LGBTQIA+ Guide for Navigating Ghana
Ghana is one of the 50 African countries that have existing colonial and new legislation that criminalizes LGBTQIA+ persons. In particular, we need to make IFTR members aware that currently there is a bill in Ghana’s Parliament, “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values”. This is a bill that seeks to criminalise LGBTQIA+ people and those who support them. On the optimistic side, there have been a number of Ghanaian and international organisations who have openly expressed their opposition to the bill, supported with over 100 petitions submitted to the Ghana parliament. From our research, we have deduced that this bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon: not before we meet for IFTR in Accra. Ultimately, the hosting of IFTR’s annual conference at the University of Ghana in July 2023 represents an opportunity for us as the hosts and the Federation at large to stand in solidarity with Ghana’s LGBTQIA+ communities.
University Campus as a Safe Space
The conference will be held on the University of Ghana’s campus. This is a safe space; we adhere to a policy of inclusivity within the University community. Also, the larger community of Accra where the university is situated is cosmopolitan; generally, everybody has the freedom to live their everyday lives.
Ghana – Our Country and its Culture
Ghana is reputed as a culturally rich and diverse country, known for the warmth of its citizens, its tangible colonial history and hospitality, a nation described by Lonely Planet as “one of the friendliest spots in West Africa”. However, it is important to understand that Ghanaian culture disapproves of public displays of sexual intimacy, such as kissing or sexually suggestive behaviour. This is because it is considered a private and sacred act of being human. As the Ghanaian proverb puts it: “the hen does not lay its eggs in public”! So, we do advise against displays of same-sex and heterosexual affection in public.
Safeguarding Guidelines for LGBTQIA+ Members
For everyone to enjoy their time in Ghana, we recognise that there is advice we need to offer our LGBTQIA+ members in order to safeguard against any hassle while socially navigating the country. The guidelines that follow have been drawn up in consultation with our contacts in Ghana’s queer community.
- When you venture beyond the university campus, scan the environment. If you see something odd or potentially unsafe, consider moving or leaving the area. Move towards a “safer place,” like a more public space if you feel unsafe. Venturing out in company rather than going out alone is also advisable from a safety point of view.
- Avoid wearing or displaying overt same-sex/love paraphernalia in public spaces. It is important to avoid any unfriendly, unwarranted attention, especially given the anti-gay sentiments as described above.
- Be conscious and aware of your surroundings. Do not openly discuss queer subjects in public transportation like ‘trotro’ (local public minibuses), Ubers, taxis, etc.
- In the unlikely event that you are harassed for queer-presenting, it is important to be confident yet careful. People tend to be more aggressive if someone appears to be easily intimidated. Presenting a confident front can serve as a great defence mechanism. Remember, it is not a crime to be queer presenting or gender nonconforming so don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.
- Just as you would when travelling anywhere else in the world, trust your instincts. If they are wrong, at the very least you will be safe.
- Utilize social media apps for background checks on places and people.
- The Drama Queens, a local Queer organisation, and LGBT Rights Ghana, are willing to be contacted for further guidelines on navigating your way safely in Accraand for any advice you may need for negotiating the airport. You may learn more about them and contact them: @dramaqueensgh on both Instagram and Twitter. Contact them on: firstname.lastname@example.org; LGBT+ Rights Ghana; email@example.com
Stay safe, be alert and enjoy the conference‼️
Prof. Awo Mana Asiedu and Dr Ekua Ekumah