the reason for the suspension of the hearings.
“We haven’t finished with the public hearings. There are other memoranda that we have received but we are constrained with time and we cannot predict what time we would have to meet and continue,” he said
Earlier, Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) appearing before the Committee called for a critical appraisal of the bill that seeks to criminalise lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) practices, as well as individuals and institutions that will promote the acts.
The Director-General of the GAC, Mr Steve Gyeremeh Atuahene, said passing the bill would drive practitioners to hide their identities and thereby discourage people living with HIV/AIDS from seeking medical treatment.
According to him, the bill, in its current form, would drive “them underground”, preventing them from accessing life-saving drugs in the country.
“Countries that have passed similar laws have seen a high increase in HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with other men,” he said.
Those who expressed their support for the passage of the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021 were the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC) and the Church of Pentecost.
The Group of Concerned Ghanaian Citizens (GCGC), a group of academics, lawyers, researchers, civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights activists, and the Human Rights Coalition also explained their stance against the passage of the bill.
According to them if it was passed in its current form, it would grossly violate every constitutional provision on fundamental human rights.
The group in support of the bill however, urged Parliament to take note of the general mood of the nation to pass the bill to assuage the pent-up anger imposed on the people due to attempts to impose alien practice on them.
Justifying their opposition, the Spokesperson for the GCGC, Mr Akoto Ampaw, said under Article 108 (2 and 3) of the Constitution, it was the President or his agents who could introduce bills in Parliament that imposed a charge on the Consolidated Fund or any public fund.
He said it was only when a bill did not impose any charge on the Consolidated Fund that it might be introduced as a private members’ bill.
The legal practitioner contended that it was the view of the GCGC that provisions in the bill violated fundamental human rights provisions in the Constitution, as they stigmatised the LGBTQI+ community as inhuman and taboo to the Ghanaian society.
“The bill grossly violates Article 12, which guarantees fundamental human rights for every person, as well as Article 17 (2) on the equality of all persons before the law,” he said
Also defending the position of the GPCC, the Spokesperson for the Council, Apostle Ofori Kuragu, described the bill as a bold attempt to consolidate and fill the lacuna of existing legislation to meet the demands of the fast-shifting legal landscape occasioned by the activities of LGBTQI+ and the inherent threat they posed to the pristine Ghanaian value system.
He said the bill was in sync with the 1992 Constitution, as it sought to affirm the fundamental human rights of all Ghanaians and protect the most vulnerable against the influence of LGBTQI+ practitioners.
He was optimistic that the bill, when passed, would defend Ghana’s territorial integrity and customise home-grown efforts to protect its peculiar system.
For his part, the General Secretary of the Church of Pentecost, Apostle Alexander Nana Yaw Kumi-Larbi, said with the church having followed the activities of LGBTQI+ globally and their attendant influence on culture, economies, youth development, health, academia, traditional systems and the moral upbringing of children, it had resolved to support the current bill in Parliament.
He said although the church, with its firm Christian faith and values, did not seek to impose its faith on all others in a country where there was freedom of speech and religion, it was of the conviction that there was the need to uphold and promote proper Ghanaian value system.
Speaking on behalf of Human Rights Coalition, Professor H. Kwasi Prempeh also said the bill, if passed, could turn Ghana into a vigilante society or a police state where not just the people the bill was directly aimed at but all manner of persons who lent support to LGBTQI+ would be targeted.