LGBTQ activists in Ghana launch campaign after crackdown

·2-min read
LGBTQ people face widespread discrimination in Ghana, where gay sex is a criminal offence

Rights groups in Ghana were campaigning Tuesday for the release of 21 people arrested last week for attending an LGBTQ event.

Gay sex is a criminal offence in the West African country and members of the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and intersex) community face widespread discrimination.

"Some LGBTQI members were gathering in the region for a conference aimed at championing their activities," local police spokesman Sergeant Prince Dogbatse said.

"We went to the conference grounds," he said. "We arrested 21 suspected LGBTQI members."

The suspects -- 16 women and five men -- were arrested for "unlawful assembly" last Thursday in Ho, in Ghana's southeastern Volta region.

They were remanded in custody and are scheduled to appear in court on June 4.

Since their arrest, the hashtag #ReleaseThe21 has been trending on social media.

"We are calling on the Ghana Police Service to #ReleaseThe21 persons arrested... for holding a training programme," rights group Rightify Ghana wrote on Twitter.

It said the meeting interrupted by police "was to empower some LGBTQI persons on various topics including training some as paralegals to document and report human rights violations being experienced by LGBTQI Ghanaians."

Another rights group, LGBT+ Rights Ghana, launched a crowdfunding campaign following last week's arrests.

"The funds will be used to help the activists get out of prison and also provide them with basic needs," it said on Twitter.

Alex Kofi Donkor, founder of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, said the latest crackdown was "a targeted attempt to intimidate the LGBTQI community".

"For how long are they going to harass us in a country that prides itself of freedom of association and orientation?" said Donkor.

"I don’t feel safe in this country anymore."

In February, Ghana security forces raided and shut down the office of an LGBTQ rights group in the capital Accra after politicians and religious leaders called for its closure.

The controversy comes at a sensitive time for President Nana Akufo-Addo, who is reaching out to African-Americans and the Ghanaian diaspora through his programme "The Year of Return", encouraging people to return to their ancestral country.

After staying quiet on the matter, the head of state reaffirmed his position at a religious ceremony in March, saying: "It will not be under the presidency of Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo that same-sex marriage will be legal".

Actor Idris Elba, model Naomi Campbell and designer Virgil Abloh all signed an open letter of support for LGBTQ Ghanaians earlier this year, expressing "profound concern" at the situation they face.

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