Blog, Press

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

Blog, Events, Press

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.

Blog, Press

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.

Blog, Press

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

Blog, Press

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