Ghana’s President John Mahama has commented for the first time in the row over the country’s new children’s minister, with critics saying she is too sympathetic on the issue of homosexuality.

Nana Oye Lithur, Ghana’s Minister for Gender, Children, and Social Protection, faced difficulty in gaining approval for the post.

The human rights lawyer was accused of supporting gay rights by her critics even though she denies stating that homosexuality should be legalised.

“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 told a committee earlier this year. “I stand for justice for everybody. And what I said was the rights of everybody, including homosexuals should be protected.”

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

President John Mahama commented about the row in a state of the union address this week. He said: “the mandate of the Ministry for Gender, Children, and Social Protection is not for the promotion of gay rights but to bring the fragmented schemes addressing marginalised people together”.

Mr Mahama gave his backing to the minister, adding: “Oye Lithur is experienced and capable and many would see her expertise through her work soon.”

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