Ghana’s Parliament Just Passed One of the World’s Harshest Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills

Legislators in Ghana unanimously passed one of the world’s harshest anti-LGBTQ+ bills on Wednesday, threatening to impose draconian prison sentences and social restrictions on queer, trans, and intersex people alike.

First introduced in 2021, the “Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill” passed through Parliament with no formal opposition, ABC reported Wednesday. The bill now only requires the signature of Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, who has previously vowed never to decriminalize homosexuality. At one point, deputy parliamentary leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin attempted to introduce an amendment softening language around prison terms, but was “heckled down” by other members of Parliament, the BBC reported.

Should the bill become law, people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans, pan, nonbinary, or queer could be sentenced to up to three years in prison, according to ABC. Additionally, those found guilty of “promotion, sponsorship or support of LGBTQ+ activities” can face up to five years in prison. Gay sex itself is already punishable by up to three years in prison in Ghana, though nobody has yet been convicted under that law, according to Al-Jazeera.

LGBTQ+ organizations in Ghana have been sounding the alarm even before the bill was first introduced in 2021. Alex Donkor, founder and director of the group LGBT+ Rights Ghana (whose primary office was raided and closed by police in 2021), told Al-Jazeera this week that the bill “will further marginalize and endanger LGBTQ individuals in Ghana.”

“It not only legalizes discrimination but also fosters an environment of fear and persecution,” Donkor told the news service. “With harsh penalties for both LGBTQ individuals and activists, this bill threatens the safety and wellbeing of an already vulnerable community.”

LGBTQ+ and human rights advocates around the world condemned the bill’s passage this week, with the U.S. Department of State saying the bill “undermines the rights of all.” In a press release Wednesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called the legislation “profoundly disturbing.”

“I call for the bill not to become law,” Türk wrote. “I urge the Ghanaian Government to take steps to ensure everyone can live free from violence, stigma and discrimination, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Consensual same-sex conduct should never be criminalized.”

Ghana’s “human sexuality” bill comes amid decades of pressure from U.S.-based evangelical Christian groups, such as the World Council of Families, Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, and Family Watch International, all of which have lobbied for anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Ghana, Uganda, and other African countries. Similarly broad anti-LGBTQ+ bills have themselves become law in other countries like Russia, where President Vladimir Putin oversaw a dramatic expansion of his flagship “propaganda” law last year that declared the “international LGBTQ+ movement” to be an extremist organization. Several people in Russia have already been charged under that new law, including one woman who spent five days in jail for wearing rainbow-colored frog earrings.

Get the best of what’s queer. Sign up for Them’s weekly newsletter here.