Idris Elba, Naomi Campbell, Edward Enninful and more speak out in support of Ghana’s embattled LGBT+ community
Idris Elba, Naomi Campbell and other high-profile figures have signed an open letter in support of Ghana’s embattled queer community after an LGBT+ centre was shut down by police.
The letter, which was also signed by Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, expressed dismay at the treatment of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which opened its office in the African country on 31 January. The centre was the subject of a furious public backlash and was eventually forcibly closed by national security officials on Wednesday (24 February).
The open letter called on Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo to protect the country’s LGBT+ community.
“We have watched with profound concern as you have had to question the safety of your vital work at the LGBT+ Rights Ghana Centre in Accra, and feared for your personal wellbeing and security,” the letter reads.
“It is unacceptable to us that you feel unsafe. As prominent and powerful advocates for this great country, we are beseeching his excellency, the president of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and political/cultural leaders to create a pathway for allyship, protection and support. We petition for inclusivity which will make the nation even greater and even stronger.”
Black Lives Matter UK has also thrown its weight behind Ghana’s LGBT+ community, and hit out at the state’s “aggressive” response to the opening of an LGBT+ centre.
“We stand with all oppressed queer and transgender people across Africa and the world,” Black Lives Matter UK said in the statement.
“As queer women founded BLM, an attack on the LGBT+ community in Ghana is an attack against all of us. We want our courageous Ghanian family to know that we are with you. Your struggle is our struggle.”
Black Lives Matter UK said it was a “historic and beautiful moment of hope” when the LGBT+ centre was opened in January, and praised activists for their “proud and bold stance against widespread homophobia”.
“The aggressive reaction from police, Catholic bishops and high levels of government was shocking,” the organisation said.
Black Lives Matter UK said it rejects the notion that LGBT+ rights are a foreign import – a claim frequently made by political leaders in African countries that criminalise queer people – and said the opposite is actually the case.
“In fact, LGBT+ rights are anti-colonial in nature. In the land now known as Ghana, queer people and practices have always been present,” the group wrote, before pointing out that homophobia was imported through British colonisation.
LGBT+ Rights Ghana leader fears for his safety after public outcry
There was an international outcry when LGBT+ Rights Ghana shared video footage of national security forces shutting down their offices on Twitter on Wednesday (24 February).
“A few days ago, traditional leaders threatened to burn down our office but the police did not help,” the organisation wrote on Twitter.
“At this moment, we no longer have access to our safe space and our safety is being threatened. We call on all human rights organisations, and allies, to speak out against these attacks and hate crimes we are being subjected to.”
Gay sex is illegal in Ghana, meaning any public show of support for LGBT+ rights can be met with violence and persecution.
Alex Kofi Donkor, who set up the LGBT+ Rights Ghana office, told Reuters on 24 February that they never expected “such an uproar” when they opened their doors.
“We expected some homophobic organisations would use the opportunity to exploit the situation and stoke tension against the community, but the anti-gay hateful reaction has been unprecedented,” he said.
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Speaking to CNN, Donkor said he now fears for his safety.
“I just contacted our lawyers, there is an unsafe situation right now, and I need to go offline.”
The situation became even worse when president Nana Akufo-Addo said on Saturday that LGBT+ rights will not budge an inch during his four-year presidency, according to Africa News.