By Boateng Boateng
I wanted to go the route of simply writing an article about sexuality in Ghana that did not delve into the legal realm but I think it would be prudent for me to educate majority of Ghanaians and the rest of the world on the state’s position on homosexuality as it stands now.
As per Section 104 of Ghana’s Criminal and other Offences Act, 1960, (Act 29), the basic criminal legislation in the country, a person who has unnatural carnal knowledge of another person not less than 16 years WITHOUT his or her consent commits a felony (liable to an imprisonment term of not less than 5 but not more than 25 years.) Then in the next sub section, it criminalises unnatural carnal knowledge with a person above 16 years WITH the person’s consent. It goes ahead to define unnatural carnal knowledge as:
‘sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner.’
I quoted the necessary part for the purpose of this article.
Reading this section together with the sections on rape, (which define rape as ‘the carnal knowledge (penile penetration of the vagina) of a female over 16 years without consent’), it would be noted that our law is very gender and organ specific. An almost accurate conclusion therefore is that, lesbianism is NOT a crime in Ghana but sodomy (irrespective of the genders of the parties involved), including sex between two men, is the crime that is expressly criminalised.
To reiterate according to legal definitions lesbianism is not illegal.
You never knew this, did you?
Moving on, the homosexual lifestyle itself therefore is not expressly a crime in Ghana. The crime has to do with the sexual intercourse, the act, which doesn’t apply to only gay people but even goes as far as extending to married couples. The ‘lifestyle’ is frowned upon, but can you blame my people? Even people in the United States have the same issue. I, for instance, would not want to be out anytime soon. Even if gay marriage is legalised today in my country, I would not come out.
Do you know why?
Because our society isn’t ready for this.
I am no chicken, but these sort of demands are not what we should be making to our government.
We have problems with education, health, maternal mortality, electricity, water, corruption, unemployment, rape, domestic violence, but to name but a few issues. I would gladly join a cause that battled these ills. Heck, I would fight for gender equality any day, anytime. More girls than boys do not have access to education. The standard of living for people in most parts of this country is so low that sometimes I feel like we have failed as a nation. Let us focus on those issues first. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against my own. But we are not there yet. I recently met a feminist and I’m learning so many things about feminism that I never knew.
I think I’m leaning towards that side.
If one person starts a movement within the country to champion for LGBTIQ rights, I would be an active supporter but there would be a lot of issues. What about our safety. Is the society ready for us? No. This is because as it stands, ‘lesbianism’ isn’t a crime within Ghana but only a handful of us are out, mostly tomboys. All this must be considered before we raise the issue of LGBTIQ rights in Ghana. We will definitely get there one day, but not now! I may sound very pessimistic but that’s the fact on the ground.
Want to read diary of a queer Ghanaian Pt I? Here it is!
For pieces more pieces on the fight for LGBTIQ rights across the continent as well as Pride marches and the like check out this piece on Lesotho Pride, this piece on the need for sexuality rights and this piece on Coalition of African Lesbians status in the African Commission of Human Rights.
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