After three years of political discussions, MPs in Ghana's Parliament voted to pass the country’s draconian Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill on February 28th. The bill now heads to Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo to be signed into law. 

President Nana Akufo-Addo must protect the human rights of all people in Ghana and refuse to provide assent to the bill.

This anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduces prison sentences for those who partake in LGBTQ+ sexual acts, as well as those who promote the rights of gay, lesbian or other non-conventional sexual or gender identities. This would effectively ban all speech and activity on and offline that even remotely supports LGBTQ+ rights.

Ghanaian authorities could probe the social media accounts of anyone applying for a visa for pro-LGBTQ+ speech or create lists of pro-LGBTQ+ supporters to be arrested upon entry. They could also require online platforms to suppress content about LGBTQ+ issues, regardless of where it was created. 

Doing so would criminalize the activity of many major cultural and commercial institutions. If President Akufo-Addo does approve the bill, musicians, corporations, and other entities that openly support LGBTQ+ rights would be banned in Ghana.

Despite this direct threat to online freedom of expression, tech giants are yet to speak out publicly against the LGBTQ+ persecution in Ghana. Twitter opened its first African office in Accra in April 2021, citing Ghana as “a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet.” Adaora Ikenze, Facebook’s head of Public Policy in Anglophone West Africa has said: “We want the millions of people in Ghana and around the world who use our services to be able to connect, share and express themselves freely and safely, and will continue to protect their ability to do that on our platforms.” Both companies have essentially dodged the question.

For many countries across Africa, and indeed the world, the codification of anti-LGBTQ+ discourses and beliefs can be traced back to colonial rule, and a recent CNN investigation from December 2023 found alleged links between the drafting of homophobic laws in Africa and a US nonprofit. The group denied those links, despite having hosted a political conference in Accra shortly before an early version of this bill was drafted.

Regardless of its origin, the past three years of political and social discussion have contributed to a decimation of LGBTQ+ rights in Ghana, and the decision by MPs in Ghana’s Parliament to pass this bill creates severe impacts not just for LGBTQ+ people in Ghana, but for the very principle of free expression online and off. President Nana Akufo-Addo must reject it.

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