Written by Staff Writer
By, Alan Whitaker, special to CNN
Some of Ghana’s finest hotels, restaurants and cinemas have been shut down for allegedly violating the country’s sex laws.
They have been targeted by what appears to be the first wave of a new campaign to censor homosexuality in the African nation.
The Minister of Gender Equality and Social Development, Winfred Kwaku Asante, confirmed on Tuesday that the six establishments in the capital, Accra, had been ordered to close due to laws that make homosexual acts illegal.
“These have been closed due to their alleged violation of the (Laws Against Unnatural Harassment Act) 1969,” Asante told local media.
She said the closure was intended to boost morality in the society.
But some of the properties may have been targeted for violating a UN-backed agreement on nondiscrimination, rather than because of the nature of their operations.
They are members of the US National Centre for Lesbian Rights, an organization funded by the US embassy.
While the laws in Ghana are not directly connected to the status of the NCLR’s members, it seems highly likely that the group’s strong links to the right wing and anti-LGBTI movement, as well as its work with Africa-based conservative organizations, explains why it is coming under pressure to close the establishments.
‘We will fight for all the gays who died’
The NCLR, founded in 1981 and now led by Dominique Kumi, has a mandate to protect the human rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people around the world, including those who are LGBTQ.
The group believes that Ghana’s HIV-free status is at risk from prejudice.
The group is engaged in global campaigning against anti-LGBTI laws, lobbying for greater legal protection for homosexual communities and working on public education campaigns, and supports its international partners in trying to persuade all nations that criminalize gay sex to repeal their laws.
The NCLR was founded in the United States because it felt “the US could best communicate its view on gay rights and commitment to the community” in a country where only a small minority of people have such rights, according to its website.
“Gay rights are human rights, and gay rights are universal,” the group says.
After Ghana, the group also plans to hold protests in Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa, against laws that criminalize homosexuality.
It also has strong links to anti-LGBTI groups in Africa and has previously been targeted for criticism for supporting pro-gay decriminalization in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
A 2014 report by Human Rights Watch suggested that NCLR regularly links with advocacy groups that have “demonized lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights activists” and are “secretly bankrolled by the US government to undermine government domestic and international human rights reform programs.”
The group’s website notes that it “links with African and international partners to amplify the stories of LGBTQ and HIV-positive people and LGBTI organizations in the broader, global and national contexts of health, education, media, and human rights protection, while providing necessary advocacy support.”
“We will fight until the last breath of our dead ones,” the group says, “for all those Imoria (homosexuality) and anything else that comes in our way.”
(Video by Fred Hammond/NCLR)