President Nana Akufo-Addo’s recent comments on homosexuality during an interview with Al Jazeera are not dissimilar from former President John Mahama’s, former Commissioner on the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Emile Short, has said.
In his interview, President Akufo-Addo said changing Ghana’s laws to legalise homosexuality is not a matter which is “on the agenda” but “bound to happen”.
Asked by the interviewer about why Ghana’s laws still criminalise homosexuality, Nana Akufo-Addo said: “This is a socio-cultural issue, if you like,” adding: “I don’t believe that in Ghana, so far, a sufficiently strong coalition has emerged which is having that impact on public opinion that will say: ‘Change it [the law], let’s then have a new paradigm in Ghana’”.
The Ghanaian leader, however, said: “I think that it is something that is bound to happen”.
Asked by the interviewer: “What’s going to provoke it, what’s going to make it happen?” President Akufo-Addo said: “Oh, like elsewhere in the world, the activities of individuals [and] groups”.
He recalled how countries such as England, which, in the past, abhorred homosexuality, have over the years succumbed to pressure from LGBTQI lobbyists to amend their laws to accommodate same-sex relationship.
“I grew up in England; I went to school as a young boy in England and I grew up at a time in England when homosexuality was banned there, it was illegal and I lived in the period when British politicians thought it was anathema to think about changing the law and suddenly the activities of individuals, of groups, a certain awareness, a certain development grew and grew and grew stronger and it forced a change in law. I believe those are the same processes that will bring about changes in our situation.”
The president, however, pointed out that: “At the moment, I don’t feel and I don’t see that in Ghana, there is that strong current of opinion that will say: ‘This is something that we need even deal with’. It’s not, so far, a matter which is on the agenda.”
Mr Akufo-Addo’s predecessors, presidents John Mills and Mahama were confronted with similar issues on homosexuality while in office.
Prof Mills said in connection with the issue: “I, as president, will never initiate or support any attempt to legalise homosexuality in Ghana,” after UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in 2011 that aid would be cut to countries which failed to respect gay rights.
Also, Mr Mahama told the Scottish Parliament during a visit while in office that: “My country is a secular one made up of Christians, Muslims and traditional believers. None of these sects accept gayism and lesbianism. As a leader once the people I rule abhor these things, I cannot accept these cultures on the grounds of human rights. Despite our challenges, our nation stands paramount against any other foreign aim,” adding that: “Most Africans frown at the thought of legalizing homosexuality as it defies every aspect of their socio-cultural and religious principles.”
Asked by Executive Breakfast Show host, Moro Awudu, in an interview on Class91.3FM on Monday, 27 November whether Mr Akufo-Addo should have been as emphatic as Mr Mahama was on the matter, Mr Short said: “What the President [Mr Mahama] said is not very much different from what President Akufo-Addo said; namely that Ghanaians as a people generally we frown upon such behaviour.”
Mr Short added: “I think it is important to draw a distinction between the behaviour and the person involved in that behaviour. So the law criminalises unnatural carnal knowledge which some have interpreted to mean sexual relationship with homosexuals. The law does not criminalise the mere person being a homosexual if you don’t have any evidence that he has engaged in unnatural carnal knowledge and our law also does not permit same-sex marriage.
So there are different dimensions or levels to the problem. And then when people talk about human rights, what rights are they referring to; is it the right to life, is it the right to social and educational services? I think any meaningful discussion should discuss these individual rights separately so that there is a meaningful discussion and people are educated as to what the law really prescribes, but if we all talk generally about homosexuality, you will befuddle the issues, you create confusion in the minds of people as to what you’re talking about …”