The Ghanaian government says it will not allow LGBT+ activists to hold their conference in the country after a massive outcry from conservative Christian groups in the West African country.
The gathering of activists which is scheduled for July would have been the first of its kind in West Africa.
It aims to assemble leaders of the LGBT+ community to share ideas and work together on changing discriminatory laws that pertain in several African countries, according to organisers.
According to the latest report from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), there are 32 countries in Africa including Ghana that still view same-sex relations as a crime.
This case and many others relating to the LGBT+ community have sparked many heated debates in the region even though it is still a taboo to even talk about LGBT+ rights.
“(The) Ghana government won’t allow such (a) conference and that is it,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
When asked if it was due to the recent coronavirus pandemic, he said it was “not because of coronavirus”.
A spokesman for President Nana Akufo-Addo verified the ban in a text message.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Pan-Africa ILGA, the South Africa-based association coordinating the event, said on Thursday she could not make a statement and declined to say whether it was cancelled.
So many anti-gay groups in Ghana spoke out vehemently against the upcoming conference and campaigned against it as well. Last week, they called on the government not to issue visas to the program’s organizers.
In a bid to influence the government, one group started an online petition to stop the event and it received about 19,000 signatures in a week.
“The current laws of Ghana … criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activities between adults, therefore it is clearly illegal for ILGA to hold a conference here in Ghana representing a group that promotes these activities,” said Advocates for Christ Ghana in a letter to the President.
So far, Ghana has not prosecuted anyone for having same -sex relations in recent years, but LGBT+ people are not immune to open and frequent abuse and discrimination such as violent attacks and blackmail, according to human rights researchers.
LGBT+ activists in Ghana, who hosted a major international conference organised by the World Congress of Families, a U.S.-based Christian organisation that promotes an anti-LGBT+ agenda are angry with the government’s decision.
“The debate seems to be one-sided,” said Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Ghana-based LGBT+ activist and head of the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa.
“Why do the conservatives tend to hold the monopoly to organise but can block others with different views?”