Ghana president won't act on anti-LGBTQ bill before legal challenge resolved

  • World
  • Tuesday, 19 Mar 2024

FILE PHOTO: Ghana's president, Nana Akufo-Addo, delivers a speech in Accra, Ghana. November 14, 2023. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko/File Photo

ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana's anti-LGBTQ bill passed by parliament in February should not be transmitted to President Akufo-Addo for assent until two legal challenges against it are settled, a senior presidency official said in a letter seen by Reuters.

Lawmakers unanimously passed legislation that would intensify a crackdown on the rights of LGBTQ people and those accused of promoting lesbian, gay or other minority sexual or gender identities in the West African country.

The bill could jeopardise $3.8 billion in World Bank financing for Ghana over the next five to six years if it becomes law, derailing a $3 billion IMF loan package, according to the finance ministry.

Nana Asante Bediatuo, Secretary to the President, said in the letter dated March 18 and addressed to the Clerk of the West African nation's parliament that it was "improper" for the president's office to receive the bill as required by law until the supreme court rules on challenges against it.

The letter was issued after the Clerk tried to formally submit the bill to the president, which would set off a seven-day period for him to approve or reject it.

Bediatuo said Ghana's Attorney General and Minister of Justice has also advised the President not to act on the bill, one of the harshest of its kind in Africa.

"In the circumstances, you are kindly requested to cease from transmitting the bill to the president until the matters before the Supreme Court are resolved," read the letter, confirmed by two sources in parliament.

Gay sex is already punishable by up to three years in prison in Ghana. The bill increases penalties, imposing a prison sentence of up to five years for the "wilful promotion, sponsorship, or support of LGBTQ+ activities".

The bill's passage has already complicated life for sexual minorities, according to the LGBTQ community. Ghanaian trans woman and activist Angel Maxine told Reuters she fled to the German capital Berlin before parliament passed the bill and now fears for the safety of her friends still in Ghana.

The United States has said it is "deeply troubled" by the legislation and urged a review of its constitutionality.

Speaking in Ghana on Monday, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Ghana would be more successful if it was more inclusive. "You want Ghana to flourish, make it so that everybody can contribute to the fullest," she told reporters when asked about the legislation.

(Reporting by Maxwell Akalaare Adombila; Editing by Bate Felix)

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