Two lawsuits filed on behalf of attendees of a 2021 LGBTQ human rights training workshop in Ghana offer some hope for the future of LGBTQ rights in the country.
In May 2021, 21 people were arrested after Ghanaian police raided the workshop focused on documenting and reporting human rights violations against LGBTQ people. The group has since become known in Ghana as the HO21.
As PinkNews reports, last month two separate lawsuits were filed in the Ghana High Court against the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of Ghana on behalf of four members of the HO21.
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“These individuals were subjected to harassment, assault, discriminatory treatment, and other violations of their constitutional rights. We only hope that the court will give them justice based on the enormous evidence that is before them,” said Richard Fischere Kwofie, director of Queer Ghana Education Fund. “We are ready to seek redress for all human rights violations against persons perceived to be LGBTQ+, including violations committed by Ghana police and the state, and this is because of the trust that we have in our judicial system.”
One of the lawsuits filed on behalf of three members of the HO21 argues that the state violated their right to freedom of assembly, as well as protections against discrimination and unlawful arrest and detention. The second was filed on behalf of an intersex attendee of the 2021 meeting who says she was stripped naked and endured a forced genital inspection by police. She also claims police encouraged other inmates to sexually assault her to “prove” she was female.
Advocates hope that by winning these lawsuits, they will establish some measure of protection for the LGBTQ community.
LGBTQ Ghanaians face widespread hostility in the majority-Christian nation. Same-sex sexual acts between men are illegal in the country, and anti-LGBTQ sentiment has only worsened in recent years. After the country’s first LGBTQ support center opened in January 2021, public outcry led to a police raid and the center closed within a month.
Soon after, the so-called Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values bill was introduced in parliament. Critics have called the bill the “most homophobic document the world has ever seen” and “a homophobe’s dream.” Under the proposed law, LGBTQ Ghanaians would be forced to choose between jail time and so-called conversion therapy. Public displays of same-sex affection would be outlawed along with distribution of pro-LGBTQ materials. It would also be illegal to form an LGBTQ organization.
Last year, a CNN report exposed that one of the groups behind the bill is the World Congress of Families (WCF), a group formed from an alliance of conservative organizations from the U.S. and Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. The WCF is deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. WCF’s leader, Brian Brown, has insisted that his organization provided inspiration, not instruction, for the Ghanaian bill.