All 275 Members of Parliament in the 8th Parliament of the 4th Republic are firmly in support of the anti-gay bill currently before it, the Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has said.
He made the announcement on the floor of the House on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 during debate on the report of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Committee.
The Speaker of Parliament made the announcement after gauging the mood of the House, which showed no resentment to have the controversial bill passed, and with speed.
It was rather not the usual procedure, during second readings of bills and the presentation of the committee’s report, as both sides of the House had on countless occasions been divided on the decision.
However, the Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021, like very few others, witnessed a consensus even at the Committee level and the debate on the floor was a mere formality.
Speaker Bagbin, who had keenly heard from the Chairman of the Committee, Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi and other members from both sides having the same voice, posed a question for any member with a dissenting view to rise up.
“Honourable members, in view of the submissions so far, I want to give opportunity to those who are against to speak,” a statement that generated amusement in the Chamber.
Speaker Bagbin continued that, “Any honourable member who disagrees with the submissions just made by the Honourable Andy Appiah Kubi that all the 275 [members] are in support of the bill, be on your feet and I will recognise you,” but the entire membership remained glued to their seats.
The Speaker stated further that he would not “gag” the House but just make it clear that “all members are in support of the bill.”
Wednesday’s proceedings of the House saw visitors from both the Christian and Muslim fraternity in the public gallery of the House, who had come to lend their support for the passage of the anti-gay bill.
Presenting the report, the chairman of the committee, Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, told the House that the committee received over 200 memoranda from groups for and against the bill.
He added that preliminary concerns about the imposition of a charge on the consolidated fund, as expressed by the Attorney General and some Ghanaians were factored in.
According to the committee, certain aspects of the bill, including the payment for medical assistance or therapy by an approved service provider, under sub-clause (6) of clause 19, clause 20 and clause 23, impose a charge on the consolidated fund.
“The committee wishes to indicate that the concerns of the Attorney-General have been taken care of in the Committee’s proposed amendments.”
ARGUMENT IN FAVOUR
The Committee observed that the three most dominant religious groups in Ghana, namely Christianity, Islam and Traditional religion, as well as some other individuals, argued strongly in favor of the passage of the bill.
According to the report, those for the bill argued that it is a “bold attempt” to consolidate the constitutional and legislative framework of Ghana.
They argued that though Section 104 of Act 29 criminalises unnatural carnal knowledge, there are some lacunae that the anti-gay bill seeks to address.
The groups for the bill further argued on health grounds, citing a study conducted by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control in 2018.
In the said survey, over 65% of HIV infections among adults and adolescents were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact in the United States.
Also, data from the Ghana AIDS Commission show that in 2017, there were 54,759 men who had sex with men living in Ghana. Out of the total 9,857 – representing 18.1 percent, were found to be living with HIV, adding that although the number represents only an 18% prevalence rate, it is enough for the disease to “grow exponentially.”
According to the Committee’s report, those for the bill disputed the claim that sexual orientation preferences were genetic, explaining that literature did not support such an assertion.
The Committee report stated that the Human Rights Coalition, Ghana AIDS Commission, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Key Watch Ghana/Intersex Ghana were just some of the groups and individuals that opposed the bill.
The Committee informed the House that those against the bill argued that its passage into law would violate the provisions of Article 1, Clauses 1 and 2, of the 1992 Constitution.
They contended, according to the Committee, that the LGBTQ+ activities formed part of what the constitution contemplates under Article 33(5) about the recognition of certain rights and freedoms.
While some referred to international treaties Ghana has signed, other institutions and individuals also cautioned about the potential threat to Ghana’s diplomatic, bilateral and multilateral relations with other countries.
They argued specifically that Ghana’s trade relations with some countries in Europe may be affected.
The Ghana AIDS Commission also indicated the potential negative impacts of the passage of the bill on national health outcomes, particularly efforts at eliminating HIV and AIDS.
The Committee said it embarked on a study visit to selected countries, including France and Hungary, to understudy their experiences with the passage of LGBTQ+-related legislation.
The Committee noted that the majority of Ghanaians were in favour of the passage of the bill, but there were significant human rights concerns worthy of consideration.
The Committee, in light of the concerns, sought the view of the Attorney-General, which was “duly considered,” and thus recommended to the House to adopt its report “and pass into law” the Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021.
Meanwhile, there are some amendments to be dealt with at the consideration stage, before the third reading and passage.