On August 10, Virginia Palmer, the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, warned that a discriminatory draft law targeting LGTBQ+ people in the country, if passed, could scare away U.S. investors.
Sam George, a member of Ghana’s parliament known for his anti-LGTBQ+ views, responded to Palmer, saying: “Ghana remains welcoming and open to American investors as a stable, viable democracy."
George sponsored the anti-LGTBQ+ draft law in Ghana, which the country’s parliament unanimously passed in July. On July 19, Ghana’s Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge to that legislation, clearing the path for it to be adopted.
“I am confident it should not be a worry as our intended legislation is NOT different from American laws in states like Florida and Kentucky,” George wrote in an August 11 Facebook post. “I believe the US Supreme Court agrees largely with Ghana's position.”
That is false.
Although some U.S. states still have so-called sodomy laws on the books that criminalize specific sexual acts, those laws were made unenforceable by a 2003 Supreme Court ruling.
Same-sex conduct is technically already illegal in Ghana. However, the draft Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values bill would essentially criminalize living as an LGTBQ+ person or supporting those who do.
The proposed bill entails imprisonment of up to 10 years for those who produce, procure, market, broadcast, disseminate, publish or distribute any material that promotes LGBTQ+ and related activities.
The bill also prohibits what it calls “gross indecency in public,” and entails prison terms of six months to one year for “public show[s] of amorous relations between or among persons of the same sex,” or “intentional cross-dressing to portray a gender different from a gender assigned at birth to the person.”
Engaging in gay sex is punishable by up to five years in prison. Marrying “or purporting to marry a person” from the LGTBQ+ community is also punishable by up to five years in prison.
People, who through “a personal act or otherwise,” provide counsel, aid, or encouragement to any act that “undermines the proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values” can be imprisoned up to four months.
Those who witness acts violating the law are required to report them to “police, political leaders, opinion leaders or customary leaders in the community.”
Independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council warned that if passed, the bill “could create a recipe for conflict and violence,” as LGTBQ+ people “are present in every family and every community.”
Activists say the proposed bill is responsible for a rise in attacks against LGTBQ+ people.
In the United States, there are 12 states that have so-called sodomy laws on the books, including Florida and Kentucky.
Those laws vary state to state, and in theory target specific sexual acts not exclusive to same-sex couples, although rights advocates say they have been “primarily used against lesbians and gay men.”
However, a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lawrence Vs. Texas, ruled those sodomy laws are unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable on privacy grounds.
However, the court ruling did not compel states to remove those laws from their legal codes, leaving open the possibility the Supreme Court could revisit Lawrence Vs. Texas.
A 2015 Supreme Court ruling also obliges states to license and recognize same sex marriage, although supporters of same-sex marriage fear that ruling will also be revisited.
While there are no U.S. laws entailing strict prison terms for promoting or encouraging homosexuality, the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.,-based LGTBQ+ advocacy group, says 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in 41 states this year, 75 of which have become law.
Many of those laws target transgender individuals.
The group said 15 laws have been introduced banning gender affirming care, including medical interventions “to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity.” States have also passed seven laws that require or allow others to identify transgender youth by the names and genders they were given at birth.
The Movement Advancement Project (MAP), which tracks over 50 different LGTBQ+-related laws and policies, said 22 states have adopted laws that prevent transgender students from “participating in sports consistent with their gender identity.”
Other states are seeking or have adopted legislation that would introduce penalties, some criminal, for exposing children to drag shows.
The Human Rights Campaign also documented four anti-LGTBQ+ curriculum laws, described by opponents as "Don't Say Gay" laws.
Most prominently, Florida expanded its “Parental Rights in Education Act” to ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity at all grade-levels. When the act first passed in 2022, lessons on sexual orientation were banned up until Grade 3.
Although the Parental Rights in Education Act does not entail criminal punishment, the legislation does allow parents to push for investigations and sue school districts for damages if they believe a practice or procedure “violates certain provisions of law.”
Over in East Africa, Uganda adopted a controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023, signed into law in late May.
On August 8, the World Bank announced it would not provide any additional financing to Uganda due to that law, which makes the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death and entails up to 20 years in prison for those who knowingly promote homosexuality.
Ghana’s Sam George accused the World Bank of allowing itself “to become a PR machine for the homosexual cabal.”