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Court delays action on Ghana’s harsh anti-LGBTQ bill

Court delays action on Ghana’s harsh anti-LGBTQ bill

Ghana’s president won’t act on anti-LGBTQ bill until Supreme Court makes a ruling.

Ghana Supreme Court (Photo courtesy of Ghana News Agency)
Ghana Supreme Court (Photo courtesy of Ghana News Agency)

Ghana’s Supreme Court today delayed action  on two challenges to the harsh anti-LGBTQ bill that Parliament approved in February. Until the Supreme Court rules, President Nana Akufo-Addo says he will not act on the bill, which needs his signature in order to become law,

The court granted time both for the complainants and for the lawyer for Parliament Speaker Alban Bagbin to present amended pleadings.

Modern Ghana’s headline for its coverage of the court hearing was “Supreme Court adjourns anti-LGBTQI bill case indefinitely, orders Speaker Bagbin’s team to submit new documents”.

If enacted, the bill would expand on Ghana’s current law that provides a three-year prison sentence for same-sex intimacy. The new bill would add the same punishment  for people who:

  • Identify as (“hold out as”) LGBTQ;
  • Participate in gender-reassignment surgery; or
  • Enter into a same-sex marriage or attend a same-sex wedding.

It would also impose prison sentences of up to 10 years on people who “promote” LGBTQ activity.

The Advocate wrote about today’s hearing:

Ghana Supreme Court suspends televised hearing on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

By Donald Padgett

The Supreme Court of Ghana agreed to televise hearings on two challenges to the country’s proposed anti-LGBTQ+ law, then promptly adjourned proceedings for a week, GhanaWeb reported.

The Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Act would outlaw all forms of same-sex sexual relations as well as those between humans and animals, and calls for prison sentences for people identifying as LGBTQ+ and for individuals forming or funding LGBTQ+ groups. Parliament passed the bill in February, but President Nana Akufo-Addo has refused to sign it until the Court resolves the current legal challenges.

The lawsuits before the Court were filed by broadcaster and lawyer Richard Sky and concerned citizen D. Amanda Odoi, who claim the law is unconstitutional on multiple grounds. In addition to the claim that the law violates fundamental human rights enshrined in the constitution, the process by which the law was passed, and the expenditure of public funds required to implement the law have been challenged. Speaker of the Parliament Alban Bagbin and Parliament are also accused of passing the bill without a proper quorum.

Lawyer and broadcaster RIchard Sky filed suit with the Ghana Supreme Court, saying that the anti-LGBTQ bill violates many provisions of the Constitution of Ghana. (Photo courtesy of Daily Guide Network)
Lawyer and broadcaster Richard Sky filed suit with the Ghana Supreme Court, saying that the anti-LGBTQ bill violates many provisions of the Constitution of Ghana. (Photo courtesy of Daily Guide Network)

Sky’s suit requests the law be declared “null, void, and of no effect,” that the Speaker be prevented from presenting the bill to the President for signature, and that the President be prevented from signing it into law.

Sparks flew at today’s hearing, which was broadcast live at the request of Attorney General Godfred Dame, who recommended the “media (including radio and television) be given full access to the relevant courts to undertake a coverage of all proceedings” in a letter to the Chief Justice Gertrude Torkoornoo.

The government was quickly reprimanded by the Court for challenging a request by Sky to amend his lawsuit, saying the matter had been previously settled and that the plaintiffs were allowed to present their cases as they saw fit.

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“You have wasted our time and energy for no reason,” Torkoonroo told Thaddeus Sory representing Speaker Bagbin, Modern Ghana reported.

The court later noted the harsh language used in documents submitted by the government, and indefinitely adjourned proceedings until the government could resubmit the documents.

Ghana is facing widespread international condemnation and potential financial devastation over the bill.

Documents from the country’s finance ministry, reported by Reuters, reveal that the bill could lead to a loss of $3.8 billion in World Bank financing within the next five to six years, derailing a $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan package.

“I feel very strongly about the importance of supporting the freedom and supporting the fighting for equality among all people, and that all people be treated equally,” Harris said at a joint press conference with Akufo-Addo. “I will also say that this is an issue that we consider and I consider to be a human rights issue, and that will not change.”

Today’s proceedings challenging the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Act before Ghana’s Supreme Court can be viewed below.

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