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Ghana US diplomat urges dialogue on gay rights

Outgoing US ambassador to Ghana speaks out against homophobia and urges Ghana to have an open and respectful dialogue on LGBT rights
Outgoing US Ambassador to Ghana, Donald Teitelbaum says the country needs an open respectful dialogue on the issue of gay rights

The outgoing US Ambassador to Ghana, Donald Teitelbaum, spoke against homophobia and called upon Ghana to have an open respectful dialogue on the issue of gay rights.

Teitelbaum, who was addressing journalists at his final day as US ambassador to Ghana, said the country could follow his country’s example of open dialogue on gay rights.

Teitelbaum started by addressing homophobic behaviour stating: ‘You have this incident of gay bashing of homosexuals or this business they talk about corrective rape where people rape women because they are lesbians.

‘I think we need to say that it is not ok. It is not ok to oppress people because of the life they choose to live.’

Addressing the issue of LGBT rights in Ghana, Mr. Teitelbaum said: ‘It is not for me to tell Ghanaians how to think or how to act. But what I will say is that I really do believe that Ghanaians, first and foremost, I see it everyday in the way Ghanaians act, that Ghanaians accept the idea of respecting people’s fundamental rights, because you treat each other this way every day.

‘I know that Ghanaians have strong moral view points of their own.

‘It is my view that Ghana properly needs to do something like we have done in the United States, and have open respectful dialogue about how you can reconcile your belief and rights, because the Ghanaian constitution, as I understand it, guarantees rights based on citizenship.’

Under Ghanaian law, male same-sex sexual activity is illegal. Gay men can also be punished under provisions concerning assault and rape.

The US Department of State's 2010 Human Rights Report revealed widespread and deeply held homophobic views.

It states: ‘LGBT persons faced widespread discrimination, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts. Gay men in prison often were subjected to sexual and other physical abuse.’

Mr Teitelbaum’s intervention comes at a time where gay issues have been received unprecedented attention in Ghana.

Recently, the right wing National Patriotic Party (NPP), currently a member of the opposition, has been trying to stage a smear campaign and moral panic by alleging that the vice president is gay. The moral panic was back by various religious groups in collaboration with the NPP.

The smear campaign is designed to weaken the ruling left wing National Democratic Congress party, to which the vice president belongs.

Last month the the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) of Ghana has recommended the country's Supreme Court should rule on whether the country should legalise same-sex acts.

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