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State Department warns Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill could jeopardize U.S. aid

Ghana's flag
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The U.S. State Department has warned that Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill could jeopardize aid to the West African nation.

Last week, the Ghanaian Parliament unanimously approved a bill that would increase the country’s existing criminal penalties for homosexuality from three years in prison to five. The “Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill” would also make it a crime to identify as LGBTQ+ or as an ally and punish anyone who provides support, advocacy, or funding for LGBTQ+ rights.

Responding to the bill’s February 28 approval, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Thursday that should it become law, the bill “would certainly have a chilling effect on foreign investment and tourism in Ghana,” adding that “it would potentially have ramifications on U.S. assistance.”

President Nana Akufo-Addo has yet to sign the bill into law, though Ghanaian lawmakers have expressed confidence he will do so. According to Courthouse News Service, Akufo-Addo has said he would sign the bill if a majority of Ghanaians support it. One MP claimed that 90 percent of Ghanaians are in favor of the bill.

But the BBC reports that Akufo-Addo has been meeting with key ministries and donors to assess the bill’s impact. Ghana’s finance ministry has also reportedly urged Akufo-Addo not to sign the bill, warning that it could jeopardize billions of dollars in funding from the World Bank amid the country’s ongoing economic crisis.

Last year, the World Bank, which provides loans and grants to low- and middle-income countries, paused loans to Uganda following the country’s passage of a law instituting the death penalty for what it described as “aggravated homosexuality.” The U.S. also imposed economic penalties in response to the Ugandan law, with the Biden administration removing the country from the list of nations eligible to benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) earlier this year.

While Ghana’s proposed law does not go as far as Uganda’s, it has nonetheless drawn condemnation.

“Ghana’s tradition of tolerance, peace, and respect for human rights is a source of stability and prosperity that has long served as a model for countries around the globe,” Miller said in a February 28 statement. “This legislation is inconsistent with these values and will, if it becomes law, undermine this laudable tradition.”

In a statement, Amnesty International’s country director for Ghana, Genevieve Partington, described the bill’s passage as “shocking and deeply disappointing, coming shortly after Ghana was elected to serve at the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

“LGBTI people have already reported forced evictions, loss of jobs, increased violence and other violations of the rights guaranteed by the country’s Constitution since the bill was introduced in parliament,” Partington said.

According to the BBC, human rights groups are already challenging the bill in court. Ghana’s finance ministry has said Akufo-Addo should delay signing the bill until the country’s Supreme Court can determine whether it is constitutional.

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