Ghana’s new children’s minister has been accused of supporting gay rights by her critics even though she denies stating that homosexuality should be legalised.

Nana Oye Lithur was nominated to the post of Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection by Ghana’s President Dramani Mahama in January.

On 1 February she was approved by the Appointments Committee despite the petitions of two pressure groups, Concerned Clergy Association of Ghana and the Ghana Social Moral Fabric.

They said she should not be appointed as she would use her government position to “promote homosexuality”.

When questioned by the Committee on the petitions, Ms Lithur said: “Mr Chairman, I have never said that homosexuality should be promoted or that I will promote homosexuality. I have never said that homosexuality should be legalised.”

She continued: “I stand for justice for everybody. And what I said was the rights of everybody, including homosexuals should be protected.”

A regional youth leader of the Progressive People’s Party said that her nomination was a “disgrace to many Ghanaians who have known her to be a staunch defender of homosexuals in the country”.

“Ghana customary laws and usage that are against homosexuality are well captured and entrenched in the constitution and that same constitution will not defend such practices.”

He said that as homosexual acts are illegal, Ms Lithur was protecting criminals.

Gay sex is criminal in Ghanaian law, which deems “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner” punishable by imprisonment.

The Minister for Information and Media Relations released a statement clarifying the reasons for Ms Lithur’s appointment:

“The President’s appointment of Nana Oye Lithur is based purely on her competence and experience.

“In her work, as would be the work of other ministers, she will implement government policy as formulated by the Constitution, Cabinet, Parliament or any other such authorized institution. Government has no policy to promote homosexualism in Ghana. ”