Local law enforcement received a tip that the individuals were conducting a workshop around various issues related to their practice. Hours later, journalists burst into the room and took photos and videos, and shortly thereafter, law enforcement made their unwelcome presence and arrested the LGBTQI members.
Alex Kofi Donkor, the head of a community center in Accra and named ‘LGBT+ Rights Ghana, told CNN. “The police came almost immediately and arrested most of the attendees. They also took away banners and flip charts that were used during the training session.
He added, “LGBTQ persons continuously experience indiscriminate arrest and discrimination in Ghana because of their known or perceived sexual orientation… so some organizations chose to train some individuals within their various localities on human rights laws that exist in Ghana and how they can protect themselves and deal with issues of abuses when they arise within their local spaces,” he said.
The conference was held in the southeastern city of Ho; of those arrested, there were 16 women and four men. The arrest took place under what is called “unlawful assembly.” African-American celebrities, including actor Idris Elba and supermodel Naomi Campbel, asked Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, in an open letter, to work with LGBTQ community leaders to get involved. However, as of this writing, Akufo-Addo has yet to respond.
Many African nations operate under a controlled systems where their citizens are restricted in their freedom of expression.
But Sergeant Prince Dogbatse told CNN that the individuals detained had nothing to do with freedom of expression but rather breaking the law that has been set in place for over 20 years.
Donkor told CNN that particular law isn’t easy to decipher given the latitude that a person in authority has.
“The sexual orientation of an individual could lead to his or her lynching in some Ghananian neighborhoods,” Donkor said. “In police stations, sometimes, the police even turn around and arrest an individual who has come to report issues of abuse while ignoring the perpetrator.”
Ghana has strict laws regarding same-sex relationships. And if an individual is discovered to have engaged in such practices, they face up to 25 years in prison. As for the 21 who were arrested, they are set to make their first appearance in court on June 4.
CNN reports that Police spokesman, Dogbatse refused to make comments about the views of homophobia in Ghana. According to Donkor, some human rights lawyers have put in extensive work to get the individuals released; however, their efforts have failed as of this report.