Ghana supreme court rejects bid to block anti-LGBTQ bill

By Maxwell Akalaare Adombila and Christian Akorlie

ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana’s Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a legal challenge seeking to block parliament from passing a stringent anti-LGBT bill, paving the way for its ratification.

Lawmakers in the West African nation have been debating a bill since August 2021 that would criminalize same-sex relations, being transgender and advocating LGBTQ rights. Most MPs are in favour.

Passing the Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values bill would further reduce freedoms in a country where gay sex is already punishable with up to three years in jail, critics and activists say.

Amanda Odoi, an academic researcher, filed a lawsuit on July 7 challenging the bill’s constitutionality, saying it would impact donor aid and other forms of financial support. Ghana’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled her arguments were not sufficiently convincing to grant an injunction.

The ruling cleared the way for the bill, one of the harshest towards the LGBTQ community in Africa, to go through a final stage of parliamentary approval before being signed into law.

In May, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTQ laws, which spelled out the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”.

Ghana’s bill, backed by religious and traditional leaders, includes jail sentences of up to 10 years for advocating for LGBTQ rights.

Publishing content considered pro-LGBTQ or that challenges traditional binary gender identities could also lead to prosecution.

The United Nations said in 2021 the law would create “a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence” against sexual minorities.

Opponents also say the bill encourages conversion therapy, as sentencing can be reduced if those found guilty request treatment. U.N. experts have warned this could lead to torture.

(Reporting by Maxwell Akalaare Adombila and Christian Akorlie; Writing by Maxwell Akalaare Adombila; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Richard Chang)