On Friday, April 28, Senegal’s Parliament rejected a series of proposals, including a text that would toughen the criminalization of homosexuality, already punishable by one to five years in prison and a fine (Article 319 of the Penal Code, dating from 1966).
The initiative was supported by the opposition, which denounced “a mechanical majority blockade” after years of advocacy and intense lobbying by religious groups, including “And Samm Jikko” (“Together to Safeguard Values”). Founded by the Islamist [advocacy group] Jamra, the group called for a new law against what it considers “unnatural” acts.
But, as stated by the office of the Assembly, since the acts in question are already banned, this bill, which is “insignificant in reality”, is “inadmissible”. “It brings nothing to the public debate”, and if it had been voted, “it would have no impact”, on the contrary. And it is “neither courageous nor relevant” to do so, given the social situation of the country.
“We don’t need a law based on emotions that fills up our prisons,” insisted a legislator from President Macky Sall’s majority party.
Parliament had already rejected a similar bill in January 2022, which would have doubled the penalties for homosexuality from 5 to 10 years in prison, with a fine of up to 5 million CFA francs (more than 6,600 euros) and without the possibility of exceptions for mitigating circumstances. The text also targeted “lesbianism, bisexuality, transsexuality, intersexuality, zoophilia, necrophilia…” as similar practices.
In January 2023, LGBTQ+ activist Davis Mac-Iyalla was installed as a chief of the Yamonransa Nkusukum area in central Ghana.
With the title of Amankorehen, the Nigerian-born activist’s role is “like a foreign minister for the traditional area” and a huge honour for him. But during the ceremony he was nearly thrown from his platform in an act he says was “set up” by homophobic figures to “disgrace” him.
As part of the ceremony, Mac-Iyalla was carried through the streets on a platform called a palanquin, and a fall from this to the ground could have killed or seriously injured him.
The local media, who Mac-Iyalla did not invite to the event, managed to “spy” on the incident and published the reactionary headline “Gay rights activist installed as a chief”, knowing it would be a “serious issue”.
Mac-Iyalla tells PinkNews that reporters framed the near-fall as though he “fell off the palanquin because I am gay”.
As a well-respected LGBTQ+ activist, human rights campaigner, faith leader and founder of the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa, Mac-Iyalla has spent many years campaigning for the rights of queer people, particularly within the Anglican church.
His outspoken support for LGBTQ+ rights has seen him fall foul of powerful homophobic figures in the region who – as he puts it – seek to “discredit” him at every opportunity.
Speaking during a month-long visit to Britain, Mac-Iyalla explains that “there are some very vocal minorities that keep trying to speak for everyone” in the country and wider West Africa.
But, he says, not “everyone is homophobic” and so “not everyone is against us”.
Currently, section 104(1)(a) of the Penal Code (1960), as amended in 2003, prohibits “unnatural carnal knowledge” – defined as “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner” – of another person of 16 years or over with their consent. It is considered a misdemeanour and carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.
In 2021, a bill to forbid and criminalise “the advocacy and practice of homosexuality” was introduced in the Ghanaian Parliament.
The legislation would increase jail time for consensual same-sex sexual activity to 10 years and would explicitly ban same-sex marriage. It would also criminalise diverse gender identities and expressions, and prohibit medical practitioners from offering gender-affirming medical care.
Furthermore, the legislation would offer incentives to families to have their intersex infants “normalised” through genital surgeries and it would prohibit public support, advocacy or organising for LGBTQ+ human rights in the country.
The extremely homophobic bill echoes Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a vile piece of legislation which seeks to criminalise people for simply identifying as LGBTQ+.
However, despite these queerphobic and fear-mongering narratives, Mac-Iyalla says Ghana’s bill did not attract the support politicians thought it would get and so, attention turned to vilifying human rights campaigners like himself.
“When the bill was introduced, we were frightened that it would just be an easy passage, but no, it was not because we had parents begin to come out and talk about how this bill will be a problem for their families.
“We then had professional academics begin to come out and speak against this bill from human rights, cultural and traditional rights perspectives.
“That’s something that we didn’t expect because of the way things have happened in the past, so that gave us some hope.”
Mac-Iyalla points out that the general Ghanaian population is more concerned with issues such as the economy and job security than someone’s sexuality. He says that the bill is being used by prominent religious leaders to push anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment for their own gain.
“Remember that not everyone likes to engage the media. So the majority voices have an open mind and tolerance, but are just not interested in talking.
“It is a few hateful conservatives that are always in the media trying to speak for everybody or trying to change the narrative.
“Ghanaians have come to realise that the bill is not for the benefit of Ghana. That bill is only to profit the Christian right-wing conservatives that are pushing it.”
For Mac-Iyalla, the reception the bill received may also be down to the fact it is “un-Ghanaian and un-African” because it harks back to colonial era rules and perspectives enforced by British imperialism.
Homosexuality in Africa existed “before the advent of Western missionaries”, Mac-Iyalla says, “so introducing these laws is actually borrowing and confirming colonial ideology and not Ghanaian, African or West African values”.
The impacts of colonialism on Ghana are still being keenly felt by the LGBTQ+ community, and Mac-Iyalla wants the idea that it is “un-African to be LGBTQ+” to be debunked “everywhere”.
“If, indeed, humans originated from Africa, then LGBTQ+ would have originated from Africa,” he says.
The activist adds that research has consistently shown that queer people have existed for longer in Africa than people think and – with that being said – “far longer than colonialism”.
“LGBTQ+ people have been warriors. LGBTQ+ people have been really strong spirituality leaders. LGBTQ+ people have held traditional positions like chiefs and Queen mothers, and that beauty of leadership continues,” he continues.
“LGBTIQ people are proud of African heritage, of African descent. We are proud of who we are.
“We are not a Western production, as some people want the world to believe. We are everywhere. We are chiefs, we are nurses, we are doctors, we are politicians, we are everything good.”
IDNOWA stands with South Africa’s Anglican Archbishop Makgoba in appealing to Ugandan president to abandon anti-gay hate bill
‘We are all God’s children regardless of the dignity of our sexual differences’ said Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, in an appeal to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, to decline signing into law a bill that makes homosexual acts punishable by death.
People who identify as gay in Uganda risk life in prison after parliament passed a new bill to crack down on homosexual activities.
It also includes the death penalty in certain cases.
A rights activist told the BBC the debate around the bill had led to fear of more attacks on gay people.
“There is a lot of blackmail. People are receiving calls that ‘if you don’t give me money, I will report that you are gay,'” they said.
The bill is one of the toughest pieces of anti-gay legislation in Africa.
Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda but this bill introduces many new criminal offences.
As well as making merely identifying as gay illegal for the first time, friends, family and members of the community would have a duty to report individuals in same-sex relationships to the authorities.
It was passed with widespread support in Uganda’s parliament on Tuesday evening.
Amnesty International has called the bill, which criminalises same-sex between consenting adults “appalling”, “ambiguous” and “vaguely worded”.
“This deeply repressive legislation will institutionalise discrimination, hatred, and prejudice against LGBTI people – including those who are perceived to be LGBTI – and block the legitimate work of civil society, public health professionals, and community leaders,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa.
It has also been condemned by both the UK’s Africa Minister Andrew Mitchell and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The White House has warned Uganda of possible economic repercussions if the new law comes into force.
In the weeks before the debate, anti-homosexual sentiment was prominent in the media, an activist who wanted to remain anonymous told the BBC.
“Members of the queer community have been blackmailed, extorted for money or even lured into traps for mob attacks,” the activist said.
“In some areas even law enforcers are using the current environment to extort money from people who they accuse of being gay. Even some families are reporting their own children to the police.”
The bill will now go to President Yoweri Museveni who can choose to use his veto – and maintain good relations with Western donors and investors – or sign it into law.
He has made several anti-gay comments in recent weeks, and also criticised Western countries for putting pressure on Uganda over the issue.
Another gay rights activist accused the government of using the bill to distract the public from its failures to address some of their pressing economic concerns.
“They are trying to drum up anti-gay rhetoric to divert attention from really what is important to Ugandans in general. There is no reason why you should have a bill that criminalises individuals that are having consensual same-sex adult relationships,” Clare Byarugaba, LGBTQ+ Rights Activist, Chapter Four Uganda told the BBC.
The bill’s backers say they are trying to protect children but Ms Byarugaba said: “Whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual, the government and parliament should introduce laws, or at least implement existing laws that protect all children – boys, girls from defilement. So the issue of recruitment has been unproven, it is baseless, it is biased.””
What does the bill say?
The final version has yet to be officially published but elements discussed in parliament include:
A person who is convicted of grooming or trafficking children for purposes of engaging them in homosexual activities faces life in prison
Individuals or institutions which support or fund LGBT rights’ activities or organisations, or publish, broadcast and distribute pro-gay media material and literature, also face prosecution and imprisonment
Media groups, journalists and publishers face prosecution and imprisonment for publishing, broadcasting, distribution of any content that advocates for gay rights or “promotes homosexuality”
Death penalty for what is described as “aggravated homosexuality”, that is sexual abuse of a child, a person with disability or vulnerable people, or in cases where a victim of homosexual assault is infected with a life-long illness
Property owners also face risk of being jailed if their premises are used as a “brothel” for homosexual acts or any other sexual minorities rights’ activities
A small group of Ugandan MPs on a committee scrutinising the bill disagreed with its premise. They argue the offences it seeks to criminalise are already covered in the country’s Penal Code Act.
In 2014, Uganda’s constitutional court nullified another act which had toughened laws against the LGBT community.
It included making it illegal to promote and fund LGBT groups and activities, as well as reiterating that homosexual acts should be punished by life imprisonment, and was widely condemned by Western countries.
The court ruled that the legislation be revoked because it had been passed by parliament without the required quorum.
Same-sex relations are banned in about 30 African countries, where many people uphold conservative religious and social values.
Isn’t time that Ghana government listen to the church leaders of the world who joined together to announce Anti-Gay laws? While IDNOWA recognises there is still a long way to go for these religious leaders to fully accept the LGBTQ+ community and welcome them as equal into their churches, this is certainly a significant development and one that the West African governments should note.
This story appeared in voanews.com from Associated Press
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE —
Pope Francis, the head of the Anglican Communion and top Presbyterian minister together denounced the criminalization of homosexuality on Sunday and said gay people should be welcomed by their churches.
The three Christian leaders spoke out on LGBTQ rights during an unprecedented joint airborne news conference returning home from South Sudan, where they took part in a three-day ecumenical pilgrimage to try to nudge the young country’s peace process forward.
They were asked about Francis’ recent comments to The Associated Press, in which he declared that laws that criminalize gay people were “unjust” and that “being homosexual is not a crime.”
South Sudan is one of 67 countries that criminalizes homosexuality, 11 of them with the death penalty. LGBTQ advocates say even where such laws are not applied, they contribute to a climate of harassment, discrimination and violence.
Francis referred his Jan. 24 comments to the AP and repeated that such laws are “unjust.” He also repeated previous comments that parents should never throw their gay children out of the house.
“To condemn someone like this is a sin,” he said. “Criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice.”
“People with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God Loves them. God accompanies them,” he added.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recalled that LGBTQ rights were very much on the current agenda of the Church of England, and said he would quote the pope’s own words when the issue is discussed at the church’s upcoming General Synod.
“I wish I had spoken as eloquently and clearly as the pope. I entirely agree with every word he said,” Welby said.
Recently, the Church of England decided to allow blessings for same-sex civil marriages but said same-sex couples could not marry in its churches. The Vatican forbids both gay marriage and blessings for same-sex unions.
Welby told reporters that the issue of criminalization had been taken up at two previous Lambeth Conferences of the broader Anglican Communion, which includes churches in Africa and the Middle East where such anti-gay laws are most common and often enjoy support by conservative bishops.
The broader Lambeth Conference has come out twice opposing criminalization, “But it has not really changed many people’s minds,” Welby said.
The Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, the Presbyterian moderator of the Church of Scotland who also participated in the pilgrimage and news conference, offered an observation.
“There is nowhere in my reading of the four Gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away,” he said. “There is nowhere in the four Gospels where I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whomever he meets.
“And as Christians, that is the only expression that we can possibly give to any human being, in any circumstance.”
The Church of Scotland allows same-sex marriages. Catholic teaching holds that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect, but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”
Homophobic attackers target LGBTQ+ activist as he is installed as a chief in Ghana
At the time of the attack, he was being carried aloft in a palanquin. A group of youths overturned it, sending Mac-Iyalla toward the ground.
“Trying to throw me off the palanquin was an assassination attempt,” Mac-Iyalla stated. “I did not fall. They attempted to kill me but failed. How can I fall from the palanquin when I was sitting down?”
He called the assault a “pure violent homophobic attack.”
During the ceremony, Mac-Iyalla was installed as Amankorehen of the Yamonransa Nkusukum Traditional Area in the Central Region of Ghana. It is a position.
The Ghanaian publication Graphic Online explained that “the Amankorehen is the development chief who usually promotes activities that accelerate the development of an area . It is usually given to persons and even foreigners who have contributed to the development of a community.”
Davis Mac-Iyalla being carried aloft in a palanquin before the attack. (Photo courtesy of TutuTV Gh/YouTube)
Mac-Iyalla is a Nigerian native who moved to Ghana from England to work for the LGBTQ+-friendly Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA).
He stated that as Amankorehen he would battle for human rights. The ceremony was attended by several traditional chiefs.
Mac-Iyalla wasn’t the only person who described the assault as motivated by homophobia.
One observer stated that Mac-Iyalla “supports human rights which includes LGBTQ++ and the youths were displeased so they deliberately ousted him from the palanquin. The whole town is against him for taking that stand on this subject.”
The effects of the attack were made worse by intense media coverage.
The LGBTQ+ rights group Rightify Ghana stated:
It’s January 31, 2023 and it’s still dangerous to be identified as LGBTQI+ person or activist in Ghana. A prominent activist, Davis Mac-Iyalla, who lives in Ghana, is currently facing an attack which has put his life in danger. … the framing of the story by the media has focused on his work as an LGBTQI+ human rights defender and this has led to verbal lynching in both traditional and new media space. As someone who always opened his doors to welcome all persons, he is not safe at his home.
I am not okay,. It’s been a national attack because of the media. I feel very unsafe.
The media and their homophobic spin has exposed me to great danger, I am now taking my security very seriously. I also don’t feel safe in Ghana anymore.
My case has made it very clear that traditional and religious leaders in Africa still have a long way to go as related to the human rights of LGBTIQ people.
Mac-Iyalla expressed his thanks to police for their response after the attack.
The police did a very good job protecting me on the day of the ceremony. When the police saw that people wanted to harm me, they doubled their number and made sure everything went well.
Davis Mac-Iyalla, Executive Director of IDNOWA, talks about a recent investigation by CNN into how some western governments, who have pledged to support LGBTQI+ rights, have also funded supporters of a controversial bill in Ghana that would introduce harsh sentences for advocating for sexual and gender minorities’ rights.
I think the Western culture that promotes equality and diversity should not compromise their standards. Why aren’t these western governments looking at the groups they are funding to see if they share the same values.
I don’t believe in giving funds conditionality but I am not in favour of bigots and hypocrites receiving foreign support while they report that it’s only LGBT+ supporting groups that are getting support from foreign donors.
Accra, Ghana (CNN): An exclusive CNN investigation has found that some Western governments who pledged to support LGBTQI+ rights have also funded supporters of a controversial bill in Ghana that could introduce harsh sentences for advocating for sexual and gender minorities’ rights.
In the five years up to 2021, at least $5 million in aid from Europe and the US went to projects run by or benefiting churches in Ghana whose leaders have backed this bill and have a long track-record of anti-LGBTQI+ statements and activities, according to CNN’s analysis of financial data and communication with the donors.
There is no indication the funding identified went to any explicitly anti-LGBTQI+ activities. However, these religious organizations are now pushing for the anti-LGBTQI+ bill, introduced last year and officially known as the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, to be made law.
In one instance, CNN’s analysis revealed that more than $140,000 of UK and US taxpayers’ money in 2018-2020 went to the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG), an association of 29 churches and Christian organizations, which in 2020 said: “As we indicated in times past, our cultural norms and religious values as a nation do not support LGBTQ rights.”
During that same period, the UK became co-chair of the international Equal Rights Coalition to “protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people” and promote “inclusive development” worldwide.
CNN’s analysis also found that some other members of the Equal Rights Coalition — the US, Germany, and Italy — have funded projects by or for churches in Ghana that have similarly opposed LGBTQI+ rights before, during, and after they benefited from aid money.
Human rights advocates called Western donors’ funding practices exposed by CNN “surprising” and “inconsistent.”
IDNOWA and its members in Ghana are standing up against the so-called ‘Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021,’ one of the most repressive and far-reaching anti-gay laws so far proposed on the African continent.
A Christian Prayer for LGBTQ People Who Face Persecution
Loving God, source of all creation, you have endowed all people with inherent dignity and worth, and you invite us to treat each other in ways that honour and value that worth.
Too often the lives, rights, and freedom of LGBTQ people have not been valued in our communities and our society.
We pray that your justice will prevail on the earth.
Look with favour on your LGBTQ people around the world who wait to see whether their rights will be protected.
Give all leaders a spirit of wisdom and understanding, that they may discern what is right.
Give us the courage to reconcile with those who have been harmed by religion.
Help us to build a world where people are free from every form of oppression and violence.
We ask this through your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
After Prayers for National Weekend of Prayer for LGBTQ Justice by The Religious Institute, Bridgeport CT, USA
A Muslim Prayer for LGBTQ People Who Face Persecution
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful, the One who created us as a diverse people in diverse communities.
You teach us that diversity is a blessing and invite us to come to know one another. Help us to embody your teachings in our lives and our community. Guide and strengthen us as we seek to answer your call to resist all forms of injustice.
You teach us that there is no compulsion in religion. We pray that the leaders of nations will not allow religious beliefs to be used as a justification for discrimination.
We lament that too often the lives, rights, and freedom of LGBTQ people have not been valued in our communities and our society.
Give all leaders a spirit of wisdom and understanding, that they may discern what is right.
Guide our community toward an enduring justice.
Grant us the courage to reach out to those who have been harmed by religion.
Bless us as we seek to live in a world where all people are free from injustice, violence, and discrimination.
After Prayers for National Weekend of Prayer for LGBTQ Justice by The Religious Institute, Bridgeport CT, USA
Who can believe it? It’s true. It’s been 6 years since the start of Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa. Founder and current CEO, Davis Mac-Iyalla’s, remembers the humble start of the network; “There was never a conflict between my faith and my sexuality. I believe my sexuality is a gift from God which I am very gleeful for. The difficult part of my journey is the discrimination, condemnation and humiliation I faced from my church once my sexuality becomes public. I saw this was so true for so many LGBT+ persons in West Africa that I decided to start IDNOWA.”
It’s not been an easy ride, and Davis left his job and life in the UK to move to Ghana. He says, “Despite all these challenges, my God has been faithful to me and continues to assure me each day of my journey that he loves me unconditionally.”
Six years on, IDNOWA aims remains the same to work for the inclusion of diverse persons to create a world governed by respect and dignity. IDNOWA seeks a day where all persons irrespective of religious beliefs become great allies in the quest for a safe and free society for all humans.
Congratulations to all the members and workers of IDNOWA for all they do for the LGBT+ community in West Africa.
IDNOWA Executive Director Davis Mac-Iyalla and Project Assistant Daniel Uchechkwu represented the network at the world conference.
The ILGA World Conference is a place to assess where our communities stand, share experiences and best practices, build alliances and partnerships, discuss the future of our movement, and collectively chart ways to advance equality worldwide. The 31st edition of the ILGA World Conference took place from 2 to 6 May 2022 in LA Long Beach, hosted by the It Gets Better Project under the theme LGBTIQ youth: future present change.
IDNOWA fully participated in the conference including speaking at the interfaith pre-conference organized by the Global Interfaith Network (GIN)
IDNOWA focused mostly on issues affecting the marginalized LGBTIQ+ community in West Africa such as social injustice, economic disparities, climate change, and criminalization based on sexual identities and orientations, to mention but a few of the deadly presence we are battling against.