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‘LGBTQ+ people would have originated from Africa’, says Davis Mac-Iyalla: ‘We are everywhere’

Written by Sophie Perry. The complete article can be found at

Davis Mac-Iyalla has spent years campaigning for the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Ghana.
(The Kaleidoscope Trust)

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”.

Davis Mac-Iyalla has fought for LGBTQ+ rights for years. (Davis Mac-Iyalla)

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”.

Homosexuality has been criminalised in Ghana since 1892 when the country was under colonial British rule.

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.

The media suggested Mac-Iyalla’s palanquin fell because he is gay (Davis Mac-Iyalla)

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. 

This bill came amid increased negative public and media focus on queer people, following the raid of an LGBTQ+ centre in Accra and the arrests of 21 human rights activists, who were charged with “unlawful assembly” for attending training on documenting human rights violations against LGBTQ+ people. 

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.”

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Pope, Anglican, Presbyterian Leaders Denounce Anti-Gay Laws

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 from Associated Press

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (2ndR), Pope Francis (2ndL) and Church of Scotland’s Iain Greenshields (3rdR) address the media while aboard the plane from Juba to Rome on Feb. 5, 2023. (AFP)


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.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (R) and Church of Scotland’s Iain Greenshields address the media while aboard the Pope’s plane from Juba to Rome, Feb. 5, 2023 (AFP)

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.”

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Exclusive: Millions in Western aid flowed to churches in Ghana despite years of campaigning against LGBTQI+ rights

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.   

From CNN

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.”

The full story can be found here From CNN

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

Report by Colin Stewart

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 -:

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

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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.


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).

[2] US Conference of Catholic Bishops.