Fact: No group or individual has asked for gay marriage rights.
Fact: No Ghanaian gay group or individual has asked for any other rights save for the right to exist in peace like all other citizens.
Fact: There is no known and established Ghanaian pro-LGBTQ movement campaigning for rights.
Yet not a month goes by without some mean, fundamentalist and religious person/group showing up in the media to stress that gays would/should never be allowed to marry in Ghana. If it’s not some bigoted comment from a top preacher triggered because gays in the West got some rights, it is people like the Speaker of Parliament, Mike Oquaye, and the lawyer, Moses Foh-Amoaning, hiding behind religion and culture to abuse gays.
Speaker Oquaye is on record to have told officials of Amnesty International that “we’re tired of the demands for gay rights.” In his capacity as the self-appointed defender of Ghanaian culture, Foh-Amoaning, who can pray the “gay out of gays,” does not miss a chance to attack gays and the people who defend them every time some misguided journalist shoves a microphone into his face. If it’s not the usual bigots, then it’s some politician deploying homophobia for his purposes or a weak government scrambling to reiterate that gay marriage would never happen in Ghana.
This week, the Chairman of the Church of Pentecost, Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah announced that the church would stage a nationwide demonstration if the pressure on Ghana to legalize gay relationships does not stop. I’m always amazed and deeply saddened by the priorities of the Ghanaian church; gay rights do not take anything away from members of the church. Corruption and bad governance, however, directly impacts church members, but the church is not outraged enough to organise mass protests to demand an end to them.
There are so many things to protest about – broken schools and hospitals, treacherous roads, corruption, insecurity – so many things that government could be forced to fix if citizens could be mobilized to protest. With 70 percent of Ghana’s population being Christians, churches wield a lot of power, the power that it can use to secure a better standard of living for all Ghanaians if it channelled into it the same energy leaders expend on gays rights in recent years. But none of the leading moral voices in the Church has been moved to demand more than the oppression of gays on our behalf from the government.
Just last weekend, the presidency issued one of those statements denying that President Akufo Addo had approved gay marriage. The statement, which also stressed that gay marriage would never happen on Nana Addo’s watch was in response to the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Johnson Asiedu Nketiah. Mr Asiedu Nketiah had gone to the party’s unity walk in Kumasi and told supporters that Nana Akufo-Addo had approved gay marriage in Ghana. All lies. But the presidency was so rattled that the same people who took weeks to explain the U.S. defence cooperation agreement issued a swift denial.
For Ghanaian politicians, the Church’s obsession with homosexuality is a gift. It’s a great distraction from the real issues, such as corruption, high levels of unemployment, poverty and decaying public infrastructure. That is why out of all the things Asiedu Nketiah could have used against the NPP government, he chose gay marriage. That also explains the swiftness of the presidency’s denial. Like their peers on the continent, Ghanaian politicians have realised the value of homophobia – an easy distraction from the actual problems that kill hundreds in Ghana and across the continent.
Why prioritise the fight against corruption which you actively profit from when you can get citizens consumed by a non-existent threat? For instance, if Ghanaian politicians improved healthcare, they would no longer get to travel on taxpayer money to go and die at Lord Cromwell hospital in London. Neither would the state have to give MPs loans to buy cars if they fixed the transportation system. They risk losing most of the privileges that make them live like kings instead of as our servants if they paid the same attention to extreme poverty, unemployment, and corruption.
Homosexuality didn’t use to be a problem in Ghana until the religious community led by the Christian Council preached it into existence with its relentless hate campaign. Yes, hate campaign. Let’s call those cruel and awful sermons what they are – hate campaigns. Every time gays in the West gain some rights, statements are issued warning the government against legalisation of gay marriage in Ghana. The Church makes it seem as if there is something to envy about the right to marry in Ghana, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing to envy. There are no perks, no tax breaks or any unique benefits for even the so-called Bible-defined, culturally-appropriate marriages between men and women.
The sheer breadth of the homophobia that has resulted from the criminalisation of what happens between two consenting adults is unimaginable, and the extent of violence and cruelty born out of it is chilling. The dehumanisation is so fierce that it has now become so fashionable that politicians now deploy it for their purposes. After all, nothing is out of bounds in politics. In nearby Nigeria, a simple holding of hands with a person of the same sex could get you jailed. In Uganda, members of the LGBTQ community risk seven years in jail for living and breathing. In Ghana, police regularly arrest and harass people on suspicion of being gay. There have been mob lynchings and assault of both men and women on suspicion of their sexuality.
In this week’s warning to the government, Apostle Oyinah said: “the call to legalise homosexuality, LGBT, by some leaders of the Western world must be seen as neo-colonialism and must be condemned at the highest level.” If the Apostle had referenced neo-colonialism in any other debate, I would have agreed with him, but to mention neo-colonialism while seeking the oppression of another group is a non-starter. Those paternalistic pro-gay lectures from Western leaders are as annoying as they are frustrating, but they do not epitomize neo-colonialism. They are an admission they screwed up, imposing their rigid definitions of sexuality on us when they came with the Bible to oppress us.
I also want them to stop, not because the calls are neo-colonialist, but because they give people like Apostle Onyinah, Speaker Oquaye and Moses Foh-Amoaning an opportunity to hate on the Ghanaian LGBTQ community who haven’t even asked for any rights. What people do with their genitals shouldn’t concern the state nor the church. Since so-called righteous people are not the ones who will burn in hell for how others used their genitalia, can they mind their sexual organs and leave the Ghanaian LGBTQ community alone? Folks in the church argue that gays are a threat to our existence and African culture because they cannot have children. This would be true if gays didn’t live in African communities that survived for thousands of years before slavery and colonization. The fears would have been right if science wasn’t blowing our minds with test tube babies and 3D printing of body parts.
The continuous gay-bashing is frightening because it has real violent consequences for the Ghanaian LGBTQ community, even for effeminate men and masculine -looking women. The church’s anti-gay campaign helps to normalize the violence against the LGBTQ community. Now citizens are going to feel justified in the assault on gays because there will be no legal consequences for their abuse.
Jesus Christ wouldn’t have hounded the already marginalized over their sexuality, he would have been violently opposed to the Church hosting corrupt officials and their friends. Jesus would’ve been appalled by the Church’s silence over the state of the nation, smelly hospitals, the filthy towns and cities, corruption and poverty. I would respect and trust the church more if it held protests over the state of public hospitals, something that touches everyone. Unlike gay rights.