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Johannesburg – Ghana’s parliament has given its approval to a contentious anti-LGBTQ bill after months of extensive deliberations. Today, the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values bill stands out as one of the most stringent pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Africa.

Even without the new bill, homosexuality is already prohibited in Ghana, carrying a potential three-year prison term. The newly approved law intensifies the maximum sentence to five years. Moreover, it introduces custodial sentence for individuals found guilty of advocating LGBTQ rights – one example that is seen as promotion of LGBTQ community is the dissemination of materials supportive of LGBTQ rights and is therefore deemed as illegal.

Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, has issued a response following the approval of the Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill by Ghana’s parliament. She said in a statement, “The Human Sexual rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, a private member’s bill passed by parliament, has not yet become a law in Ghana. If the bill does become a law, it will affect everyone.” She added:

If Human Sexual rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill becomes a law, it will exacerbate fear and hatred, could incite violence against fellow Ghanaian citizens, and will negatively impact on free speech, freedom of movement and freedom of association.

If it becomes law, it will obstruct access to life-saving services, undercut social protection, and jeopardize Ghana’s development success.

Evidence shows that punitive laws like this Bill are a barrier to ending AIDS, and ultimately undermine everyone’s health.

The legislation – reportedly sponsored by traditional leaders from Ghana’s Christian and Muslim communities – now awaits the signature of Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo so that it becomes a law. While there is widespread anticipation from the public that he will sign it, the president has not publicly disclosed his stance on the bill.

Meanwhile, the Big 18 & Human Rights Coalition, an organization of lawyers and activists in Ghana, emphasized in a Tuesday press briefing that the bill “criminalizes a person’s identity and strips away fundamental human rights.” The coalition urged the president to reject it. Read the news in full here.

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