Ghana: Homosexuality and the False Debate
There has been a lot of talk and broadcast on the state of homosexuality in Ghana. The talk has largely focused on the legal status of homosexuals in Ghana and in support of their stance, those who believe it shouldn’t be legalized rely largely on culture and religion to communicate their disgust for the practice. On the other hand, also stands a smaller number of people-largely human rights activist and gays themselves- who have called for the legalization of homosexuality and their point largely rests on the law in general and human rights in particular. I won’t go into the details of either the debates as I find it as completely misplaced and missing the point. From both sides, the debate is misinformed and not worthy of consideration.
My opinion is that the debate is a false debate since there is nothing being debated. In the first place, it seems illogical to demand of the legalization or otherwise of a practice which is not illegal or made illegal by any law in Ghana. There is currently no law in Ghana that bans homosexuality per se. Section 104 which many people rely on to suggest a criminalization of homosexuality to my understanding only bans anal sex and other forms of penetrative sex which in the view of the law is ‘unnatural’. To reduce an interpretation of that law and subsequently an application of it to homosexuals alone would and does suggest that homosexuality is just about anal sex and indeed anal sex is the exclusive preserve of homosexuals. That is wrong.
Research has shown rather conclusively that anal-penile relationships are not the conclusive preserve of homosexuals and indeed occur in relatively the same proportion or even more sometimes in heterosexual relationships as it does in homosexual relationships. This rather narrow interpretation of section 104 of the Criminal And Other Offenses Act to suggest an outlaw of homosexuality exposes the ignorance-whether willed or genuine-of those persons who have described homosexuality as illegal in Ghana concerning homosexuality and the law. If the issue is, like it is in many parts the world a discussion on whether or not, homosexual marriages should be recognized per our laws then that would be a whole with its own set of facts which we can view in its own light.
‘Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions primarily to men, to women, or to both sexes. It also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them.’1
Homosexuality per the APA, is the is romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual activity between members of the same sex or gender. Per that settled definition it can be seen that no mention is made of anal sex . It is actually the feeling that constitutes homosexuality and not the penetrative expression of that feeling. In that regards, a homosexual is not someone who has anal sex with a member of his own sex but rather someone who feels sexually or romantically attracted to a member of his-her sex. Sexual attraction and romantic attraction can be expressed and is expressed in several other ways besides penetrative sex.
It is common, and in my view rightly, to assume that the basis of love has always been sexual attraction or romantic attraction. It is further common and in my view right to hold that love, although constituted oft times on sexual attraction or romantic attraction isn’t synonymous with sex neither are relationships contracts of commoner sex. Whereas sex plays a role in relationships, the picture must not be painted that without sex there can be no relationships.
I believe strongly that it is possible for there to be relationships where no sex of penetrative nature takes place. I do not think it takes extraordinary reasoning of whatever kind or imagination to assume that not all sexual contact involves penetrative sex even between homosexuals and the law if applicable at all applies as much to heterosexuals who engage in anal sex and other forms of ‘unnatural carnal knowledge’ as homosexuals who engage in same.
Since we cannot declare the hetrosexual relationships are banned in Ghana because some aspect(s) of it like anal sex, which the law clearly considers as unnatural within the context of Section 104, is banned; so can it not, and should not be suggested,except we wish to explore further heights of intellectual dishonesty which often clouds our judgement,that section 104 on it’s own bans or makes criminal homosexuality in Ghana. Just as we cannot hold the totality of heterosexual relationships as disgusting because portions and aspects of it are, no matter what lens we look at it though, so should we not make any unusual pronouncements on homosexuality simply because aspects of it are disgusting or appear so.
Another point that usually crops up is the issue of our culture, in particular whether or not our culture is known to homosexuality or whether it is an importation from the West. I think under that debate lies a rather loose assumption that homosexuality is unnatural and a behavior created by human beings due to the decadence of society. That suggestion is misinformed and cheap in that it reduces the issue of human sexuality which is admittedly influenced by some level of environmental consideration(s) and an equal value of biology (nature) to just a proposition that over glorifies the role environment plays. It ignores the complex role that genes play in the determination of human sex. It forgets that there indeed exist persons who through no fault of theirs are genetically male or female while having and displaying the physical features of another sex. The biology of sexual orientation knows not and respects not the continental boundaries and that is why even in the Vatican, the Pope’s own backyard there exist homosexuals. Again, recognition must be given to the fact that there exists some anthropological research which shows that there existed homosexuality in Africa prior to the coming of the Europeans and rather than bring it to Africa, it was the Europeans who got so outraged and disgusted by the ‘culture’ they came to meet in Africa. It should be noted that before the Europeans undertook their unwelcome and uninvited ‘civilization’ of Africa, they had already made illegal homosexuality in their country and carried with it the punitive measures of murderous proportions . It therefore cannot be honestly held in my view that homosexuality is or was a corrupt moral practice that the Europeans brought to Africa.
I refer the reader to the research findings of persons like Stephen Murray, Will Roscoe and E.E. Evans-Pritchard who shows that homosexuality did exist in Africa prior to the arrival of Europeans and Muslim traders from the East and if any corruption of culture has taken place, it has been a dilution of culture based on the influences of these two groups of people. I also believe that the evidence even from the often loosely interpreted and selectively applied Mosaic Laws suggests that the practice was common in Egypt where the Israelites had been on exile and it’s outlawing was in common with the many other anti-birth control measures that the neo-Israelites led by Moses adopted after their exile in a bid to increase their population.
I also suggest at this stage that most of the religious organizations that have softened their stance on homosexuality, including the Catholics and Anglican church, have done so upon a true and proper interpretation of the Mosaic Code. They have taken into account all the evidence, including the original text of the Mosaic Code, which many doubt as even meaning a ban on homosexuality per se and not sodomy. The biological evidence which seems each day to expose the involvement of nature in the determination of sexual orientation among many others have all in my view contributed to the position most religious organizations have taken on homosexuality.
My conclusions are simple, both sides in this debate-which is a false debate like I have mentioned earlier -have failed to acknowledge and understand the real issues involved. They have premised their arguments on non-starters and emotions but as they soon find out, non-starters and emotions only borne a lot of hot air but never convinces and that is why more and more of the younger generation of Ghanaians are becoming more open-minded to homosexuality. Until we treat with some seriousness this discussion on homosexuality, we would go on in cycles, and the seasonal topic that seems to excite so many would become one of the many unresolved topics that confronts our nation.
1. See Sexual Orientation, in Am. Psychol. Ass’n, 7 Encyclopedia of Psychology 260 (A.E. Kazdin ed., 2000); 2 The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 683 (W.E. Craighead & C.B. Nemeroff eds., 3d ed. 2001); J.C. Gonsiorek & J.D. Weinrich, The Definition and Scope of Sexual Orientation, in Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy 1 (J.C. Gonsiorek & J.D. Weinrich eds., 1991).
**The writer is a 21 years old student of the University of Ghana who believes that the nation has missed the point on the discussion of homosexuality. His views do not directly or indirectly approval or disapprove of homosexuality but points out the absurdity of the points raised.