In the month in which President Barrack Obama put the Civil Rights Struggle in America on the same pedestal as the fight for Gay Rights, Oman Ghana, touted as Africa’s beacon for liberty and democracy in the 21st century, regressed into an Age of Darkness that would have been deemed extreme even in the darkest days of ATILLA THE HUN.
The Parliamentary hearing to examine the fitness for purpose of the Minister designate for GENDER (not Women), CHILDREN & SOCIAL PROTECTION was turned into a masochistic spectacle of the demonic denouncement of Nana Oye Lithur for her seemingly unvarnished support for homosexuality in Ghana. Tried as the hapless lady did to enlighten the assembled and marauding ‘Honourables’ baying to decapitate her, that there is a vast difference between her unflinching support and indefatigable campaign for the HUMAN RIGHTS of every Ghanaian living everywhere (enshrined and guaranteed by our Constitution) and the trumped-up charge of unvarnished and apologetic promotion of homosexuality in Ghana, the shriller and more nauseating the volume of CANT & HYPOCRISY rose in the august chambers and from the pulpits of the ‘HOLY MEN OF GOD’.
In a country whose moral fibre has degenerated to near SODOM & GOMORRAH levels of depravity, where sexual promiscuity and debauchery (including ironically a high degree of tolerance of homosexual practice), the Men of God descended on Oye Lithur as if she had single-handedly brought homosexuality into our midst ala MOSES’ TABLETS. The media, which has put debauched and depraved materials on their front pages that even the most liberal and permissive societies put in brown envelopes and bury deeply under respectable journals, joined in the fray in attacking Nana Oye and depicting her as the arch devil responsible for foisting the dastardly alien practice onto our otherwise pristine and pure cultural norms.
For me the most incredulous interjection in all of this was when the National union of Students waded into the matter with a position which would have been difficult to defend in the 16th century, let alone be tolerated in the Global Village of the 21st century. The exuberance of youth has always been seen and interpreted as a time of one’s life when you tilt at all the conservatism and fuddy-daddysims of the older generation and promote and defend positions that are diametrically opposite to the mainstream ideas of your parents.
Winston Churchill, the Great British Prime Minister during World War 2, famously remarked that 'If you are not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you are not Conservative by 40, you have no brain'. When we are young, we are full of hope not only for ourselves, but for everyone else. We see a world full of possibilities and change for the better. Alas in 21st century Oman Ghana, it seems as if the young educated and future leaders of our country, have assumed a deeply conservative posture in their youth, shouting even more shrilly than their elders to demonstrate that not only do they find homosexuality reprehensible, but that those who practice it should be hanged, drawn and quartered. Do these people really understand the freedoms and liberties that underpin the internet and the social media that they have embraced and absorbed so wholly and without reservation?
I first encountered Nana Oye Lithur in the closing years of the 20th century when she and her then bosom friend Gloria Ofori-Boadu became the first of the articulate women advocates to seek to enter Parliament. I I applauded and supported their action because I thought it was a very positive development at a time when the most articulate and brightest of the gender activists found it much easier and more profitable to do civil society advocacy of increasing women’s role in public life from the perspectives of promoters and not participants.
I found Nana Oye fascinating for another reason; namely an almost lone women’s rights advocate who did not hide her political and social antecedence in an otherwise politically correct milieu. She freely confirmed when I inquired whether the Lithur was conferred by an association with Tony, then a brash confident and brilliant young lawyer of the NDC fraternity. Of course, coming from a different political hue in Ghana, it did not occur to me that I was the square peg in a round hole in holding unashamedly liberal views in a conservative leaning political party (which confusion became even more “basaa” when J. A. Kufuor introduced the most socialist leaning and progressive policies as President of the “free market” New Patriotic Party that is affiliated to the British Conservative Party).
Some of Our Men of God should hang their heads in shame for the dastardly display of parochial and very selective form of CHRISTIAN TALIBANISM in our country in recent years. Where have they been when many of their own have fallen into depravity and immorality with members of their congregations and even sometime members of their own families? Where have they been when whole songs and lyrics of many have become perverse, corrupt and suggestively and openly promiscuous and taken over the airwaves of this country? Where have they been when the spoils of drug smuggling and related ills have been openly contributed in praise of the “GOD” who supposedly blessed their immoral acts and allowed their own churches to enjoy some of these ill-gotten spoils?
Where have the journalists and other defenders of our cultural values been when a respectable leader of this nation openly denounces the passage of the TROKOSI LAW and announces publicly that he would not obey nor respect that law? The reward for this defiance was to be made the Chairman of the Council of State without anyone raising an eyebrow or a drop of ink in protest. Where have the defenders of our cultural values been when Old men seize young underage girls and marry them in direct and flagrant defiance of the Constitution and laws of this country? Where have the defenders of our cultural values been when our children are dragged off into pernicious labour and toil on farms when they should be in school learning the rudiments of education so they can become enlightened?
I was particularly saddened to read of Lawyer Foe-Amaning’s position on this matter. A brilliant and eloquent lawyer who made me sit long late nights to watch archive films of the greatest boxing fights of all time, I could not believe the insensitivity he had displayed on this matter. In another country in our continent Africa, Lawyer Foh_Amaning would probably not have lived long enough to show the brilliance of mind and competence that has been his hallmark because of the backwardness of the cultural belief of the people about folks with his skin pigmentation. In Tanzania, people we call “Ofri” are persecuted, hounded, ritually murdered and seen as the devils incarnate simply because of the colour of their skin.
It is the same colour of the skin hatred that kept Black people as second class citizens in America for centuries even as the Constitution of the United States declared all citizens to be equal. It was the hatred for the black skin that meant black people in America had to sit in the back row of buses. It was this same hatred that led a restaurant to refuse to serve Ghana’s Minister of Finance, K. A. Gbedemah when he had gone to negotiate the loan that built the Akosombo dam that has become the backbone of the power system in Ghana.
In my lifetime, it was the black colour that kept our brothers and sisters in South Africa under slavery and bondage under the so-called Apartheid system for nearly a century or more. The efforts of many progressive people around the world to support the internal struggles of the ANC led by Nelson Mandela has led to a Black-ruled South Africa that is the economic power house of Africa today and is a forceful defender of the rights of its people who choose to have a different sexual orientation. This recognition is not borne out of trying to be fashionable but because of the deeper appreciation and understanding of the people of South Africa about the UNIVERSALITY OF HUMAN RIGHTS. IRONICALLY, THERE IS MORE PERSECUTION OF GAYS IN SOUTH AFRICA THAN IN GHANA.
Our society has been very tolerant of homosexuals even as the majority of us find the practice alien and abhorrent. Indeed, until recently when our late President sought to make political capital of the unwarranted comments by David Cameron, homosexual practice had been the subject of mirth and innocent barracking (“KWADWO BESIAS), gradually developing into a dangerous and exploitative sexual trade and corruption of our young people by foreigners for which I have heard very little condemnation from our clergy or seen any serious attempts by our legislature and other arms of government to pass stricter laws, let alone enforce the already existing ones.
Ghana is a very tolerant society, We live with the contradictions I have discussed in this piece and many more without resorting to the kind of unbridled fundamentalism that has been displayed by a few who seek to shove their parochial and narrowly prejudiced views on the whole of us.
Religious fundamentalism, be it CHRISTIAN, MUSLIM OR OKOMFO ANOKYEISM has never and should never be allowed to take root in this country. It is the tolerance of these contradictions that has saved our nation from the scourges of civil strife and the horrors of extremist bombings and acts of desperation by a few seeking to force their narrow views on the whole of the society
Nana Oye Lithur has fought against the outmoded, depraved and oppressive denial of the dignity and rights of many of our citizens in the name of defending our cultural values. She has spent her professional career fighting to eliminate prejudice and intolerance of the inalienable human rights of every Ghanaian and bring our society into the enlightenment of the 21 century Global village. We must applaud her. We must salute her. We must support here.
The women and children of Ghana have a unique opportunity to see many of the advocacies of the abuses against them (trokosi, child labour, wife –beating, slavery and bondage) translated into a vigorous enforcement of the laws that are already on our statute books but are blatantly ignored in the name of cultural values. Let those who have used her to try to push their insular and parochial pursuit of gays now focus their energies on carrying out a dogged fight to “drive out gays and all sexual deviants and the depraved from our society.
GO NANA GO. DRAG GHANA INTO THE 21ST CENTURY OF TRUE HUMAN RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY. As we say in OSEIKROM: “Don’t Mind them
Sadly it seems to me that all that Dum So Dum So has done untold harm to our sights and sense of tolerance of the pecks in our own eyes. In one fair swoop, an undignified and opportunistic campaign has dragged Oman Ghana into the pitch darkness of ignorance and intolerance.