Even before she assumed the Ministerial seat in what will be her most difficult task yet, Nana Oye Lithur has already been tagged Public Enemy Number One, her crime being her support for the rights of homosexuals who are mostly victimized in our part of the world.
Well, I don’t intend to condemn Nana Oye Lithur. As a renowned Human Rights activist cum lawyer, it was hard for me to imagine that she would suddenly denounce her widely held views on the practice of homosexuality. Nevertheless, she was caught in a tight fix when she appeared before the lopsided Appointment Committee of Parliament.
The public outrage over her nomination clearly demonstrated that the issue of homosexuality is non-negotiable and would not be countenanced in any measure. Well, as expected, she sailed through the vetting process amidst grave concerns about her persona and beliefs. Otherwise, Nana Oye’s competence has never been in doubt.
Connecting the dots
Sometime last year, some of Ghana’s key foreign partners, notably the United States and United Kingdom, threatened to withhold their foreign aid to the country if it does not reconsider its victimization of gays. As expected, Ghanaians gave these two countries a dress down, leading the late President Mills to come out publicly to speak against the looming blackmail.
Also, somewhere in 2006 the Ghanaian government at the last minute had to ban a supposed gays and lesbians conference due to take place at the Accra International Conference Center. Then-Information Minister Kwamena Bartels stated that, “government does not condone any such activity which violently offends the culture, morality and heritage of the entire people of Ghana".
Hitherto, it was more of a taboo to publicly speak about the practice, but the topic has somehow become the subject of many public discussions in recent times. The connection between Ghana’s John Mahama and renowned gay rights activist Andrew Solomon has not done much to douse the speculation about the imminent legalization of same-sex marriage in the country.
According to some media reports, a powerful UK delegation was spotted at the Parliament house at the time which Nana Oye was being vetted. Although Parliament has come to deny this, many a Ghanaian is unconvinced by the denial. According to some, the UK, being a country that had initially threatened to withhold its aid to Ghana, is pushing for better recognition of the rights of gays in the country.
Same-sex marriage: are we ready?
It is no secret that homosexuality is a widespread practice in Ghana with many powerful personalities entangled in the act. The gay community in Ghana, just like in most parts of the world, is a powerful one that wields huge influence.
The issue of whether or not the practice is a crime has been up for discussion. Many a time, that discussion ends inconclusively. Some argue that the closest our laws come to criminalizing the practice is the bit about unnatural carnal knowledge. Others have also argued that the “unnatural carnal knowledge” clause is not firm enough to criminalize the practice.
The legalization of same-sex marriage in South Africa didn’t come without fuss. Indeed, there was much protest and agitation, but in the end it all came to naught. Countries in East Africa, notably Uganda, have made their intentions clear: the issue of homosexuality is indeed non-negotiable.
Just this week, the UK, which has been pushing for a better recognition of same-sex relationships among its foreign partners, approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The move was received with mixed feelings in Ghana though it was widely commended in the UK.
Compounded with Nana Oye’s appointment and her subsequent approval, Mahama’s relationship with Andrew Solomon and other emerging issues, it is the fear of many that the newly approved gay-marriage bill in UK would have rippling effect on its foreign aid. And when that happens, African governments that rely heavily on UK cash would be stampeded into taking an action contrary to their long held customs.
“The African hypocrisy”
The debate about homosexuality has largely been centered on African morals, traditions and customs and to an extent, on religion. Africans are religious, no doubt about it. When you monitor the debate against homosexuality, you are tempted to believe it is the worst thing to hit our nation.
There’s no denying the fact that our morals are in a free-fall. Everywhere, potential employers are sleeping with their potential employees in exchange for elusive jobs. Young girls are being abused by people who are so close to them, and sadly most of these cases are withdrawn from the police by family members seeking an “amicable” settlement.
Elsewhere, the men of God whom society holds in high regard are taking advantage of unsuspecting members of their flock to swindle them and sexually abuse them. Everywhere you look, more minors are being forced into prostitution through economic hardships. Shamefully, these young ones are patronized by so called morally upright adults.
The ills in our society are many, yet we behave like the proverbial ostrich, burying our head in the sand because we don’t want to see any evil nor hear any evil. Yet, when it comes to the matter of gay rights, we speak with all the venom we can muster. We are often quick to make allusions to the Sodom and Gomorrah episode in the Bible. If you care to know, many immoral acts were committed in that doomed city, not just one.
It will be disappointing if, in this era of a national power and water crises, we are habouring plans of legalizing same-sex marriage. I believe this is the least of our priorities, that is, if it even ranks at all. As a country, we must be able to state our stance on this issue once and for all. If it is illegal, let’s pass a law to forbid it. If it is not, let’s act accordingly rather than engaging in these endless, energy-sapping debates.
Let’s channel our energies into solving our basic problems of power, water and infrastructure deficits that confront our nation rather than engaging issues in these secondary issues.
Homosexuality has been with us for God knows how long and it doesn’t look like it is going anywhere. I’m not asking Ghanaians to embrace it, no. But the issue is, it is rife in our society, particularly our boarding houses, prisons, popular pubs, and so on. These people are amongst us. Some are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and many more. They are not from Mars or Jupiter. We may not legalize their acts, but let’s not smoke them out as if they are carrying the entire burden of this country in their bosom.
Indeed, whatever your opinions are about gays, they remain rightfully yours and cannot be foisted on any other person, just as I can’t foist mine on you.
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