Several church leaders particularly those in the UK have strongly criticised Ghanaian bishops over their support for a draconian anti-LGBTQ+ law.
These include Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the global Anglican Church, Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York, and other Church of England bishops have in numerous tweets.
In an earlier statement, the archbishop of the Anglican Church of Ghana, Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith backed the anti-gay bill, saying that the practice is unbiblical, ungodly and unrighteousness in the sight of God.
But in a tweet Archbishop Welby said he was “gravely concerned” and would speak to the archbishop of Ghana to discuss the response of the Anglican Church in the country.
I am gravely concerned by the draft anti-LGBTQ+ Bill due to be debated by the Ghanaian parliament. I will be speaking with the Archbishop of Ghana in the coming days to discuss the Anglican Church of Ghana’s response to the Bill.
My full statement: https://t.co/WcQMKzBseg
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) October 26, 2021
Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York also tweeted that the proposed law was “shocking and unacceptable. There have also been similar concerns from the bishops of London, Liverpool, Worcester, Southwark and Norwich.
The anti LGBTQI bill will make it a crime to be gay, bisexual or transgender, or to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
Cautions against delays
Meanwhile Ghana’s Speaker of parliament Alban Bagbin has served notice that any attempt to delay the passage of the controversial Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian family values bill into law will not be tolerated.
The speaker has also declared that proceedings of the constitutional, legal and parliamentary affairs committee which is currently considering the bill will be open to the public as well as the final voting process when the bill returns to the plenary.
The bill is being sponsored by some individual lawmakers who are anti-LGBTQ+ activists.
According to details of the bill, anyone of the same sex that engages in sexual intercourse are “liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than seven hundred and fifty penalty units and not more than five thousand penalty units, or to a term of imprisonment of not less than three years and not more than five years or both.”
This punishment also covers any person who “holds out as a lesbian, a gay, a transgender, a transsexual, a queer, a pansexual, an ally, a non-binary or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female.”
The bill also seeks to punish those it deems promoters and allies of the LGBT+ community with a jail term.
There is also punishment for persons who engage in activities that “promotes, supports sympathy for or a change of public opinion towards an act prohibited under the Bill.”
Such offenders are liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years or not more than ten years.
A panel of UN experts said in a statement that “Passing this law in its current or even partial form would violate a significant number of human rights, including the absolute prohibition of torture.”
They also indicated that the new bill “will not only criminalize LGBTI (I for intersex) people but also all those who support or show sympathy for human rights.”
Various human rights activists have already expressed their displeasure at this attempt by Ghana’s lawmakers to pass the law.
The bill seems to have strong support among Ghanaians.
Ghana’s current criminal code only outlaws what it describes as “unnatural” carnal knowledge. The law is however silent on explicitly mentioning LGBT people and those who promote their activities.
If the bill is eventually passed into law only Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo, who has vowed not to legalize same-sex marriages will have the final say either to sign it or veto it.