A total of 114 Ghanaians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) have narrated widespread discrimination and abuses meted out to them both in public and in family settings.
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed the 114 LGBT people in Accra, Tamale, Kumasi, and Cape Coast in December 2016 and February 2017.
The 72-page report, titled “‘No Choice but to Deny Who I Am’: Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People in Ghana documented violence against lesbian, bisexual and gender-non-conforming women in Ghana which often takes place in the privacy of their own homes.
Family abuse and rejection
According to the reports, numerous lesbian and bisexual women interviewees told Human Rights Watch that when their family members suspected that they were homosexual, they were beaten and evicted from the family home.
Although pressure to marry primarily affects lesbian and bisexual women, some gay and bisexual men face similar issues.
Even though the country’s laws criminalise unnatural carnal knowledge, the practice of men who have sex with men (MSM), popularly called gay, is on an alarming rise.
30,000 gays in Ghana
It is estimated that MSM in Ghana are over 30,000 and they can be found in all 10 regions of the country.
The figure is contained in a report titled Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance (IBBS) survey, which was commissioned by the Ghana AIDS Commission in 2011.
17% of gays are living with HIV
According to the report, 17% of men who sleep with men (MSM) are living with HIV.
Mother organized mob to beat lesbian daughter
In May 2016, in a village outside Kumasi in the Ashanti region, the mother of a young woman organized a mob to beat up her daughter and another woman because she suspected they were lesbians and in a same-sex relationship. The two young women were forced to flee the village.
Lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender men are frequently victims of family violence, Human Rights Watch found.
Lesbians described being threatened, beaten, and driven from their homes after family members learned of their sexual orientation.
Lesbian woman chased out of the house with a machete
One woman said that when her family heard that she was associating with LGBT people, they chased her out of the house with a machete.
She has not been able to go back home to visit her 2-year old daughter. LGBT people’s fear that the law could be used against them, combined with social stigma, serves as a barrier to seeking justice, Human Rights Watch found.
Aisha, a 21-year-old lesbian English teacher from Kumasi
Aisha, a 21-year-old lesbian English teacher from Kumasi was not only taken through a process termed “deliverance” in a church camp, but also rejected by her family when she refused to partake in a forced marriage. She described what her family and church did to her:
“On January 24, 2015, my older brother told my parents, grandparents and cousins that I am a lesbian and it is all over social media. My mother collapsed, and my grandparents immediately took me to church for “deliverance”. I had to stay at the mission house of the church for one month. During the first week they prayed for me. While praying, the junior pastor would beat me with the “holy” cane to deliver me from the evil spirit”.
Aisha told Human Rights Watch that a month later, her parents took her home and wanted to force her to get married.
When her uncle intervened, her parents said she could stay in the house but that they did not want to have anything to do with her, and she should not touch or use anything belonging to the family.
She said: “Until today, I have my own plate, spoon, cup and I cook in the neighbor’s house. If I am not at home by 8p.m., I must sleep outside or at a friend’s place.
3 women lesbians arrested in Kumasi
In June 2016, police arrested three women at a soccer training camp in Kumasi accused of being lesbians allegedly after being tipped off by the partner of one of the women. Adama told Human Rights Watch
The camp master asked the police why we were being arrested. The police said it is because we are lesbians.
“We were handcuffed, put in a police van and taken to Suame Police Station.
“More than 100 people had gathered at the camp to watch the scene, some people even followed the van to the police station.
“At the police station they asked us if we were “into it,” yelling and shouting at us. We denied everything, and the police released us.
“However, their troubles did not end with their release. When they returned to the training camp, the coach expelled the three women from the team, and when they returned home, their parents disowned them for “bringing shame” to their respective families.
“Six months later, they described their desperate living conditions: “We move from one friend’s place to another because we can never go back home. We have no work, no money and sometimes we do not eat for two or three days,” one of them said.
Victoria 29-year old lesbian from the Cape Coast
Victoria, a 29-year old lesbian from the Cape Coast, told Human Rights Watch that not only did her father disown her when he learned of her sexual orientation in July 2016, but he also reported her to the police, who arrested her.
Fortunately for Victoria, her grandmother paid bail to facilitate her release. She was not formally charged with any offence, but instructed to report to the police station daily.
Victoria reported to the police station approximately five times, but was not reporting at the time of the interview with Human Rights Watch.
Emelia, a 35-year-old lesbian from Kumasi
Emelia, a 35-year-old lesbian from Kumasi, told Human Rights Watch that in December 2014, her partner’s mother brought police officers to her home to arrest her and her partner.
They were not formally charged with any offence, but spent three days in detention at Suame Police Station, and were released after paying 200 CEDIS (approximately US$45).