Ghana's president to await court decision before signing anti-LGBTQ bill

 Speaker of Ghana's Parliament Alban Sumana Bagbin speaks at the Parliament House in Accra, on February 28, 2024. [AP photo]

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said on Tuesday he will wait to act on an anti-LGBTQ bill that parliament passed last week, saying in a statement that the measure is being challenged in the Supreme Court.

He was quoted as saying, “It would be as well for all of us to hold our hands and await the decision of the court before any action is taken.”

He said a citizen challenged the bill’s constitutionality.

Akufo-Addo said that Ghana will not be backsliding on its human rights record, as many express concerns about the measure.

In Ghana, gay sex is illegal and carries a three-year prison sentence. The bill would further criminalize the LGBTQ community by imposing at least a 10-year sentence on members of the community who show public displays of affection or those who promote and fund LGBTQ activities.

Those who oppose the bill are concerned about a decline in human rights, as well as reduced international aid from organizations like the World Bank.

Human Rights Watch Researcher Larissa Kojoue said that the bill is “inconsistent with Ghana’s longstanding tradition of peace, tolerance, and hospitality and flies in the face of the country’s international human rights obligations.”

The rights group is urging the president to refuse to sign the bill, which parliament passed February 28.

The United States said it is “deeply troubled,” by the bill. It also urged Ghana to review the “constitutionality of the bill.”

Proponents argue that it aims to protect children and those who have suffered from abuse.

According to Reuters, Ghana’s finance ministry said in an internal document that the bill, if it becomes law, could risk the West African country’s $3.8 billion in financing from the World Bank over the next few years.

The finance ministry document contained recommendations for the president and summarized deliberations among senior officials. It said that losing World Bank funding could impact the stability of the exchange rate and foreign exchange reserves.

The statement added these impacts could also “derail” the International Monetary Fund program, which would “have dire consequence[s] on the debt restructuring exercise and Ghana’s long-term debt stability.”

It recommended that Ghana engage with conservative countries, such as China or other Arab countries, to secure funding, according to Reuters.

Ghana is currently recovering from its worst recession in decades.

The World Bank has not yet responded but said in 2023 that Uganda would not be considered for new funds after anti-LGBTQ legislation was passed.

The IMF said it could not respond to a bill that is not yet law.

As the Supreme Court considers the challenge to the bill, other organizations and stakeholders have also expressed concerns about it.