US offers Ghana assistance in moving forward on LGBT rights

The Assistant Secretary of the US Bureau of African Affairs has urged African nations to respect the rights of LGBT people and has offered to assist Ghana in strengthening its commitment to non-discrimination

‘The United States believes that all people are created equal,’ Thomas-Greenfield said. ‘I am an Africa American, I have gone through the experience of being in a country where there were questions about that, so for us, it is unequivocal that regardless of people’s sexual orientation, regardless of their gender, we want all people to be treated with all the rights and protection of human rights that we expect from all countries.’ ‘So we are prepared as United States with very strong values in this area to work with countries in Africa to help them develop legislation that will provide human rights to its people.’

Thomas-Greenfield said the United States would be willing to help Ghana develop legislation to protect the rights of LGBT people. A Constitutional Review Commission recommended in July last year that the country’s Supreme Court should decide the issue of whether homosexuality should be legalized.

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama has been more diplomatic when it comes to making public statements about homosexuality than his predecessor John Atta Mills but he supports keeping homosexuality a crime. However at least one of his ministers supports the decriminalization of homosexuality. Gender Minister Nana Oye Lister’s appointment to that role was attacked in January by Christian groups over her support for LGBT rights.

The homophobic group called ‘Concerned Clergy Association of Ghana’ opposed Lithur’s appointment as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection because she is a ‘proponent and supporter of gay rights’.

To appoint Nana Oye Lithur to ‘this sensitive position as a Gender, Children, and Social Protection Minister is detrimental to our social cultural norms and religious beliefs,’ said group spokesman Bishop Prince Benny Wood. He added: ‘As Ghanaians, we think that the President must take a second look at that kind of position that is being given to Nana Oye Lithur because we think that her views as far as homosexuality is concerned is too much to the extreme.’

But Oye Lithur said: ‘Not even the president of Ghana can deny anybody’s human rights irrespective of the person’s sexual orientation, ethnic group, gender and what have you.’ ‘These are guaranteed in our constitution and everybody in Ghana has an obligation to respect that constitution.’

Oye Lithur was the Executive Director of the Human Rights Advocacy Centre, which provides legal services to those who cannot afford them. It has handled 677 human rights cases since 2009. Oye Lithur has 20 years experience as a human rights lawyer and is described as an activist.

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