Anti-gay uproar has led to the closure of an LGBTQI community centre in Ghana.

The community centre was set up by LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana in the capital city of Accra. Although the centre is meant to be a safe space for LGBTQI people, the opening of the centre led to an increase in online abuse and discrimination for queer people.

“This morning, our office was raided by National Security. A few days ago, traditional leaders threatened to burn down our office but the police did not help. At this moment, we no longer have access to our safe space and our safety is being threatened,” wrote LGBT+ Rights Ghana on their Facebook page, urging human rights organisations to speak out against the attack.

Ghana criminalises “unnatural carnal knowledge” in section 104(1) (b) of its Criminal Offences Act, which authorities interpret as “penile penetration of anything other than a vagina.” While this law is hardly enforced, discrimination, violence and psychological abuse of LGBTQI people are widespread. LGBTQI people have often been subjected to mob violence, brutal sexual assault, intimidation, and extortion.

Fatima Derby, a feminist writer, cautioned that politicians would try to leverage this opportunity to “gain favour by being homophobic” considering that is how the majority of the population is.

“It’s really disappointing the way the space has been treated. It’s also really disappointing the way LGBTQI+ individuals have been treated by politicians, religious leaders, and even ordinary citizens,” she said.

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 Ghana Catholic Church Bishop’s conference released a statement on Saturday demanding the permanent closure of the centre. The statement also urged the government not to “succumb to the pressure to legalise the rights of LGBTQIs in Ghana.”

Politicians have also defended anti-gay sentiments in the name of Ghanaian culture.

“This issue of LGBTQI is an issue that when mentioned creates some controversy, but what I want to say is that our laws are clear on such practices. It makes it criminal,” said Sarah Adwoa Safo, newly elected Minister For Gender And Children, last week. “The criminality of LGBTQI is non-negotiable and our cultural practices also frown on it.”

“We should be able to contemplate legislation in the interest of public morality, which will not be against the constitution but will now say that you cannot advocate for and promote LGBTQI activities in this country,” said Koro Oppong Nkrumah, Ghana’s Information Minister, at a press conference. He also mentioned the possibility of the government introducing legislation against LGBTQI advocacy.

LGBTQI people in socially conservative Ghana experience abuse on a regular basis in the private sphere, especially by family members who exercise control over their lives and sexuality. Homophobic statements by local and national government officials and religious institutions are extremely detrimental to the social and mental well-being of queer people, as they tend to incite violence in their communities.

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