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MEMORANDUM

TO:  Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and                                       Parliamentary Affairs

FROM:     Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa

SUBJECT: Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021

DATE:      27 September 2021

Honourable Members of Parliament:

Introduction

As Dr. Kwame Nkrumah stated on the first Independence Day, ‘We have a duty to prove to the world that Africans can conduct their own affairs with efficiency and tolerance and through the exercise of democracy. We must set an example to all Africa.’ We the undersigned humbly submit that the so-called ‘Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021’ undermines this vision of our nation. This Bill reflects neither Ghana’s civic imperatives of democracy, cultural autonomy, and political tolerance (as they are enshrined in our Constitution);[i] nor the religious imperatives of compassion, tradition, and diversity that flow from the spiritual wisdom of Christianity, Islam, and African culture.

Not Love, but Government Overreach

The law in Ghana already expresses the current majority view of Ghanaians: that the sexual expression of affection between males should be punishable as a misdemeanour.[ii]

The Bill under consideration goes much further. It criminalises speech, conscience, pastoral care and familial nurture. With Clause 6 of this Bill, anyone who discusses their gay sexuality, will be a felon.[iii] With Clauses 3 and 5 of this Bill, any clergy member who counsels a lesbian; any family member who comforts a bisexual loved one – and fails to report that person to the police, will also be a felon.[iv]

Interfering in this way with the prerogatives of personal conscience, and with the prerogatives of pastors and family members, is an outrageous overreach of government power.

True religion calls us to love, mercy, and compassion. As St. Paul teaches us, ‘Love is patient, love is kind. … It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. … Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes.’[v] As the Holy Qur’an teaches us, Allah is first and foremost ‘Compassionate’ and ‘Merciful.’[vi]

This Bill tramples patience and kindness. It rejoices in anger and bile. It forecloses the complex process of discernment about whether one is – or can even truly be – ‘gay.’ Rather than protect the vulnerable, this Bill criminalises the questioning.[vii] It codifies into law the spirit of anti-LGBTQ+ vigilantism and mob violence that stalks many parts of our land.[viii] It is a Bill without compassion or mercy.

We Ghanaians Must Drink from Our Own Wells

This Bill imposes a narrowly sectarian vision of human intimacy on Ghana’s diverse religions, cultures, families, and individual citizens. Its sponsors argue that ‘the majority of Ghanaians’ – in all their ‘traditions, cultures, and religions’ and ‘ethnicities’ – find ‘LGBTTQQIAPP+ groups and their activities’ unacceptable.[ix] In response, the Bill seeks to define ‘proper human sexuality’ and Ghanaian ‘family values’ in pain-staking detail.[x]

But their argument is misleading. Despite the pontification of certain religionists, there are real differences of opinion about sexual ethics among Christians, among Muslims, and among traditional African peoples. Not simply the well-known arguments over monogamy and polygamy, but deeper differences over gender and sexuality itself.

For example, the renowned Ghanaian theologian Mercy Oduyoye believes that homosexual couples should not be considered ‘deviants,’ but rather more like one of the ‘irregular unions’ which are widely accepted in Asante family life.[xi] Many Christians who support LGBT people base their arguments on Biblical texts: for example, they claim that God created every human person, regardless of sexual orientation, in God’s image;[xii] they note how the words of Ruth and Naomi are often used as a reading in Christian marriage ceremonies;[xiii] and they question Bible translators who find modern concepts such as ‘homosexuality’ in ancient writings of people like St. Paul. It is well known that the Anglican Communion and other Protestant denominations are bitterly split over the blessing of same-sex unions, and over the ordination of openly LGBT people into the clergy, with the Reverend Bishop Christopher Senyonjo (Church of Uganda) calling upon the Church to ‘defend all God’s children’, including sexual minorities.[xiv] Pope Francis has famously said of gay people, ‘Who am I to judge?’ It is clear that over the ages, and across different cultures, both Christian theologians and everyday Christians have practiced gender, family, and intimacy in different ways.[xv]

Islamic scholars also differ among themselves regarding proper family structure and sexual ethics. Take for example the issue of gender.[xvi]  Many Muslim scholars insist on the gender binary of male vs. female. But the famous 13th century jurist al Quturbi argued that gender was not simply male or female: ‘And your Lord creates what He wills and chooses,’[xvii] including non-binary and intersexed people. So too, many celebrated Muslim scholars have acknowledged that men who have an ‘innate’ tendency toward effeminate behaviour and dress should not be criticized or punished for the way they were born.[xviii] These controversies continue to this day: in 1988 the Mufti of the Republic of Egypt, and the President of the Fatwa Council at al-Azhar, issued fatwas in favour of certain sex-change surgeries, while the mufti of Egypt’s High Council for Islamic Affairs issued a fatwa against them. [xix] Controversies over the acceptability of same-sex unions also exist among Muslims.[xx] Over the ages and across different cultures, Muslims too have practiced gender, family, and intimacy in different ways. It would be highly inappropriate for Parliament to impose a narrow religious opinion upon these ongoing religious debates.

What is more, the reality of gender and sexuality in traditional Ghanaian cultures is far from the narrow vision that this Bill tries to project. For example, scholars from the early 20th century reported that among the Ashanti, men were not stigmatized for dressing as women or for being intimate with each other.[xxi] Among the Fante, the belief was held that people of either sex who were born with ‘heavy’ souls would desire women, while those born with ‘light’ souls would desire men. Among certain Nzima, same-gender attraction was not considered remarkable, and ‘friendship-marriages’ included dowries and festival banquets.[xxii] And as Rose Mary Amenga-Etego of the University of Ghana has written, the Nankani to this day practice woman-to-woman marriage: to raise children and immortalize families, to bind different families together, and to mark the bride’s coming of age.[xxiii]

Honourable Members of Parliament, how can you countenance a Bill that would criminalise the very Ghanaian research and scholarship that we cite in this memorandum? Would you sentence prominent scholars of Ghanaian culture such as Prof. Amenga-Etego and Prof. Oduyoye to prison terms of ‘not less than five years and not more than ten years,’ because they publish top-quality, peer-reviewed, and internationally recognised scholarly work?[xxiv]

As we know, it is incumbent upon the Government to ‘foster pride in Ghanaian culture.’[xxv] The specific customs described here doubtless have their plusses and minuses like all religious and cultural traditions, including present day forms of heterosexual marriage. Like the biodiversity of an ecological system, our cultural and religious diversity makes us resilient. It provides us with different ways to understand human sexuality, and different visions of Ghanaian family life. This diversity of life-styles, world-views, and spiritual traditions can nurture the strength and the wisdom of our nation; they are a treasure to protect, not a set of heresies to suppress.

Diversity Is a Ghanaian Value

For Christians, for Muslims, and for the people of Ghana, this kind of diversity is a virtue and a value.

Christians believe that God values diversity. God created us as one human family, each one’s difference giving glory to God. Though we are one body, we are all different members.[xxvi] Christians value social diversity; many of them believe that God’s Kingdom of justice and peace ‘gathers people of every race, language and way of life.’[xxvii] The Bible tells us that God’s Kingdom will be like a great tree, and that ‘birds of every kind will nest under it, taking shelter in the shade of its branches.’[xxviii] These images underline the religious value of difference for people of faith.

Muslims too believe that God values diversity. As the Qur’an tells us: ‘We have assigned to each of you a law and a way of life. If God had wanted, He could have made all of you a single community … So compete in doing what is good. You will all return to God, and He will clarify these matters about which you have differed.’[xxix] And again: ‘O humankind! Surely We have created you from a single male and female, and made you into tribes and families so that you may know one another.’[xxx] God makes us different because God wants us to experience those differences, to be enriched by them, and to use them for the good. There are many choices which human societies need to make – but about spiritual differences (like the best ways to be intimate and to love), the final word will be clarified when we see God face to face.

Sadly, lawmakers in other African nations have followed the lead of foreign groups like the US-based ‘World Congress of Families.’ When this group came to Ghana in 2019 at the invitation of the ‘National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values,’ they met with a number of parliamentarians and with the former President of the Republic of Ghana. Through money and political pressure, groups like the World Congress of Families have convinced legislators in numerous African nations to spread their religiously conservative ‘monoculture’ across the Continent. By promoting this type of legislation, these groups try to remake Africans in their cultural image.

We urge you to reject this kind of foreign monoculture, so that Ghanaians can integrate our appropriate customary values into the fabric of our national life in our own time, and in our own ways.[xxxi]


[i] Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, Article 35.

[ii] Ghanaian Criminal Code of 1960, section 104.1.b

[iii] ‘A person commits an offence if the person (e) holds out as a lesbian, a gay, a transgender, a transsexual, a queer, a pansexual, an ally, a non-binary, or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female’ (Clause 6.1; emphasis added).

[iv] ‘A person in whose presence an offence is committed under this Act shall report the commission of the offence to a police officer, or … a political leader, opinion leader or the customary authorities of the community’ (Clause 5.1). These ‘persons’ include a parent; a guardian; a teacher or any other educational or religious instructor; a church, a mosque or any other religious or traditional institution or organization’ (Clause 3.2.a-d).

[v] 1 Cor 13: 4-7.

[vi] Quran 1:1.

[vii] Clause 23 of the Bill allows Government Ministries to recognize and support ‘therapies’ for persons who are ‘questioning’ their sexuality. However, Clause 2 makes it clear that any identity which ‘questions’ heterosexuality is punishable under this law.

[viii] Clause 22.1 of the Bill prohibits ‘extra judicial treatment’ of people ‘accused of an offence under this Act,’ or of anyone associated with ‘LGBTTQQIAAP+’ identity. Yet Clause 22.3 of the Bill allows Ghanaians to incite ill-will, anger, and public outrage by broadcasting anti-gay propaganda (‘graphic description[s] of the behavioural pattern of a person engaged in an activity prohibited under this Act’).

[ix] Introduction to Draft Bill, p. 2.

[x] Draft Bill, Clauses 2 and 6.

[xi] Mercy Odyoye, ‘A Critique of Mbiti’s View on Marriage and Love in Africa,’ in Jacon K. Olupona and Sulayman S. Nyang, eds., Religious Plurality in Africa (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1993), 361.

[xii] Consider how God approves of “eunuchs” – a sexual minority – in Is 56:34, Mt 19:12, and Acts 8.

[xiii] ‘Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.” (Ru 1:16-18)

[xiv] Christopher Senyonjo, In Defense of All God’s Children: The Life and Ministry of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo. New York: Morehouse publishing, 2016.

[xv] Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988); Jeffrey S. Siker, ed., Homosexuality in the Church: Both Sides of the Debate (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994).

[xvi] This Bill defines ‘gender’ in a naïve and highly unscientific way. According to Clause 2 of the Bill, ‘“gender” means the binary sex categories of male and female assigned at birth, and the behavioural, cultural and psychological traits typically associated with either sex” (emphasis added). The Bill does not explain how to determine which traits are ‘typically associated’ with each gender. Nor does it explain which culture should prevail when different Ghanaian traditions associate conflicting traits with one gender (see the discussion below).

[xvii] Qur’an 28:68.

[xviii] Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, ‘The Homosexual Challenge to Muslim Ethics.’ Lamppost Education

Initiative. Accessed October 22, 2017. http://www.lamppostproductions.com/the-homosexualchallenge-

to-muslim-ethics/, 17-19.

[xix] Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen, ‘Sex Change in Cairo: Gender and Islamic Law,’ The Journal of the International Institute 2 no. 3 (Spring 1995) http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.4750978.0002.302.

[xx] Junaid Jahangir and Hussein Abdullatif, ‘Same-sex Unions in Islam,’ Theology & Sexuality 24 no. (2018): 157-173.

[xxi] Clause 10.2c of the Bill criminalises this traditional custom by defining ‘intentional crossdressing’ as a form of ‘gross indecency’ which is punishable under this Act.

[xxii] Will Roscoe and Stephen O. Murray, Boy-Wives and Female Husbands (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2021).

[xxiii] Rose Mary Amenga-Etego, ‘Marriage without Sex? Same-sex Marriages and Female Identity among the Nankani of Northern Ghana,’ Ghana Bulletin of Theology New Series 4 (Dec 2012): 14-37.

[xxiv] The Bill clearly intends to criminalise scholarly activity and publications that ‘promote’ the rights of ‘LGBTTQQIAAP+’ persons: for example, the right to discuss their lives and experience in a positive way; the right to create families with each other; the right to pursue local cultural traditions such as cross-dressing; and so on (see Clauses 12.1 and 12.2). The work of scholars like Amenga-Etego and Oduyoye would certainly be viewed as ‘promoting’ this kind of sexual diversity, and as undermining a narrow view of Ghanaian family values. Their work would certainly be subject to prosecution and proscription under this Bill.

[xxv] Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, Article 39.

[xxvi] 1 Cor 12.

[xxvii] Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II, Roman Catholic Church.

[xxviii] Ez17:23; cf. Mk 4:32.

[xxix] Qur’an 5:48.

[xxx] Qur’an 49:12.

[xxxi] Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, Article 39.

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The Unlawful Arrest of 21 Human Rights Defenders in Ghana

During a training held by Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA) partner organizations in the city of Ho in the Volta region of Ghana, 21 people, including 16 females and 5 males, were arrested by the Police. They have been charged with the offence of Unlawful Assembly under section 202 of the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).

“This charge is without any substance and I call that the 21 people, who have been unlawfully detained, be released immediately,” demands Davis Mac-Iyalla, Executive Director of IDNOWA.

The purpose of the assembly was to educate the participants about the human rights of LGBTIQ people and ways of reconciliation between LGBTIQ and religious perspectives. The training material that was confiscated by the police proves the purely educational character of the seminar: Books and flyers titled Hate Crime; The LGBTQ+ Muslim; Gender Acronyms; Coming Out; My Child, My Love Always; All About Trans; All About Intersex; Key Watch and One Love Sisters Ghana.

The action of the police was based on the false accusation that there were LGBT people out to recruit others. This idea is erroneous because lesbian, gay and bisexual people are born with their sexual orientation in the same way as heterosexuals are. As they are a minority, their human rights need to be protected against prejudices of the majority population as the incarceration by the police has shown once more.

“All participants are known to IDNOWA. Their training is legal and without any intention to commit a crime. The meeting was justified because of the human rights of the freedom of assembly and the freedom of religion,” declares Mac-Iyalla on behalf of IDNOWA. “We appeal to the government, religious leaders and civil society to use their influence to protect the human rights of the 21 people who are still be held without any due reason.”

On Pentecost Sunday (23rd of May 2021) a delegation of IDNOWA visited the 21 who are incarcerated in four different places. “We found them in a terrible state,”, explains Mac-Iyalla, “Some of them urgently need their daily medication against HIV. The genitalia of an intersex person were examined in a humiliating way. One of the innocent members has had a nervous breakdown because of their treatment. The sanitary situation is unbearable in some of the prisons they have been sent to. During our visit, we prayed together and assured them of our support.”

24th May, 2021

Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa

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International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT)

IDNOWA in recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, reaffirms our position that the human rights of all persons are universal and indivisible.

All persons are born free and equal with the same inalienable rights, and we condemn any threats to those rights on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all.

It deeply saddens us that nearly all countries in West Africa have direct or indirect laws criminalizing homosexuality or LGBT identity.

Many of those working to restrict the dignity and human rights of LGBT people are religious and faith leaders.  We ask, what has happened to the teaching of ‘Love Your Neighbour as yourself’?

IDNOWA is particularly concerned about the recent media storm toward the LGBTIQ community and the hostility to this community.

On this, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, and on all days, we stand together as the LGBT community to declare

  • that human rights are universal
  • that everyone is entitled to the same respect
  • that everyone is entitled to the same freedoms
  • that everyone is entitled to the same protections.

And IDNOWA will continue to support fight for and educate until this is accepted by all and for all.

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LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF

FOR IDNOWA ON IDAHOT 2021

I’ve been to West Africa four times, once each to Nigeria and Togo, as well as twice to Ghana. Before I travelled to Calabar in 1978 a former colleague, who had spent two years in Lagos while her husband was working there, told me that she’d seen no sign of anyone who was gay. On my return she asked me ‘Well, did you?’. I replied that I hadn’t met anyone who described themselves as ‘gay’ but I’d met a lot of men who enjoyed having sex with men.

I had a similar experience on each of my three other trips, yet I’ve heard many people claim that same-sex attraction is imported from ‘the west’ and is not indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa. Even if the language may often be culturally specific, the behaviour is certainly not.

When I was in Togo for an interfaith LGBT conference in 2007 with participants from at least seven West African countries, we were told that there are words describing same-sex behaviour in every local language pre-dating the colonial era.

I’m currently reading a recent novel by a Ghanaian writer in which she sensitively depicts same sex attraction between two African men in the Gold Coast (Ghana) nearly 300 years ago.

In our current situation it’s very important that those of us from elsewhere do not impose our culture on other countries, because that’s what was done by the British and others when they outlawed same-sex behaviour. Human sexuality is extraordinarily and wonderfully diverse and will defeat any attempt to police it with labels. None of us is exactly the same, thank God!

What is vital is to give each other wholehearted support to explore our sexuality, to discover who we are, to become who we might be, without harming someone else.

To do that we must stand together against all those who are so frightened of being different that they discriminate against and persecute people who are not ‘like them’. These people also need to be liberated from the fear of becoming distinctively themselves.

Stephen Coles

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Response to the Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding comments by the Primate of Nigeria

Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa welcomes the Archbishop of Canterbury statement calling the Nigerian Anglican Primate to order over his used of unchristian and uncharitable words to describe homosexual people. (See below)

The statements made by the Nigeria primate, Most Reverend Henry C Ndukuba, is totally unacceptable and should be denounced by all bishops of the Anglican communion. The statement goes on to use phrases like, “[homosexuality] is likened to a Yeast that should be urgently and radically expunged and excised lest it affects the whole dough.” It also states that “secular governments are adopting aggressive campaign for global homosexual culture.” (sic)

Davis Mac-Iyalla executive director of IDNOWA affirms once again, our goal to live our lives as LGBTQI persons in moral integrity without being threatened by criminal law or by the blackmailing that results from it; without being forced to hide our true selves and our love from our families and neighbours; without being driven into heterosexual marriages to conceal our sexual identity; without being excluded from education and from health services, without being condemned in sermons; without being excluded from the parishes we belong to.

Davis Mac-Iyalla
Executive Director

______

Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding comments by the Primate of Nigeria

05/03/2021

The Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Reverend Henry C Ndukuba, issued a statement on Friday 26 February 2021 which referred to “the deadly ‘virus’ of homosexuality”. The statement goes on to use phrases like, “[homosexuality] is likened to a Yeast that should be urgently and radically expunged and excised lest it affects the whole dough”. It also states that “secular governments are adopting aggressive campaign for global homosexual culture.” (sic)

I completely disagree with and condemn this language. It is unacceptable.It dehumanises those human beings of whom the statement speaks.

I have written privately to His Grace The Archbishop to make clear that this language is incompatible with the agreed teaching of the Anglican Communion (expressed most clearly, albeit in unsuitable language for today, in paragraphs c and d of resolution I.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998). This resolution both restated a traditional view of Christian marriage and was clear in its condemnation of homophobic actions or words. It affirmed that “all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”

The Anglican Communion continues to seek to walk together amidst much difference and through many struggles. I urge all Christians to join me in continuing prayer for the people and churches of Nigeria as they face economic hardship, terrorist attacks, religious-based violence and insecurity.

The mission of the church is the same in every culture and country: to demonstrate, through its actions and words, that God’s offer of unconditional love to every human being through Jesus Christ calls us to holiness and hope.

+Justin Cantuar:

The article can be found on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Website

https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/news/news-and-statements/statement-archbishop-canterbury-regarding-comments-primate-nigeria?fbclid=IwAR0eb07vj8by3JbqQCAQvAQzc_x-rX-lX0EDSWKKkRcYEeeI2ksylfmpK8k

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Open Letter from the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa to the Most Rev. Philip Naameh, Chair of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference

                                                                                                            Accra, March 01, 2021

Dear Most Rev. Philip Naameh,

We would like to thank you for your response to the statement that Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA) published on February 20, 2021. We really appreciate that you no longer speak of a crusade against LGBTQI people (and their organisations) who have established an office from which they can work for the recognition of human rights for LGBTQI people in Ghana. You made an important contribution to calm down the heated atmosphere.

We welcome that you have emphasized in radio interviews, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex people must be treated with respect and must not be discriminated against in the spheres of work and housing. This means a lot to us as our LGBTQI community is often confronted with exactly these problems.

However, we think that the Roman Catholic Church could do more, especially when it comes to providing health care and education. We face time and time again, pupils or those that are ill being refused help when he or she is identified or labelled as a gay, lesbian or trans person. You said that “[p]eople with homosexual inclinations are subjects of the Church’s pastoral care as anybody else is in the Church and outside of it.” We strongly welcome this. It would be a major improvement for our community members if Catholic hospitals and schools declared explicitly not to exclude LGBTQI people from their services.

Please, allow us to quote in addition the “Postsynodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia” (Nr. 250) to strengthen this point and to expand it to families: “The Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love to each person without exception. During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children. We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance.”

We would like to highlight the many words and deeds of Pope Francis by which he personally has given pastoral support to families with lesbian and gay children as well as to gay, lesbian and trans persons themselves. We think that his approach to meet personally with members of our community, to listen to our stories and to comfort us should be considered as a role model for every pastor of the Catholic Church, including in Ghana.

Having said this, we must admit that we do hold some dissenting views on the morality or immorality of the sexual expression of love between people of the same gender.

  • We believe that our sexual orientations and gender identities belong to God’s creation and are part of his plan for the salvation of humankind. They are not against nature; not a lifestyle that is learned somehow, but part of our very nature as humans created in the image of God. Our sexual and gender identity is formed during our upbringing from a combination of nature and nurture. The balance between the two is impossible to disentangle and varies between persons.
  • Our homosexual attraction is not a choice, but an integral part of the person we are. Of course, it is possible for us to control our sexual behaviour willingly, but if this expectation is stretched to our whole lives, as the Catholic norm for gays and lesbians does, we can only reject this norm as destructive to our psycho-social health and well-being. By saying that we must not express our identity sexually one is rendering it impossible for us to be fully human and is depriving us of the opportunity to grow in love and meaningful partnerships.
  • Based on the exegetical research, that has been published globally, we doubt that Biblical verses can be used to condemn all kinds of homosexual acts. The Bible does not condemn same-sex sexuality in stable, faithful, and loving relationships. Only those cases are rejected in which violence or exploitation destroy the ethical quality of such relationships. What has been presented in the doctrine of the Catholic Church as Biblical evidence for the condemnation of homosexuality succumbs to exegetical scrutiny, especially if the different times and cultural circumstances are considered carefully.
  • If we look at the Gospel, we find that Jesus’ message is welcoming to everybody. Jesus Christ has not made procreation a condition for becoming his disciple but has welcomed every believer and those who do the will of God as being a part of his family. This is our vision for the Church, too.
  • In the past decades, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has claimed the authority to decide about the morality or immorality of homosexual acts. However, more and more reports, such as those from an insider of the CDF, Krzysztof Charamsa, or from journalists, like Frédéric Martel, have given evidence that the staff of the CDF are strongly biased when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. Forgive us, if we say publicly that we do not consider this curial body as a binding authority in matters of homosexuality as long as this bias prevails and prevents the CDF from taking scientific and academic research into account appropriately.

Our goal is to live our lives as LGBTQI persons in moral integrity without being threatened by criminal law or by the blackmailing that results from it; without being forced to hide our true selves and our love from our families and neighbours; without being driven into heterosexual marriages to conceal our sexual identity; without being excluded from education and from health services, without being condemned in sermons; without being excluded from the parishes we belong to.

It would mean everything to us, if the Catholic Church in Ghana could become a partner who accompanies and support us on this path towards true moral integrity. Therefore, we would be delighted for the opportunity to meet with you in person and to share with you, in the spirit of dialogue, our experiences as LGBTQI people in Ghana. To start a conversation on how pastoral care for families with LGBTQI members could be put into place and become meaningful.

With kind regards,

Davis Mac Iyalla,

Executive Director of Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa

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A Response from The Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA) to The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) Declaration on Recent LGBTQI Activities in Ghana

The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) has published a declaration on recent LGBTQI activities in Ghana which comes as an intervention into the national conversation about the establishment of an LGBTI office in Accra.

“At the beginning of lent, the GCBC should come up with a message of reflection and repentance for the people of faith. Instead, it instigates violence and hate crimes against LGBTI people by using words such as ‘crusade’ against LGBTI in an affirmative way,” says Davis Mac-Iyalla, Executive Director of Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa.

Davis continues by asking: “Our local bishops have distorted the powerful message of mercy and pastoral care for LGBTI people and their families that Pope Francis promotes. How do they relate to the Pope who most recently has spoken out in favour of state laws for civil unions of same-sex couples and the right for LGBTI people to have a family?”

The arguments made by the GCBC are outdated and badly informed. When the bishops refer to biblical perspectives on homosexuality, they present interpretations that are outdated according to the theological standards of the Roman Catholic Church. In 2019, the Biblical Pontifical Commission has published a study on biblical anthropology in which it has expressed the conclusion that the story about Sodom and Gomorra in Genesis chapter 19 does not deal with homosexual people, but with sexual violence exercised by the (mostly) heterosexual men living in Sodom breaking the customary law of hospitality.

The GCBC translates the Greek word ‘arsenokoitai’ in 1 Corinthian 6:9f. and 1 Timothy 1:10 into two different meanings; ‘sodomites’ and ‘sexual perverts’ where in fact the literal translation is ‘male bedders’. From the cultural context of Greco-Roman antiquity, it is evident, that the verses refer to exploitative sexual relationships between men, but not to durable ones based on love and mutual care. This shows not only how careless the GCBC translations are, but also that the exact meaning of the Greek word is less than clear for us today.

“In the discussions of the Bible’s teaching, we often miss the references in the Gospels of its warm message of inclusion and of welcoming. Why is it not possible for the Catholic bishops to apply this to LGBTI people?” asks Davis Mac-Iyalla.

When the bishops refer to the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality, they base it on a heteronormative interpretation of the creation accounts in Genesis chapter 1 and 2. They connect these chapters with the idea of an order of nature with the ‘rich symbolism and meaning’ of sexual activity in heterosexual marriage. This theological anthropology ignores that sexual orientation is considered a variety within the norm according to medical and psychological academic standards. While referring to the allegedly ‘right reason’ they side-line scientific knowledge with detrimental effects for lesbian and gay people.

The title of the GCBC declaration makes the reader expect that it is dealing with “LGBTQI” activities in Ghana. However, the theological issues of gender identity of trans people and sex characteristics of intersex people are not addressed at all which again shows a lack of intellectual diligence by the authors of this document.

IDNOWA welcomes the declaration that the GCBC sees LGBTI people as humans with human rights, even though this should go without saying (See article 1 and 2 of UN declaration of Human rights). These human rights include, among others, the right to physical integrity; equality and non-discrimination education in school and the freedom of religion/beliefs and the right to have a family. By rejecting attempts of LGBTI organisations to have a common office from where they can pursue the goal to realize their human rights, the GCBC practically denies the human rights of LGBTI people. The GCBC falsely reduces the plethora of human rights to the one right to marry a same-sex partner and ignores all others. Human rights are indivisible and indeed article 30 of the UN declaration of human rights, says that no group should act in a way that would destroy the rights and freedoms of others.

“The declaration of the GCBC lacks the empathy and understanding for the situation of the lives of LGBTI people in Ghana,” Says Mac-Iyalla. “The IDNOWA would like to start a personal dialogue with Ghanaian Catholic Church leaders to help provide a better starting point for the pastoral work of the church and to help the GCBC make their support of the human rights of LGBTI people more effective for the future.”

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A Response to the remarks made by Nigerian Catholic Priest Fr. Kelvin Ugwu On Why Homosexuals are allowed to marry in Catholic Church

Recently Fr. Kelvin Ugwu, a Nigerian Catholic Priest spoke out about his views of Gay marriage .

It was a very confusing article from the go with Fr Kelvin saying that being homosexual is not normal and that such people need help.  Later in the article he says he does not think homosexuals should be condemn but then spends the rest of the article doing just that.

Fr. Kelvin says he has done extensive research on the topic of homosexuality but he only ever quotes from articles and research from the early 70’s and 80’s  which have all been superseded by much more modern thinking and research about the LGBT community. However, Fr. Kelvin completely disregards this more modern reports. He goes on to say that Pope Francis recent remarks on gay marriage and LGBT community in the church have been totally misquoted and misunderstood.

Fr Kelvin begins the article saying he feels forced to accept homosexual people but totally disagree with the notion that it is a natural behaviour for humans to be homosexual. He says that homosexuals like to justify their behaviour by comparing homosexual behaviour in animals. He does not believe this can be be used as an argument in favour of such behaviour in humans as normal.

Then again, I say, nor should the absence of homosexual animal behaviour be used as an argument that homosexuality among humans is ‘against nature’. Platon and Christian authors from antiquity have made such arguments before that form the basis of the ‘against nature’ argument.

Interestingly, Fr Kelvin does not speak in terms of ‘against nature’, but writes, ‘not normal’. The word normal in fact has 2 meanings: the average and then also the normative. Fr. Kelvin does not make it clear about which meaning he is referring to.

Fr Kelvin says he ‘stumbled’ on a manual of mental disorders published in 1968 by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) which says that homosexuality is a mental disorder. He says that gay activists ‘threatened APA with strong words’ to make them remove this which they did in 1973.

Fr Kelvin is using a myth. No member was ever forced to vote for the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder; they responded to a change of social reality which made them understand that homosexuals are mentally completely functioning. Is Fr. Kelvin insinuating that lesbian and gays are mentally ill? In Germany, they compared this kind of collective understanding with that of the hunting of witches, which was also based on irrational myths and beliefs.

Fr. Kelvin talks about actions that former US President Obama did to Uganda over their anti-gay laws.  He never elaborates what actions he is talking about nor do I remember what he did, but I do know that Obama acted against the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts. Fr Kelvin does not mention this grave punishment at all. Why is he silent about this? He, instead, uses simple anti-colonial rhetoric by connecting anti-homosexual statements found on Facebook with access to visas.

Fr Kelvin seems to believe that Pope Francis has been misquoted. He wants to make us believe that the Pope is just a nice guy to everybody; that the Pope has no clear understanding of what he says. He does not take into consideration that Francis did really want to say what he said. By this, Fr. Kelvin shows no respect to the Pope.

In addition, as a Catholic priest, Fr. Kelvin says nothing on what he, himself does to welcome LGBT people in his own parish. What kind of pastoral care does he offer to them? How does he follow the numerous examples that Pope Francis has given?

A recent article in Independent Catholic News (Matthew Charlesworth SJ- https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/40759) talks about a new documentary by Evgeny Afineevsky entitled ‘Francesco’ in which the Pope is reported to say, ‘Homosexual people have a right to be in a family … They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it.’

This is obviously a continuity of the opinion that the pope holds on civil unions because he already supported them when he was archbishop in Buenos Aires. He considers same-sex couples in the framework of the family and accepts that they need to have rights in order to live undisturbed.

Fr. Kelvin, on the other hand, does not come close to understanding this perspective at all.  He does not use the framework of human rights when it comes to LGBT people.

But I do agree on one thing that Fr. Kelvin says at the end of his report, indeed do ‘pray for your Christian Leaders’ and do ‘prayer for the Pope.’ However, I suspect I might well be praying for a very different outcome.

Davis Mac-Iyalla
October 2020

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The Misuse of freedom of speech – A Nation’s tragedy

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

― United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

There is no doubt that the Freedom of Speech is one of the greatest human rights any person can have and yet it is also one of the greatest to be trampled on in the world today.

One of the biggest misconceptions nowadays is that our freedom of speech not only can be exercised but should be exercised at any cost.  The problem with the world today is that everyone believes they have the right to express their opinion AND have others listen to it no matter what that might do to the feelings of others.  Freedom of speech in 2020 has been abused and misused mainly by the media.

The most attentive and influential use of freedom of speech is through the elements of the media. This spans from public speaking to news reports, to social media. In the world today, these mediums have become discriminative, unpleasant and in many cases, just downright barbarous.

We have seen the social media space fill up with malicious content, trolling and cyber bullying. It seems that the anonymity that social media can provide leads to many users to believe they can say whatever they want while hiding behind their online profile. But even the print media is adorned with writeups and commentaries that contest people’s fundamental human rights.

In Ghana or Nigeria, we see the majority use media as a tool for driving injustice and infringing on constitutional human rights. When it comes to expressing opinions, people do not have a problem doing so either by phone, email, social media or even in person. However, the global nature of online media means the abuse is immediate and far reaching. 

The ease of accessibility to social media means that anyone can express their opinions to the downfallof another person simply because they do not like the person or what the person may represent.

Some 3.5 billion people in the world today connect via social media.  That is 45% of the world population. Social media can bring people closer together, form links across social and economic divide; bring minority groups togetherfor positive reinforcement; but too often it is used to judge others, to belittle minorities, groups and individuals. Social media is becoming a forum where judging others is the norm and there is an increase in people crossing the boundaries of constitutional rights.

Freedom of speech is scaling new heights everyday but with disregard of the consequences of misusing it; consequences that include suicide and social suicide. People become so engulfed in their virtual lives that that they often fail to realise that the quest for social media relevance may be tied to another’s downfall.

Celebrities, politicians, authors, and the general public, are exposed to cruel and perverted individuals who believe that they can say whatever they want, whenever they want to say it no matter what the consequences may be. Various mainstream issues such as gay rights, feminism, equal pay or gender equality are being fuelled by people who are ignorant to culture, because they feel the need to express what they believe despite being politically incorrect.

Yes, freedom of speech dies give us the right to express how we feel, but it does not give us the right to degrade, humiliate, curse or abuse people.

Social media has changed the way we live our lives. From the way we get our news to the way we interact with our loved ones. Social media is everywhere. It’s unavoidable, it’s powerful, and it’s here to stay, but this form of freedom of speech should not be misused, abused, and thrown around, like trash.

People, we need to think before speaking; before typing.  We need to show empathy, see past what we disagree with and not hide behind our online profile.

Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing; a great human right, but it is also dangerous and we need to use it with responsibility.

Davis Mac-Iyalla

Executive Director Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa

Fellow, Outright International Advocacy UN Religious Program 2020

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World Congress of Families to Boost Export of LGBTIQ-phobia in West Africa

The World Congress of Families (WCF), designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, announced last week that a regional conference would be held on October 31 and November 1 in Accra, Ghana, marking an expansion of its right-wing fundamentalist agenda in West Africa.

 Formed in Russia in 1997 by American right-wing thinkers and Russian counterparts, the World Congress of Families is one of the major driving forces of the global promotion of an anti-choice and anti-LGBTIQ agenda. Using pseudo-human rights language about the rights of the family, the child, and freedom of religion, WCF promotes conservative ideologies centered around concepts of “natural law” and “natural family” through laws criminalizing LGBTIQ people and sexual and reproductive health and rights, in particular abortion, both at a national and international level.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, Executive Director, Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa, comments:

“It is extremely concerning to see the group expand its interest in West-Africa; its presence will undoubtedly increase social stigma and discrimination against LGBTIQ people, especially those living with HIV/AIDS. Same-sex relations are still criminalized in the majority of the region, violence, and harassment of LGBTIQ people are ripe, so LGBTIQ people are already living in hiding and in fear for their lives. We fear that the congress will come with an even harsher agenda, and ample resources for increasing hate against LGBTIQ people in West Africa.”

WCF is well-connected, well-resourced and influential, and has, to a greater or lesser degree, influenced the passing of barbaric laws such as the anti-homosexuality act in Uganda, the same-sex marriage prohibition act in Nigeria, and the notorious so-called gay-propaganda law in Russia.

Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, comments:

This is not the first instance of American Evangelicals and organizations exporting homophobia and transphobia around the world. Their agenda stands in stark contrast to basic human rights standards, instead openly inciting attacks on human dignity, and promoting a long out-dated world of religious domination and stark gender inequalities. We have to work across civil society and state boundaries to support activists in West Africa and ensure that an already hostile environment for LGBTIQ people and women does not become even more so.

The congress brings together participants from right-wing civil society organizations, such as Citizen Go and Family Watch International, religious groups, as well as elected officials, religious leaders, scholars and others. It provides a platform for strategizing on further promotion of the fundamentalist agenda.

Taken from

https://www.curvemag.com/News/World-Congress-of-Families-to-Boost-Export-of-LGBTIQ-phobia-in-West-Africa/