The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria joins the voices of many human rights defenders and organisations in condemning the passing of the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values  Bill by the Parliament of Ghana on 28 February 2024. 

Sponsored by a coalition of various religious and traditional leaders, the new law introduces new offences that will have far-reaching effects on LGBTIQ+ individuals, groups and human rights defenders in Ghana. The Bill criminalises same-sex sexual conduct between adults, same-sex marriage and any form of relationship between sexual and gender minorities in Ghana, with a sentence of up to 3 years imprisonment. The Bill then goes on to criminalise sexual conduct by criminalising LGBTIQ+ identities and stating that ‘any person who holds out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual, queer, pansexual or non-binary’ is guilty of an offence and subject to imprisonment of up to 3 years. The far-reaching effects of the Bill are such that, any human rights defender who holds themselves out as an ally, or in any way protects and promotes sexual and gender minority rights in Ghana, is also guilty of an offence; and liable to imprisonment of up to 3 years as well. The Bill further criminalises the production, procurement and distribution of material deemed to promote LGBT+ activities or the teaching of LGBT-related content to children, with a sentence of between 6 to 10 years imprisonment. 

Regretfully, the Bill classifies intersex ‘persons as people born with a biological abnormality’ and further bans the administration of Trans-healthcare. The sponsorship of LGBT+ groups is banned under the Bill, forcing all LGBT+ associations in Ghana to disband under the threat of a 6 to 10 year imprisonment sentence for anyone who is part of an LGBT+ association. In seeking to protect and promote what it terms as ‘Ghanaian family values’, the Bill imposes duties on citizens and institutions to “promote and protect proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values” and implies duties on parents, landlords, business owners and religious institutions, encouraging the public to report members of the LGBT community. 

As an academic institution, the Centre is also deeply concerned with the threat the Bill poses to academic freedom. Students, lecturers and researchers many of whom collaborate with the Centre are at risk of arrest and conviction for merely discussing issues of discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Bill will only come into effect if signed into law by President Nana Akufo-Addo, who previously stated that he would do so if called for by majority of Ghanaians. He has 14 days to sign the bill into law or give reasons. He has however recently stated that he will wait for the Constitutional Court of Ghana to make a ruling on the Bill’s constitutionality before taking a decision. If signed into law, the Bill will have an adverse impact on the LGBTIQ+ community in Ghana who already live in fear of violence and face discrimination and other forms of human rights violations. The passage of the Bill occurs in the context of increasing hostility and persecution of sexual and gender minorities as well as human rights groups, activists, and civil society in Ghana. In a country and region where sexual minorities already face stigma, discrimination and violence, the Bill would only further endanger the lives, safety and dignity of an already vulnerable and targeted group.

The Centre stresses that the Bill is contrary to the spirit and express provisions of Ghana’s Constitution and international human rights law. Article 17 of the Constitution provides for the protection against discrimination and provides that all persons shall be equal before the law. Articles 14, 15 and 21 provide for the protection of personal liberty, the respect of human dignity, and the right of all persons to freedom of association, speech, expression, thought, conscience and belief. Further, Ghana’s Constitution requires scrutiny over potential financial and adverse impacts of legislation. The provisions of the Bill threaten these freedoms in a way that discriminates against individuals, communities, and persons who advocate for them based on their real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity.

Echoing the words of Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director, “If the Human Sexual R     ights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill becomes  law, it will exacerbate fear and hatred, could incite violence against fellow Ghanaian citizens, and will negatively impact on free speech, freedom of movement and freedom of association.” 

The Centre therefore urges President Nana Akufo-Addo to refrain from assent to the Bill, especially in light of the constitutional challenge filed in Court. The Centre believes that on the merits the case has a reasonable chance to succeed. The Centre recalls that Ghana is a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). The supervisory body of the Charter, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, adopted in 2014 Resolution 275, which prohibits violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The Centre calls on Ghana to closely observe the directives in this Resolution. 

The Centre hopes that African states and the international community will encourage Ghana to act in accordance with its human rights obligations and to protect all of its citizens by rejecting the Bill. In addition, the Centre urges all African states to:

  • strike down outdated, discriminatory legislation criminalising same-sex and gender diverse conduct or expression (if they have not yet done so);
  • offer asylum to LGBTIQ+ persons fleeing persecution;
  • recognise the dangers of violence and other forms of discrimination against persons based on their real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity, and institute laws that protect LGBTIQ+ persons from violence and discrimination as members of a vulnerable category as called upon in Resolution 275 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  • refrain from criminalising the work of human rights defenders and service providers working for the protection and well-being of LGBTIQ+ persons;
  • work towards the education and sensitisation of their citizens to respect the rights of all persons including LGBTIQ+ persons; and
  • fulfil their mandated obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of all persons.

For more information, please contact:

Assistant Director

Tel:  +27 (0)12 420 3810
 Lloyd Kuveya@up.ac.za

Landilani Banda
Acting Project Manager: SOGIESC Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 3151


 Subscribe to our newsletter