A private legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu has estimated 2039 as a possible timeline for when Ghana may pass or accept same-sex marriage in its legal framework.
He said although same-sex relationships are a major taboo across many African countries, Ghana cannot stand the international force that comes with such advocacy adding that it was just a question of time.
Already a dicey topic in the public sphere, currently, Ghana’s criminal law (Chapter 6 of the Criminal Code, 1960, as amended by The Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 2003) same-sex sexual activity among males is illegal and punishable by law.
However, Mr Kpebu who spoke at a workshop organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) last Thursday believes that the law inherited from the British colonial era was inconsistent with the fundamental human rights of the individual and violates their right to dignity.
He explained that laws that target people based on their sexual preferences, social origin, social status undermine the principles of freedom, liberty and justice.
“What two adult people do in private, why is it another man’s business,?” he queried.
The workshop on decriminalising and declassifying petty offences in Ghana was meant to familiarise journalists and other media actors on the importance of The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and other regional instruments signed by member countries.
Admitting the matter was a complex one, he stressed that was how societies evolved and it always took a few outspoken people to speak on delicate issues which start debates; “So those who are very sensitive to it will eventually get desensitised.”
“You think in 20 years we would not have legalised same-sex marriage; we can’t stand the force. It’s just a question of time,” he stated.
This dovetails into President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s 2017 interview on Aljazeera TV network where he said Ghana at present did not have enough coalition to impact public opinion on the subject and call for a new paradigm.
“At the moment, I don’t feel, and I don’t see that in Ghana there is that strong current of opinion that is saying that this is something that we need to even deal with. It is not so far a matter which is on the agenda,” the president told the Qatar based TV station.
Mr Kpebu who specializes in civil and public Interest litigation said such violations extend to both the enactment and enforcement of criminal laws which tend to target poor and other categories of marginalized persons who remain vulnerable to violations of their fundamental human rights.
He said crimes like prostitution by its nature was limited to very poor or very low-income persons and it was better Ghana legalised prostitutes and tax them instead of raiding and arresting them which usually ends nowhere.
He further argued that the Dutch government gives a grant to Ghana every year through some of the taxes they take from prostitutes and if we Ghanaians abhor the practice so much then it was better to steer clear of any grants or loans from the Dutch government.
Mr Kpebu who tackled the criminalization of poverty at the workshop said it was about time Ghana initiate steps to decriminalize petty offenses and believes that some petty crimes committed by indigent citizens were essentially due to socio-economic issues which reinforces discriminatory attitudes against marginalised persons.
Dr Isaac Annan, the Director of Human Rights Department at the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), took participants through the Luanda Guidelines and its implementation in the country and called for a check on the arbitrary use of power by institutions entrusted with such powers and hold them accountable.
According to him, it was important to hold duty bearers accountable for the powers conferred on them through the constitution which he said has more to do with institutional transparency than corruption urging Ghanaians to be uncompromising in demanding for their rights and to do so in its proper context.
He said state security institutions like the police service are expected to observe basic and uphold, protect and promote the rights of people subject to arrest, police custody and pretrial detention.
In that regard, they reinforce the importance of a criminal justice system built on core human rights principles explaining that it was for this reason that the Luanda Guidelines were developed to strengthen criminal justice systems of ACHPR member countries.
Edmund Amarkwei–Foley, Head of Department for Public Law at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) who played an instrumental role in developing the CHRI research took participants through the Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action on Accelerating Prisons and Penal Reforms in Africa and its relationship to the Ghanaian justice system.
He said a concerted strategy was required to enhance rehabilitation and development of convicted offenders during the period of imprisonment and promoting their reintegration back into society.
Mr Amarkwei–Foley said Ghana was moving towards increasing punishment which was contrary to the global trend for incarceration.
He explained that the objective of adhering to regional instruments was to work towards reducing the prison population and introducing penal reforms that could help ACHPR member countries enter a more rehabilitative regime.
For her part, Madam Mina Mensah, the Head of Africa Office, CHRI, said Ghana has an obligation to adhere to international treaties and conventions they’ve signed on to.
According to her, although there is a need for laws to be respected, it was also important to also ensure the human rights of people are upheld.
She said conversations on decriminalising petty offences which was mostly linked with poverty was crucial to decongesting Ghana’s overcrowded prisons.
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