Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana told the BBC it’s time the country moves toward LGBTQ+ acceptance as Ghanaian Parliament begins discussing a bill imposing harsh penalties on the community.
Turkson has spoken out in favor of accepting the LGBTQ community, a view which is in opposition to Roman Catholic bishops in Ghana who deem homosexuality “despicable,” according to BBC. Turkson is Ghana’s top Catholic priest and first-ever Ghanaian cardinal appointed by Pope John Paul II. And though he maintains his opposition toward same-sex marriage, he doesn’t think homosexuality itself should be criminalized.
“It’s time to begin education, to help people understand what this reality, this phenomenon is. We need a lot of education to get people to…make a distinction between what is crime and what is not crime,” Turkson said.
In recent years, legislation in Ghana has allowed for arbitrary arrests and detention for those suspected to be LGBTQ+, according to the Human Rights Watch. Currently, gay sex is illegal, and those found guilty of it will face three years in prison.
Earlier this year Ghana’s parliament proposed a bill that would make simply identifying as LGBTQ punishable by a three-year prison sentence, according to BBC. It would also criminalize campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights, making the offense punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
Similar occurrences of hateful legislation have been seen in Uganda that approved the Anti-Homosexuality Act in May which proposes life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality. Despite backlash from human rights organizations and divestment of support from global allies, Uganda has been unrelenting.