Ghanaian authorities have shut an LGBT resource centre that was recently opened in the country’s capital, Accra, following a public outcry.
“We no longer have access to our safe space and our safety is being threatened. We call on all human rights organizations, and allies to speak out against these attacks and hate crimes we are being subjected to,” the LGBT+ Rights Ghana group said on Twitter.
“We did not expect such an uproar,” said Alex Kofi Donkor, director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which hosted the center’s launch on Jan. 31 attended by European and Australian diplomats.
“We expected some homophobic organizations would use the opportunity to exploit the situation and stoke tension against the community, but the anti-gay hateful reaction has been unprecedented,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. LGBT+ people face widespread persecution in the West African nation where gay sex is punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment.
Rights groups, including National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC), have been calling on the government to close the centre.
Photos of the opening were widely circulated, eliciting mixed reactions.
The National Coalition for Proper Sexual Rights and Family Values, which brings together Christian, Muslim, and traditional leaders opposed to LGBT+ rights, is among those seeking to close down the center, along with prominent church groups.
“The Church rejects the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behavior of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and, therefore, they should not be blamed for their homosexual acts,” said the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference.
It added: “We call on the Government of Ghana to close down the LGBTQI office space that was recently opened in Accra (and) urge the Executive and the Legislature never to be cowed down or to succumb to the pressure to legalize the rights of LGBTQIs.”
Ghana’s minister of information designate has also weighed into the debate, proposing legislation against advocating for LGBT+ rights.
Ghana is one of 32 countries in Africa that still criminalise same-sex relations, according to the latest report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).