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Pray with IDNOWA

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
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IDNOWA is Celebrating 6 Years

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.

Here’s to next 6 years.

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ILGA World Conference 2022.  Held 2-6 May 2022, Long Beach, California. 

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. 

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Anti-gay vs. gay-friendly religion go head-to-head in Ghana

Report by Colin Stewarthttps://76crimes.com/2022/03/13/anti-gay-vs-gay-friendly-religion-go-head-to-head-in-ghana/

The Presbyterian Church of Ghana has come out in favor of harsh penalties for public displays of same-sex affection and for anyone who supports LGBTQ rights — harsher penalties than those in Ghana’s controversial anti-LGBTQ bill currently awaiting action in Parliament. As soon as the church announced its position, it was promptly disputed by the LGBTQ-friendly Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA).

Dr. Rev. Benzies Isaac Adu-Okeree, chairman of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, testifies on March 10 before the Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which is studying the anti-LGBTQ bill. (Screen capture courtesy of My Joy Online)

Under Ghana’s current laws, consensual same-sex intimacy is punishable by up to three years in prison. In addition to many other homophobic provisions, the anti-LGBTQ bill would increase that punishment to three to five years in prison.

The bill would also make it a crime to work to establish LGBTQ rights (in the words of the bill, “encouraging or promoting … any activity that undermines the proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values stipulated in the Bill.”  The punishment would be two to four months in prison.

Further, the bill would demand a six- to 12-month prison sentence for public displays of same-sex affection.

The Presbyterian Church argued for passage of the anti-LGBTQ bill, but said that some of its provisions are too lenient.  In every case, the church says, the minimum sentence should be three years.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, chief executive of IDNOWA, testified against the bill at a previous hearing of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

In response to the Presbyterian Church’s remarks on March 10, Mac-Iyalla said, “I still don’t understand which God is leading the Ghana Presbyterian Church to believe that the far-reaching anti-LGBTIQ Bill is not bad enough and calls for hasher law.”

Below are Mac-Iyalla’s responses to the statements made to the committee by Dr. Rev. Benzies Isaac Adu-Okeree, chairman of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.

Adu-Okeree told the committee that extended sentences are “needed to deter unacceptable behaviours that are injurious to the common good of society.”

Mac-Iyalla said, “True religion calls us to love, mercy and compassion. Love does not dishonor others.”

Adu-Okeree said that homosexuality is taboo both in Christianity and in traditional Ghanaian culture.

Mac-Iyalla said, “That is false. There are different beliefs about marriage, gender and sexual ethics among Christians, among Muslims and among traditional religious communities. This is true throughout Ghana, I believe straight or gay are made by God and none is taboo. Neither is homosexuality.

Adu-Okeree implied that homosexuality is like incest and bestiality.

Mac-Iyalla said, “Homosexuals are not created in labs, they are natural. It’s only when you allow incestuous reproduction that you have actual moral issues.”

Adu-Okeree said, “The practice and the promotion of [LGBTQ people] is in complete conflict of the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ and against the values and norms of the Ghanaian culture.”

Mac-Iyalla said, “As a Bible-believing Christian, I disagree, Genesis Chapter 1 describes God’s act of creation. I know from the Scriptures, and from scientific discovery, how endlessly diverse God’s creation has been.”

Adu-Okeree said that allowing the [LGBTQ] community’s activities “to fester” … “puts the human race’s natural existence in jeopardy.”

Mac-Iyalla said, “The Book of Leviticus contains list of forbidden behaviors, some of which are called abominations. These are rules about what counts as kosher, similar to the Muslim laws of halal and haram, They should not be the basis for Ghanaian secular laws.”

Reports about Adu-Okeree’s testimony came from Freedom Radio GH and My Joy Online.

The full article can be found here -: https://76crimes.com/2022/03/13/anti-gay-vs-gay-friendly-religion-go-head-to-head-in-ghana/

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Anti-LGBTQI bill is trying to codify into law spirit of mob action, violence and vigilantism

Myjoyoline.com reports on Davis Mac-Iyalla, Executive of IDNOWA, recently addressing The Ghanaian Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on the proposed Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021. myjoyonline.com

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IDNOWA Presentation to Parliament, Thursday 17 February 2022

On Thursday 17th February, IDNOWA founder and Executive Director, Davis Mac-Iyalla, addressed the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of the Ghanaian Parliament about the proposed Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021. You can watch the session via GBC youtube channel Davis starts his speech at 32 minutes.

Davis addressed the committee in a clear and appropriate manner. Pointing out the following:-

Violence against Ghanaian Citizens

This Bill codifies into law a spirit of mob violence and vigilantism that already stalks many parts of our land.

In recent years, sexual minorities in Ghana have been attacked by mobs, subjected to sexual assault, and subjected to intimidation and extortion. Human rights organizations have documented dozens of beatings, and arrests of sexual minority people in Ghana in the past seven years. Sexual minorities suffer entrapment and blackmail on social media. They are subjected to sexual assault, and subjected to intimidation and extortion.

For instance, “in August 2015 in Nima, Accra, a young man was allegedly brutally assaulted by members of a vigilante group known as Safety Empire, simply because they suspected he was gay. In May 2016 in a village outside Kumasi in the Ashanti region, the mother of a young woman organized a mob to beat up her daughter because she suspected the young woman was a lesbian. The girl and her friend were forced to flee from the village. … One woman said that when her family heard that she was associating with LGBT people, they chased her out of the house with a machete; since then, she has not been able to go back home to visit her two-year-old daughter. Another woman from Kumasi said that when her family suspected she was a lesbian, they took her to a prayer camp where she was severely beaten over a period of one month.” A young man from Kumasi told human rights monitors “that in 2016 he was raped by a man he had met on social media, but did not report the rape to the police out of fear that he would be arrested for having ‘gay sex’.”[i]

Sexual minorities in Africa are no strangers to hatred and violence. For their human rights work with sexual minorities, David Kato was murdered in Uganda; Fanny Eddy was murdered in Sierra Leon. This Bill enshrines hatred into law. It will increase stigma towards those who are viewed as different or non-conforming. It will legitimize hatred from neighbours, strangers, and police officers, and even from people within one’s own family. Meanwhile, the Ghanaian parents who I speak to are worried for their LGBTI children. They fear for the safety of their daughters and sons. Honourable Members, the law in Ghana already expresses the majority view of Ghanaians: that the sexual affection between males should be seen as a misdemeanour. This Bill only stigmatizes our fellow citizens and penalizes those who love and support them. It will instigate more violence. It will cause more social division when Ghanaians should be coming together to confront multiple crises: like COVID, debt, climate change, and regional instability. It will only inflame emotions, and deepen divisions.


[i] https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/01/08/no-choice-deny-who-i-am/violence-and-discrimination-against-lgbt-people-ghana

Respect for Sexual Diversity

Respect for gender diversity and sexual diversity has been part of our African heritage since long before European culture was imposed on the peoples of Western Africa. For example, among the Igbo, women have taken on male leadership roles for many centuries; they can even become ‘male daughters’ and ‘female husbands’ if the need should arise. Among the Ashanti, men did not used to be stigmatized for dressing as women or for being intimate with each other. Among the Fante, one might desire women or men, according to the type of soul one was born with. Among the Nzima, same-gender attraction was unremarkable, and ‘friendship-marriages’ included dowries and festival banquets. To this day, the Nankani practice woman-to-woman marriage; and Dagaaba spiritual leaders respect same-sex attraction. Scholars and theologians from across the world, and from right here in Ghana, have documented these cultural norms.[i]

Respect for gender diversity and sexual diversity remains hotly debated among Christian and Muslim scholars. There are arguments over monogamy and polygamy. There are arguments over the correct interpretation of Scripture, tradition, and Hadith. Many Christians argue in favour of accepting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex people on the basis of Biblical texts; others quote the Bible to condemn them. Many Muslims argue in favour of accepting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex people on the basis of Islamic principles and of numerous fatwas; others claim that Islam condemns sexual minorities.

We propose that respect for gender diversity and sexual diversity is the real family value that we must defend. Many family members believe that their children are a gift. One mother said to me, “Should I hang my son because he looks feminine? My child is a gift from God, and I accept my child in whichever way he turns out.”

African cultures value love and connection; we used to hold hands, we used to walk arm-in-arm. Today, friends and family think twice about expressing affection, for fear of being called lesbian or gay. This Bill seeks to impose a narrow vision of family and of gender-correctness that is neither African, nor Ghanaian, nor universally recognized by Christians and Muslims. It is a vision that came to us in the colonial era, and that conservative Christians have decided to embrace. Perhaps it is God’s vision, and perhaps it is not.

Is this a question for Parliament to decide?


[i] These include Marc Epprecht, an award-winning Canadian scholar who writes about ecology, economic development, and sexual health in former British colonies on the African continent; Rose Mary Amenga-Etego, Associate Professor in Religious Studies at the University of Ghana; and Mercy Amba Oduyoye, a Ghanaian Methodist scholar who is the current director of the Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture at Trinity Theological Seminary in Ghana, and is considered to be one of the leading Protestant theologians in Africa.

The Dignity of LGBTI Persons

The LGBTI citizens of Ghana insist that “there should be nothing about us, decided without us.” LGBTI persons deserve to be heard as this law is discussed and debated.

Some who advocate persecuting LGBTI people claim that sexual minorities are sexual predators, or that there is a link between LGBTI identity and paedophilia. This kind of lie must be called out as false. LGBTI people are not sexual predators. For example, the latest data from Ghana, in 2019, show that over 90% of cases of gang rape, incest, and sexual abuse perpetrated by male ministers of religion, were perpetrated on females by males. Sexual abuse in Ghana is a heterosexual problem.[1]

True religion calls us to love, mercy, and compassion. As St. Paul teaches us, ‘Love is patient, [and] love is kind. … It does not dishonour others, … it is not easily angered, … it rejoices in the truth.’ As the Holy Qur’an teaches us, Allah is first and foremost ‘Compassionate’ and ‘Merciful.’

We believe that “every person is precious,” and that “the measure of every” law must be “whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity” of each person within the society.


[2] We believe that everyone should love their neighbour – no exceptions for LGBTI.

[1] Quarshie, E.NB., Davies, P.A., Acharibasam, J.W. et al. Clergy-Perpetrated Sexual Abuse in Ghana: A Media Content Analysis of Survivors, Offenders, and Offence Characteristics. J Relig Health (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-021-01430-3

[2] US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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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

Blog, Press

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.

Blog, Press

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