Ghana and the Gays

Psssst… Hey Ghana, come over here, I’ve got a little secret to tell you. You know me and Jürgen, the guys you welcomed so warmly into your country for three months? To whom all of your people were so polite and friendly? The guys who had such a wonderful time visiting your villages, exploring your nature, and meeting your citizens? Yeah, us. Well, we didn’t want to say anything until now… but we’re gay. According to your laws, we’re not allowed.

Gay Ghana

There’s a reason we’re writing this post well after our departure, and that’s because homosexuality is illegal in Ghana. Strictly speaking, homosexual acts are illegal, and you’d have to get caught having sex before they’d throw you in jail. That can and does happen, of course, but the more immediate danger is societal. LGBT people are subject to widespread hatred and discrimination in this extremely religious country. Children are kicked out of their home, and gay men and women are victims of violent assaults tacitly condoned by society at large.

The tragic thing is, it didn’t always use to be this way. Homophobia is relatively new to Ghana, imported by the colonialists, along with their “enlightened” religions. Before the arrival of the Europeans, homosexuality was common and accepted in all levels of Ghanian society, even to the point of allowing marriages between two men or two women. Transvestism was widely practiced, without any sort of stigma. It wasn’t until Britain criminalized homosexuality in 1860, that Ghana learned to hate it.

So how was it for us, as two gay guys traveling in a country which seems to hate us? Actually… it wasn’t that bad. We simply never made a thing about it; we never told anyone we encountered that we’re gay, and never drew attention to ourselves. And even if people suspected, as I’m sure some must have, it didn’t seem to bug them. In fact, we got into so many long conversations with Ghanaians, almost on a daily basis, and never once did we detect or hear anything slightly homophobic. I’ve experienced more outright bigoted behavior back home in Ohio, than in Ghana. So that’s something.

Ghana’s policy toward homosexuality was nearly enough to keep us away in the first place. We thought long and hard about spending so much time in (and promoting) a country who criminalizes our existence. But in the end, we felt it would be a good chance to shine a light on this backwards policy.

So, if you’re gay and debating whether to visit Ghana… we wouldn’t necessarily push you one way or the other. It’s a shame not to see such a wonderful country, but it’s understandable that you might not want to hide who you are, or support a homophobic government with your dollars.

If you’re Ghanaian and gay… we feel for you, and hope that things get better. Your country seems to be modernizing in so many ways, and change can come quickly. More quickly than you might expect.

If you’re straight, and feel bad about this policy … we hope you take the time to support your gay brothers and sisters by standing up for them publicly, if the opportunity arises.

And if you think that this policy is perfectly fine, that gays are sinners and belong in prison … well, we hope you open your heart a little. If you reflect on it, I doubt you actually hate us all that much. In fact, we’re pretty lovable. Just like everybody else.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Ben D.

    Hey guys, here are some insights. Me (European) and my Ghanaian boyfriend live together in a flat in Ghana.

    Yes that topic is not easy there. One Ghanaian guy told me once: Everybody knows, but you just don’t smear into their faces. Meaning you just keep it for yourself. Especially the churches preach against it. You can hear them shouting in buses, on the roadside or of course in the churches. And by after they collect money cause the preachers know that this is a topic that moves the people. That’s usually the bad side. Also some people try to spread hate online. And some of the police also take advantage out of the situation.

    BUT there’s also another side, a good side of Ghana. It is so nice how free people sometimes are. There’s definitely a scene in Ghana. A private one and even a puplic one. Mostly people meet together at private parties. Or they just go out together hidden as a group in a bar. But I know at least one pink bar and it is very puplic. It is located in a party area with many other bars. The tables and chairs stand straight on the road, outdoors. But the most interesting part is, that nobody hides there. They also have an event in Ghana that I would call a hidden pride. It takes place once a year. Well it is not really a pride but because of its topic you can see many there. Once I even saw one guy standing there openly within the crowd checking the “yellow” app from US and the “blue” one from Europe. Also sometimes on the roadside people talk very openly to you and approach you. And even some churches are very open and marry people. I could write much more but out of respect and protection I don’t want to go into details.

    So yeah Ghana has very bad reputation when it comes to that. But my personal feeling is, especially the younger crowd is getting more open to accept people how they are. And even the government stated once online on facebook that they have other problems to solve, like hungry poor people, then checking what two grown up person do in their bedroom. Moreover Ghanaians are very proud of their peace. I can state that Ghanaians usually are indeed very peaceful people.

    But of course all of that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be careful. But where you find shadow there’s also light.

    1. Da Rufo

      Hey Ben,
      I am thinking of coming to Ghana very soon as a single traveler. It would be nice to meet some brothers/sisters and to get some advice in how to get by 🙂
      Find me on Instagram “Da Rufo”. I’m wearing a hat on my photo.
      Greetings from Germany

  2. Wee gee

    It seems that the minds of the invader has still not changed. Going into someone’s house knowing full well of your evil mind and incitefuf actions. Desrespecting the laws of a country is the same as being given rights in another. Just because your actions are accepted in one country does not mean the earth has to bow to it as supreme law. Respect the laws of others as you would wish others to respect you. Who knows, you are now on record as bad minded people. Once in the blood, always in the blood. Don’t tell me, you words and deeds are always right!.

  3. Tiyanna

    As I respect your life choices and believe that people all should be treated and respected as HUMANS not as “non-gays” or “gays” etc….I do not agree with your statement regarding the history of homosexuality in Ghana (where are your literary references for that information?). I am not quite sure where you have done your historical/cultural studies. What you said about homosexuality being accepted in Ghana before Europeans is absolutely false. The commonalities of indigenous, pre-colonial African religion, philosophy and tradition has ALWAYS disapproved of “homosexuality” in the over-sexualized sense. Issues relating to gender behaviors and sexuality that is abnormal compared to the rest of society rather, was seen as a spiritual matter. For example, men that were “feminine” or not attracted to women were a product of a spiritual circumstance having to do with past lifetimes, spirits or deities that were around them or that have been with them since birth. So any situation where these behaviors where accepted within the society, they were first understood and approved of by the spiritual leaders of the society and were accepted within the structure of the spiritual/moral code and societal laws in place. So no matter where one goes, they should respect the laws. A place does not have to change its laws to accommodate the foreigners that chose to visit. It is the visitors’ job to change their ways in order to respect the culture of the place they visit. It seemed as if you guys did a good job of that so kudos to you!!! You did the right thing!

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