3 Ghanaian Gay Men Nabbed After Talk Show Fracas

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday October 28, 2011

Three gay Ghanaian were placed under arrest after appearing on a "Jerry Springer" style TV talk show in which two of the men became embroiled in a accusations of boyfriend-stealing, reported GhanaWeb on Oct. 27.

The program features people involved in cases of partner poaching, the article said, and loud arguments are part and parcel of its content. But the typical episode shows heterosexuals arguing over an opposite-gender partner.

In this case, the three parties involved were all male. Two other men who were somehow involved were reportedly "on the run" in the wake of the three men's arrests.

When the three men were taken to the police station, one of them attempted to file a rape complaint against one of the others. Police questioning led to admissions from both men that they were, in fact, lovers.

The man who made the complaint had previously been the partner of the third man in the case, who was arrested when he appeared at the police station as a visitor to see the other two.

The article said that police found water-based lubricant and condoms, along with personal hygiene items, among the third man's possessions.

The three men remain in police custody. Police have launched a search for the other two men, whose involvement in the case was not explained by the report.

Ghana is one of several anti-gay African nations. The country made headlines last summer when a regional minister vowed to "get rid" gays by tasking police with rounding up and arresting sexual minorities.

The order followed months of anti-gay activism from a religious group called the Christian Council of Ghana, according to a July 20 article at radio station JOY 99 FM. The minister in question, Paul Evans Aidoo, is in charge of the nation's Western Region.

"He has tasked the Bureau of National Investigations and all security agencies to smoke out persons suspected to be engaging in same sex," the article said. "He also enlisted the services of landlords and tenants to provide reliable information which will lead to the arrest of homosexuals."

Added the article, "Only yesterday, the Christian Council of Ghana capped months of protestations against the practice of homosexuality with a strongly worded message against the practice and courting Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals."

The article characterized the region as a "beehive" of gays, saying that between the Western and Central Regions of Ghana it was thought that there might be as many as 8,000 gays and lesbians. Aidoo said that he gave no credence to the report, because the number seemed too high.

"I don't believe it; nobody believes it," said Aidoo, a married Christian politician with five children. "We do not see them," he went on to say.

Even so, a report citing that figure brought anti-gay Christians and Muslims into the street for demonstrations. Aidoo assured the public that "all efforts are being made to get rid of these people in the society."

Ghanaian law condemns "unnatural carnal knowledge," the report said, but some lawyers view this as unenforceable and vague.

Ghanaian political party the People's National Convention (PNC) issued a statement in support of Aidoo's call for mass arrests of gays, British newspaper the Independent reported on July 22.

"Homosexuality is abhorrent," the PNC said. "Media discourse across the world is being dictated by the vulgar opinions of homosexuals. Ghana and probably Africa cannot sustain the menace of homosexuals."

Demonstrations against GLBTs in Ghana are a recent phenomenon, having begun only last year. The first such protest took place in the city of Sekondi Takoradi and drew "thousands of angry youth," according to June 4, 2010, GhanaWeb article. The protest was organized by a Muslim group, but received support from other religions as well, including Christianity.

The protest in Takoradi was reportedly prompted by "reports of alleged gay marriages and parties in Tanokrom and other suburbs of the city," the article said.

The GhanaWeb article was riddled with claims about gays that sound identical to anti-gay talking points from American religious opponents to the gay equality movement, including claims that young Ghanaian males were being turned gay by older men and that homosexuality is a choice. Moreover, gays were condemned as tempting God to punish Ghana.

"Ghana will suffer more than the experience of Sodom and Gomorrah, should we embrace this practice in this country," said protest leader Saeed Hamid, whose group even then was lobbying Aidoo to take action against the areas gay population.

The upswell of anti-gay sentiment worried HIV activists from the start, according to a June 8, 2010, article posted at African GLBT media site Behind the Mask. Those fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS have long warned that criminalizing and stigmatizing gays and men who have sex with men (MSMs) could drive those segments of the population further underground and stymie efforts to provide education about safer sex, testing, and treatment.

Fear had an immediate effect in Ghana when the anti-gay protests began, according to the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana's Mac-Darling Cobbinah, who told the press, "Already they are becoming uninterested to access services because they fear what might happen to them."

The article noted an inherent contradiction in Ghanaian law regarding gays.

"The Ghanaian constitution affirms and protects all human rights for Ghanaian citizens and this contradicts the Criminal Code 1960--Chapter 6, Sexual Offences Article 105, which criminalizes homosexual behavior amongst gay men," the article observed. "There is no law in Ghana that prohibits homosexual acts between women."

Anti-gay sentiment has been on the uptick in many African countries in recent years. The Ugandan parliament recently announced that it would revisit the highly controversial "Kill the Gays" bill, which seeks to impose the death penalty on men who have repeated sexual encounters with others of the same gender.

The bill also prescribes the death penalty for a single sexual encounter between men if one partner is HIV positive. No similar penalty is prescribed for HIV positive men who sleep with women.

The measure also calls for criminal penalties for anyone who might know about a same-sex relationship but does not report those involved to the authorities.

The bill was introduced by Ugandan MP David Bahati shortly after a rally headlined by three anti-American evangelists took place. Bahati was later reported to have ties to an anti-gay American evangelical organization.

A Malawi male couple was thrown in jail for celebrating an engagement party in 2009. They were charged under that nation's "decency" laws, and kept imprisoned for months before being put on trial. They were found guilty and sentenced to 14 years of hard labor, but pardoned shortly afterwards in the face of international pressure.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.