LGBTQI rights activists are calling for the release of 21 people arrested yesterday at a meeting in southeastern Ghana where they were being trained to document and report violations of the human rights of LGBTQI Ghanaians.
They were arrested at a hotel in Ho, Ghana, on a charge of unlawful assembly. A spokesman for the Volta region of the Ghana Police Service said the 21 people were “advocating LGBTQI activities”.
The arrests came amid a surge of anti-gay activity in Ghana, including a police raid in February that shuttered the newly opened offices of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, the arrests (and prompt release) in March of 14 people at a party that police thought was a gay wedding, and plans by members of parliament to enact a law that would “criminalize LGBT+ people”.
Ghana already has a law providing up to three years in prison for people convicted of same-sex sexual activity.
The human rights organization Rightify Ghana stated, “Sadly, the Ghana Police decided to arrest 21 persons for holding a community empowerment activity and charging them with ‘unlawful assembly’.”
Rightify Ghana reported that “the press teamed up with the police to storm the meeting location, started taking images, took their belongings and arrested them.”
“From the voice messages and videos we received yesterday, the journalists held the 21 LGBTQI persons hostage for close to an hour while waiting for the police to arrive,” Rightify Ghana stated.
The human rights organization LGBT+ Rights Ghana protested, “The police is supposed to protect us, not discriminate against us.”
“Freedom of assembly is not illegal,” commented Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).
The hashtag for the campaign to free the Ho arrestees is #ReleaseThe21.
[Update: On May 23, supporters of LGBTQ rights in Ghana launched a GoFundMe page to help free the 21 detainees and provide them with food, water, personal hygiene items and toiletries. Within a few hours, it had collected $1,635.]
The 21 people who were arrested included “16 females and 5 males suspected to be lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex”, police spokesman Prince Dogbatse stated.
The Ho Circuit Court today remanded them into police custody to await a court hearing on June 4.
“The court presided over by Justice Felix Dadzomor declined the bail application by the counsel for the accused persons”, according to Ghana-based Graphic Online.
A police investigation of the group’s activities found books and flyers including “Hate Crime”, “The LGBTQ+ Muslim”, “Gender Acronyms”, “Coming Out”, “My Child: My Love Always”, “All About Trans” and “All About Intersex”, the police spokesman stated.
In its press release, the Police Command “assures the public of its resolve to get to the bottom of this issue whilst also cautioning the public, particularly parents, to be wary of activities of persons involved in this misbehaviour and report them to the Police”.