“I love a moral issue,” Elaine May would say, back in the great days of Nichols and May. “It’s so much more interesting than a real issue.”
That pretty much describes the dynamics of a moral panic. It provides endless things to talk about, none of them real. Ghana continues down this path, amid a panic about homosexuality now fed by David Cameron’s ham-handed promises to tie overseas aid to LGBT rights. People are describing things that don’t exist, ignoring things that do, and venting paranoid ideas in pompous, concerned, and official tones. Those suffering from the frenzied arguments and the UK’s ill-timed intervention, of course, are the actual LGBT people of Ghana — real enough, but constrained to listen as their lives are described in terms that range from Biblical wrath to pseudomedical quackery.
Yesterday, for instance, Rev. Godson King Akpalu, President of the Ghana Mental Health Association (GMHA) told reporters that “homosexual and lesbian perpetrators” are mentally ill.
Rev. Akpalu said the Ghana Mental Health Association will classify the perpetrators and supporters of these “dirty acts” as suffering severe mental problems and should be referred to a mental health facility for early treatment before suicide sets in.
He said given the opportunity, even mental patients would choose an opposite sex partner, emphasising that, “We as a nation cannot sell our birthright for a handful of meals and drag our posterity into curses and shame. … [H]ow can we in the name of foreign aid from a Godless people flout the laws of God which we all abide by from our very existence?”
Judging from the reverend’s words, Rick Santorum has been sighted in Accra, adding to the atmosphere of terror:
The GMHA President said it was common knowledge that some of the men and boys who had fallen prey to such unnatural acts wore “pampers” to hold up the unnatural flow of fluid that gushes out from their anus, and asked whether this made the practice a natural one.
Meanwhile, in Parliamentary debate on Thursday, MPs
condemned homosexuality in no uncertain terms, with a call on the Executive to amend the Criminal Code, Act 29 (1960) to provide for stiffer punishment for those who engage in the practice. They gave the assurance that a bill presented to the House in that regard would be passed swiftly.
Opposition MP Eugenia Kusi said:
“Madam Speaker, I would want us to amend the criminal code to make that act a criminal offence. I know that if that kind of bill comes before us we will not waste time in passing it”. She advised children to stay away from people who claim to be homosexuals and report those who try to woo them into the act to their parents and guardians.
Ghana, of course, already criminalizes homosexual conduct, with Section 104 (1) (b) of the Code defining “unnatural carnal knowledge” of “any person of sixteen years or over with his consent” as a misdemeanor. (Misdemeanors are liable to variable terms of imprisonment, usually less than three years.)
J. J. Appiah, leading the debate, told fellow lawmakers that
“Human right undoubtedly is supreme and fundamental to our existence and I am glad to say that it is also our supreme interest as legislators but when these rights appear abnormal and barbaric then measures should be put in place to curtail them. … It has been established that lesbianism is a cause of many sexually transmitted diseases. In the face of this it appears most logical, most necessary, for us as a House to enact laws that would uphold the principles of morality and integrity”.
She feared with the increasing emotional sentiments against homos, people might take advantage of the situation by physically assaulting or even killing people suspected to be homos. She said as religious leaders preach tolerance to political leaders in the country they are obliged to use the pulpit to preach tolerance for homos and not hate speech. She said pastors must live according to the biblical quotation of “love thy neighbour as thyself” in their dealing with homos.
“Not even the President of Ghana can deny anybody 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. ”