• Ghana’s presidents have spoken about same-sex relations at different times
• Their anti-gay stance has been used a proof of general opposition to the orientation
• But Prof Gadzekpo explains why the views of Mills and Akufo-Addo must be understood in a context
When the subject of same-sex marriage or gay rights comes up, one of the first points of reference is that successive presidents have voiced opposition to it.
Reference is made to what late professor John Evans Atta Mills said about the issue and more recently the views expressed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
But for Professor Audrey Gadzekpo, a former dean of the University of Ghana’s School of Information and Communication Studies, the views of both men were far from opposing the rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQ+) persons.
Explaining her point on Citi FM’s Face To Face programme which aired on October 5, 2021; Prof Gadzekpo said, the current president opposed same-sex marriages and Mills opposed gay rights being tied to aid but none of them expressly spoke against gay rights.
“The president said not under his watch will there be same-sex marriages and as you know, nobody is advocating for same-sex marriages,” she said. “Secondly, as Prof Mills said, he did not agree for LGBTQI rights should be tied to aid. It shouldn’t be a conditionality. That is not the argument.”
Prof Gadzekpo and pro-LGBTQI+ rights defenders
Prof Gadzekpo is part of a group of 18 academicians and human rights defenders who have voiced strong opposition to a bill before Parliament, seeking to extensively criminalize the activities of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex (LGBTQ+).
She said about the group: “We are thinking Ghanaians with a long track record in human rights. We are not the only ones who have submitted memoranda but I can only speak to our memoranda. There are a lot of memoranda I have seen at least six opposing the bill.”
The group submitted a memorandum to Parliament seeking that the bill is rejected because it was largely unconstitutional and infringed on basic human rights.
Members of Parliament behind the bill, led by Ningo Prampram MP, Sam Nartey George, have rubbished the memorandum and asserted that the bill will be passed into law because it has the support of the wider Ghanaian populace.
What did Akufo-Addo and Mills say about same-sex issues?
For John Evans Atta Mills, his was an emphatic “No” statement on the subject of LGBTQ+.
In an interaction with the media during his presidency, and in reaction to comments by the then British Premier David Cameron that they may consider cutting aid to Ghana should the country not legalize gay rights, the late former president was forthright, ruling out any possibility of the legalization of same.
He added that Cameron was entitled to opinions, stressing that laws must take into account the cultures and histories of a given people.
“Let me make one thing very clear: no one can deny Prime Minister Cameron his right to make policies, take initiatives or make statements that reflect his societal norms and ideals but he does not have the right to direct other sovereign nations as to what they should do especially when their societal norms and ideals are different from those which exist in Prime Minister Cameron’s society.
“I, as president of this nation, will never initiate or support any attempts to legalize homosexuality in Ghana. As a government, we will adhere by the principles enshrined in our constitution which is supreme. Let me also say, that while we acknowledge all the financial assistance and all the aid which have been given to us by our development partners, we will not accept any aid with strings attached if that aid will not inure to our interest or the implementation of the utilization of that aid with strings attached would rather worsen our plight as a nation, or, destroy the very society we want to use the money to improve,” he said.
Earlier this year, President Akufo-Addo, spoke about LGBTQ+ when the issue gained traction in public discourse, he made the remark at St. Micheal and All Angels Cathedral in Asante Mampong during the installation of the Second Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Ghana.
“I have said it before, and let me stress it again, that it will not be under the Presidency of Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo that same-sex marriage will be legal”, he stressed, adding “it will never happen in my time as President. Let me repeat, it will never happen in my time as president”.