To mark the United Nations International Youth Day and its theme of ‘youth building peace’, LGBT human rights activist Appiah Kwadwo explains how Concern Youth Association in Ghana are building peace amid violence against the LGBT community.
Q: What is the situation in Ghana surrounding human rights for the LGBT community?
The biggest challenges in providing services for the LGBT community seem to be ignorance, lack of information and fundamentalist religious beliefs. Under Ghanaian criminal law, same-sex sexual activity among males is illegal. The fact that homosexuality is criminalised is the biggest reason for high levels of homophobia and discriminatory services for LGBT.
LGBT people are dying physically, emotionally and spiritually, not only because of the various forms of violence, poverty, illness, but also due to ignorance among the general population. In February 2017, the head of Ghana’s parliament Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Michal Oquay launched a campaign to have the country’s laws amended to permanently ban homosexuality in the country. The Minority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu said he wholeheartedly welcomes the pronouncement of the speaker on homosexuality. Concern Youth Association view the pronouncement as a national threat which will undermine the LGBT movement in Ghana.
Q: Tell us about what your group experiences as young LGBT human rights activists?
Our group and many young LGBT people in rural and grassroots areas find themselves in a hostile environment, where it is difficult or dangerous to access social services.
LGBT activities are often associated with shame and stigma. Since no community or family wishes to carry the stigma, the LGBT suffer discrimination, social exclusion, denial of political and cultural rights, health insecurity and psychological harassment. Most LGBT people are denied employment, education and access to resources and public facilities.
Violence against young LGBT people in our communities is extremely high. Sexual and gender-based violence committed against people who identify as or are perceived to be LGBT is often ignored, condoned or even encouraged by policymakers and law enforcement agents. Many men and boys are beaten and sexually assaulted to make them ‘more of a man’, while many women and girls suffer ‘corrective rape’ in order to ‘convert’ their sexual orientation.