Equality minister Liz Truss signs trade deal with Ghana amid worrying surge of anti-LGBT+ sentiment

Emma Powys Maurice March 3, 2021
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The deal with Ghana was signed by Liz Truss in spite of her commitments to global LGBT+ rights (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media/Getty)

The UK government has signed a trade deal with Ghana amid global condemnation of an anti-LGBT+ raid in the west African country.

The £1.2billion deal will restore tariff-free trade with Ghana following Brexit, promising “greater cultural cooperation” between the two nations.

It was signed by trade secretary Liz Truss on Tuesday (2 March) in spite of her role as co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, a global partnership working to protect the human rights of LGBT+ people around the world.

“I am delighted to be able to sign this deal with our friends and partners in Ghana,” Truss said in a statement. “It provides certainty for businesses that provide vital jobs and livelihoods in Ghana, and it strengthens the ties between our two countries.

“We can now look forward to deepening and furthering our relationship in future, and working together to secure a broader agreement with the West Africa Region.”

As minister for equalities Truss has previously been rebuked for making no moves to expand the membership of the Equal Rights Coalition during the UK’s two-year term at its head.

Of the 58 countries with whom the UK has secured rollover trade deals over the past two years, 47 are not ERC members, and there is no indication that the issue was ever raised with any of them as part of negotiations.

Truss’ failings were highlighted in December by shadow secretary of state Emily Thornberry, who fiercely admonished her for ignoring the human rights record of countries she engages with as international trade secretary.

“Despite having both the opportunity and the motivation, your achievements in this area have been non-existent,” Thornberry told the minister, accusing her of showing “how little you apparently care about this vital coalition and the principles it stands for”.

The coalition, which counts 42 countries as members, commands significant influence in expanding LGBT+ equality abroad. In the past it’s intervened in cases such as the horrifying “gay purge” of Chechnya and the death penalty for homosexuality in Brunei.

It’s unclear whether Truss considered her equality commitments when pursuing the trade agreement with Ghana, where gay sex is illegal and LGBT+ people are routinely persecuted.

The country’s leadership is currently shouldering global condemnation after police forcibly closed the offices of an LGBT+ advocacy group following threats of arson. The news prompted a surge of anti-LGBT+ sentiment, which in turn cast a spotlight on the oppression of Ghana’s queer community.

As the international outcry grew louder, Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo only capitalised on the hatred by declaring that same-sex marriages will never be allowed under his leadership.

PinkNews has reached out to Liz Truss for comment on the matter.

Related topics: Ghana, liz truss

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