Caleb Ahinakwah writes: Anti-LGBTQ+ bill, a recipe for escalating violence


A cauldron simmers, brewing trouble, incorporating a pinch of resentment, and sprinkling with misunderstanding.

What began as heated debates could quickly erupt into more violence – a whirlwind of fists and fury that could sweep through the streets like wildfire.

The bill, touted as a beacon of traditional values and moral rectitude, was seen by some as a necessary step to preserve the sanctity of Ghanaian culture.

Yet, beneath the surface, a different sentiment simmered – one of fear, anger, and simmering tension.

The passage of the anti-gay bill has proven to be a catalyst, unleashing forces that threaten to consume everything in its path.

For years, Ghana’s legal landscape remained silent on matters concerning the LGBTQ+ community.

While there were no explicit laws against them in the Criminal Offenses Act or the 1992 Constitution, violence against LGBTQ+ individuals was tragically commonplace.

It began with isolated incidents – a slur hurled here, a fist thrown there – but soon, it could escalate into something far more sinister.

Michael Augustus Akagbor, a Senior Programmes Officer for Human Rights and Social Inclusion at the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), expressed grave concerns in a recent exclusive interview with me on Asaase Radio’s Big Bulletin show.

He feared that the passage of the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, now ominously dubbed the “anti-gay bill,” could fuel an alarming surge in violence against the LGBTQ+ community.

The irony is stark: while the bill remains pending, there is a palpable fear that its mere existence will embolden bigots to unleash a wave of attacks.

Surprised? Don’t be! Have you met Ghanaians? Ghanaians are poised to seize upon the current version of the bill, leveraging their prejudices to assume its legal status and incite chaos against members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Sadly, Ghana has a history of struggling with mob justice—a criminal offense under Ghanaian law. While notable cases like the prosecution of the culprits in the tragic Major Mahama incident stand out, the reality is that many perpetrators of mob attacks roam free. Despite laws like Act 29, Section 84 of the Criminal Code of 1960, which criminalizes unlawful assault, enforcement remains lacklustre at best.

Enter the controversial clauses of the proposed bill. Section 84 to 87 of the Criminal Offenses Act, 1960 (Act 29), seemingly extend protection to LGBTQ+ individuals against verbal and physical assaults. Yet, the misconception circulating currently suggests that there exists a clause safeguarding LGBTQ+ individuals from physical and verbal assaults. However, it is evident that such provisions alone will not deter the perpetration of attacks against them.

Legislation alone cannot dismantle deep-rooted prejudices. True progress demands a seismic shift in societal attitudes, one that celebrates diversity and champions’ equality for all.

It requires courageous conversations, compassionate education, and unwavering advocacy.

Human rights watch incidents

Recent reports from Human Rights Watch Ghana shine a harsh light on the plight of the LGBTQ+ community, revealing a backdrop marred by violence, discrimination, and unchecked abuse of power.

In October 2023, the chilling encounter between Ghanaian police and a 30-year-old individual carrying sex toys at a routine checkpoint exposes a troubling reality. Detained and threatened with jail time, the victim found themselves ensnared in a web of extortion, forced to pay a bribe of 500 Ghanaian cedis to secure their freedom.

It’s a stark reminder of the vulnerability faced by those whose identities deviate from societal norms, where the very enforcers of law and order become perpetrators of injustice.

Tragically, the horrors didn’t end at the checkpoint. In January 2024, Desmond Asamoah Brian fell victim to a cruel deception, lured to a private space by individuals feigning solidarity within the LGBTQ+ community, only to face a brutal lynching.

But the tendrils of prejudice extend far beyond isolated incidents of violence. In September, a 17-year-old student faced expulsion from a boys’ boarding school in Accra. Accused of being gay, the student endured not only the indignity of dismissal but also the looming specter of death threats and harassment due to his perceived effeminacy.

These distressing reports take place in a Ghana where there is no existing legislation directly addressing the LGBTQ+ community.

For a split-second, imagine the havoc that would be wrecked, and the human rights abuses that persons who support and are within the LGBTQ community would suffer when Ghana’s Anti-Gay bill is rolled out in full force.


Social media reactions on bill’s passage


Escalating Violence

History has shown us time and time again that discriminatory legislation breeds violence. From the Jim Crow laws in the United States to apartheid in South Africa, legal discrimination has always been accompanied by an increase in hate crimes. The anti-gay bill is no different. By dehumanizing and criminalizing LGBTQ+ individuals, it creates a hostile environment where violence against them is not only tolerated but encouraged.

Mixed Messages

While the bill may include a clause calling for the arrest of attackers, its overarching message is one of hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community.

This sends mixed signals to both perpetrators and victims of hate crimes. On one hand, it may deter some attackers for fear of legal consequences.

On the other hand, it emboldens others who may interpret the bill as tacit approval of their actions. The result is a confusing legal landscape where violence against LGBTQ+ individuals may go unpunished or even encouraged.

Stifling Progress

The passage of an anti-gay bill represents a significant setback for human rights and equality. It undermines the progress made towards LGBTQ+ inclusion and sends a chilling message to members of the community that their rights are expendable. This fear of persecution can lead to LGBTQ+ individuals being forced into hiding, further marginalizing them and making them more vulnerable to violence.

As the flames under the cauldron of controversy surrounding the passage of the anti-gay bill simmer, hope flickers with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s decision to withhold assent, awaiting the guidance of the Supreme Court.

This could offer a slim chance at cooling the fervor of potential violence.

With journalistic zeal, this is Caleb Ahinakwah bidding you adieu until our next foray into the world of headlines and stories.

Stay informed, stay engaged, and let curiosity be your compass.

Signing off,

Caleb Ahinakwah.

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