A mother told a mob to beat up her lesbian daughter and her girlfriend in Ghana.
LGBTIs in the east African country have revealed extreme persecution, discrimination and abuse.
Even though some Ghanaian officials have publicly called for an end to violence against LGBTI people, the country still criminalizes same-sex activity.
Men wield machetes to chase LGBTI people out of villages. Women and men are raped and feel they cannot tell the police. LGBTI people are assaulted to ‘cure’ them of their sexuality.
Human Rights Watch exposed these stories in a 72-page report showing how LGBTI people in Ghana have ‘second-class citizenship’.
Ghana: Chased by machetes, raped, and beaten by a mob
One young woman said her mother suspected she was in a relationship with another woman.
The mom organized a mob and told them to beat her and her girlfriend up in May 2016.
The two women were then forced to flee the village.
One man, in Nima, Accra, was brutally assaulted by mob, members of a vigilante group, because they suspected he was gay.
And a young woman can’t go back to find her two-year-old daughter after she was chased out of a village by men wielding machetes.
‘The pastor said I should confess everything before I die’
Pearl, a 30-year-old woman, was called for a meeting in her town with the District Chief Executive.
‘I was taken to the conference room and made to sit in the middle of about 50 people,’ she said.
‘They asked me if I was a lesbian, and I said no.
‘One police officer kicked me with his boot on my mouth, said I shouldn’t talk. I started bleeding.
‘Then everybody started to beat me. They took me outside, dragging me and beating me at the same time.
‘A youth boy put a car tire around my neck and poured petrol over my body, ready to burn me.
‘The pastor said I should confess everything before I die.’
Gay sex ban is leading to increased persecution
Many gay and bi women confessed they were forcibly married. Some are ‘raped’ to ‘cure’ them.
When one young girl’s family suspected she was gay, they took her to a prayer camp where she was severely beaten for a month to ‘turn’ her away from her ‘deviant’ sexuality.
Gay men are lured into compromising situations and then attacked, as one of several examples reveals.
Felix, a young man, said he was raped by a man he had met on social media. He did not report the rape as he feared he would be arrested for gay sex.
Several people in the report, ‘No Choice but to Deny Who I Am’: Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People in Ghana’, said the law criminalizing same-sex activity means Ghanaians will continue to face violence and discrimination.
LGBT life in Ghana
Barrier to justice
HRW found LGBTI people’s fear is the law could be used against them, combined with social stigma, served as a barrier to seeking justice.
‘Having a law on the books that criminalizes adult consensual same-sex conduct contributes to a climate in which LGBT people are frequently victims of violence and discrimination,’ said Wendy Isaack, LGBT rights researcher at HRW.
‘Homophobic statements by local and national government officials, traditional elders, and senior religious leaders foment discrimination and in some cases, incite violence.’
Edwin Sesange, African LGBTI rights advocate, agreed.
‘This report puts a shadow on its democracy and respect to human life,’ he told Gay Star News.
‘A country cannot pride in modernity while hanging on to discriminatory and oudated anti-LGBTI colonial laws.
‘It is time for a combined effort to bring down these laws.’
What comes next?
The report found that on some occasions the Ghana Police Service had responded appropriately to abuses against LGBT people. The CHRAJ also set up an online system to register allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It has processed 36 cases.
The HRW said Ghana’s government should repeal the specific provision in the Criminal Offences Act that makes gay sex illegal. The organization called on the government to act swiftly to protect LGBT people from all forms of discrimination and violence.
It said Ghanaian authorities should also engage in dialogue with the LGBTI community to better understand their needs. The Ghanaian government should also focus on addressing the intersecting forms of discrimination that affect gay and bisexual women. It must ensure that the necessary legislative and policy measures are taken to ensure their safety, dignity, and equality.
‘LGBT Ghanaians should have the same protection from the government as everyone else,’ Isaack said.
‘And the government should work to address the stigma that subjects people to violence in their own homes, the place where they should feel safest.’