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Ghana Issues Ultimatum to Int'l Gay Conference
Says those who authorized meeting must be punished
Amin George Forji (amingeorge)     Print Article 
Published 2006-09-03 14:24 (KST)   
The government of Ghana on Friday banned a controversial international gay and lesbian conference that was scheduled to begin at the Accra International Conference Centre on Monday, Sept. 4, saying the administration cannot permit a gathering over what is illegal.

Many clergymen and other members of the public have already voiced their concerns and condemnation, as soon as local tabloids began reporting on the conference.

"The government does not condone any such activity which violently offends the culture, morality and heritage of the entire people of Ghana," said Kwamena Bartels, the country's Minister of Information and National Orientation, in a written statement that was broadcast over national radio. "Supporting such a conference, or even allowing it, will encourage that tendency which the law forbids."

"The government would like to make it absolutely clear that it shall not permit the proposed conference anywhere in Ghana. ... Unnatural carnal knowledge is illegal under our criminal code. Homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality are therefore offences under the laws of Ghana," he added.

"It is not illegal for them to meet and talk, but we in Ghana don't want to encourage it. They can go and do it elsewhere," the statement continued.

The government also has also ordered the Interior Ministry to open an investigation into who authorized the holding of the conference in Ghana. It recommended severe punishment for those found responsible, though it remains unclear which group or groups were involved.

"The Minister of the Interior is further directed to institute disciplinary action if they are found to have acted in contravention of our laws."

A spokesman for the Conference Centre has denied that a gay and lesbian conference was scheduled for the dates in question.

A live talk-show on national radio opened the debate, Friday, which the station said provoked a record number of anonymous phone calls, both for and against. Many in favor of the conference expressed their anguish about what they considered to be a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of association and speech in the country.

Others countered that morals were on a sharp decline in a country that once maintained a "unique Africa identity."

Homosexuality remains taboo in West Africa and is generally considered to be a "disease" imported from the Western world. On the continent, only South Africa has relaxed laws on the issue. Its cabinet last week gave a go-ahead to a proposed bill that will allow gay marriages.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Amin George Forji

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