Gay pressure group OutRage! has sent a letter to Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor demanding he repeal laws criminalising homosexuality in his home country.

The President is visiting London this week to mark 50 years of Ghana’s independence from Britain.

Prince MacDonald, President of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Ghana, called for protests during the official visit to highlight the plight of LGBT people in Ghana.

Peter Tatchell and Kizza Musinguzi, of gay pressure group OutRage! wrote to President Kufuor this week, pointing out that Ghanaian laws prohibiting “unnatural carnal knowledge” are a product of British colonial administration in the nineteenth century and undermine national unity.

They want new laws to protect LGBT people against discrimination and the inclusion of LBGT Ghanaians in the national HIV prevention programme.

They urged the President to recognise that, “a democratic state has no legitimate place in the bedroom.”

While Ghana is famed for its friendly and tolerant society, its predominantly conservative character means that homosexuality is still considered a moral aberration, or even a myth.

The Constitution guarantees the protection of human rights regardless of “race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender”, but does not mention sexuality.

This omission contradicts the landmark 1994 legal case of Toonen vs Australia, in which the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that sexual orientation should be considered a status protected from discrimination.

In practice, few people in Ghana have been convicted of homosexual acts.

Internet sites such as Gaydar host Ghanaian profiles, suggesting enforcement is less that strict.

Homophobic violence, however, remains a real problem, and gay Ghanaians are generally forced to hide their sexuality behind closed doors.

In September last year, the Ghanaian government banned an LGBT rights conference that was meant to be held in the city of Koforidua.

The Information Minister, Kwamena Bartels, said the government, “shall not permit the proposed conference anywhere in Ghana… homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality are offences under the laws of Ghana.”

He then reportedly encouraged the Interior Minister to investigate and punish those who had given initial permission to the organisers.

Ghanaian human rights groups have been less than energetic about addressing the issue.

Richard Quayson, deputy commissioner the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, told the BBC:

“I do not know if I want to promote homosexuality in Ghana.”

The OutRage! letter calls for action against homophobic violence and opening dialogue with the Gay and Lesbian Association of Ghana.