Gays in Ghana: Separating Fact From Fiction
The issue of homosexuality has dominated the Ghanaian airwaves and print media for quite a while, which is unusual in a country where our attention span on issues is about the same as a butterfly, fluttering from one flower to another. A friend of mine, during a recent lunch meeting, brought up the subject and said homosexuality had become a growing social canker that needed to be clipped before it got out of hand. However, when I asked her against what period this ‘growth’ could be measured and what the figures are to attest the said growth, she mumbled something about media reports as she stuffed a dollop of banku into her mouth. She was clearly regurgitating media stories. Then it hit me that actually, the whole nation has been spewing a lot of air over an issue on which there were no figures to indicate anything. But then in a nation that has no idea how many of its citizens are unemployed, it is perhaps not surprising that we are complaining that homosexuality is on the rise in our schools when there is no scientific research leading to this conclusion.
In the wider context, there is an interesting pattern in the country. A few press reports come out over a scandal (say, defilement), the media hype it up, whip up frenzy on the back of people’s innate fears, then suddenly it represents a growing problem over which everyone pontificates hysterically. What is not mentioned is that with the advent of private media, the rate of reporting clearly does shoot up. This does not necessarily mean that the rate of occurrence has shot up. But do we bother to make the analysis?
Take the example of teenage pregnancy. In Holland, 14 out of every 1000 females who give birth are teenagers. In Britain it is six times higher and represents the highest in Western Europe. The British would therefore be right to say it is a problem in their country. Now back to Ghana. What are the figures? Do we have them? And yet we moan about teenage pregnancies as a growing problem/social canker etc without citing any figures to back these up. And then the preachers and moralists start hopping and yelping excitedly. Just the other day, a well-known and respected church in Ghana decided not to allow marriages where the couple will be living in the man’s family home. Their argument was that in such situations the man’s family tended to mistreat the woman who has joined the household, thereby leading to marital breakdown. Yet the church did not provide any evidence to this effect. Most likely a few incidents in this sort of context came to the attention of the church authorities, and the church, instead of conducting a proper study to establish the likelihood of such marriages breaking down, decided on the lazy option of an outright ban, which of course is unfair to those who are treated well by their in-laws as well as those who find it difficult to rent on the private market. And of course, the church forgot that a troublesome mother-in –law can visit her son and his wife for just two weeks and destroy the marriage.
Now back to homosexuality. Everyone is shouting hoarse that it is a growing problem in our secondary schools. What are the figures? Has the Ghana Education Service come out with any research findings? How many students have been caught in say the past 12 months, and does this represent an increase over the previous 12 months? Has a confidential survey been done in our schools to find out what percentage of students admits to a gay experience? Has there been an increase in this? Over what period? Outside our schools, how many people have been arrested by the police for ‘unnatural carnal knowledge’ over the last 12 months? Does that represent an increase? Over what period, and by what percentage margin? How do we know it is increasing or not, especially since by its very nature, gay sex (and in fact any other sexual activity, for that matter) takes place mostly in private? Or we just assume an increase because radio panellists and preachers and others say so on the back of a couple of media stories? Such unproven claims are to be expected in beer bars and market stalls, not on serious radio discussion programmes. But are we serious about anything?
There is also a claim by some that gays in Ghana want the right to marry, adopt children, sleep with little boys and practice their ‘disgusting acts’ publicly. Really? When and where were these claims made? By whom? You hardly hear any gay people making noise on the airwaves and clamouring for this or that right. All that has happened is that some human rights activists, in response to the heated rhetoric of anti-gay people, have calmly argued that private, consenting, adult sexual behaviour between to same sex partners should be de-criminalised. Yet these spurious anti-gay claims help fuel public fury which is essentially synthetic. Of course, no one is interested in the facts-just the drama and theatrics. Ghanaians seem to love a spot of gay-bashing, because homosexuality seems to be the final cultural frontier against so-called ’depraved’ western values, Many are determined to hold up this illusory dam, and the commentators and preachers are gleefully providing perfect fodder. Some radio panellists have even argued that same sex schools should be abolished because they are breeding grounds for homosexuality, forgetting that even in co-educational institutions, there is segregation of the sexes, unless one suggests that the dormitories should be mixed as well. In any event, how do we know there is no homosexuality in the mixed schools? What sort of logic is this? It appears in recent times a few isolated incidents have fed into the current hysteria. There was a report about 8000 homosexuals having been registered by an NGO in the Western and Central Region. To date, no NGO has come forward to tell us they did the survey, and no one has named them, yet many believe that the two regions are crawling with homosexuals. Then a tutor at Adisadel College was arrested for allegedly sodomising a number of students. With these two stories, all hell has broken loose and the sharks are feeding in a frenzy as the seas get bloodier and choppier.
Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that homosexuality does not occur in Ghana-the press stories of actual situations, even if isolated, puts paid to that argument. The issue is whether it is a growing trend, and if so, the rate of that growth.
If we want to be a serious nation rather than a motley collection of rabble-rousers, then we need to get our act together, learn to gather facts and sift them from fiction before we go to town, else we look simply ridiculous. It appears we are not ready for prime time, for if we cannot measure something, then how in the name of Sweet Jesus do we manage it? Or are we waiting for donor funds as usual?
Bonsu, Nana Ama