A homophobic attack was made on Ghanaian music promoter, Kinto. He was planning to meet another man when a group ambushed him, accusing him of attempting to have anal sex with this other man. They then asked him to take money out for them as part of a ransom fee. The incident was filmed and went viral online.
Several members of the Ghanaian music industry responded with overwhelming support for homosexuality, opening a rare discussion in Ghanaian society. Singer, Efya,tweeted “the world is changing… get with the program… Gay people are here… Get with the program. It’s who they are… so you be you… let them be them.”…“You can’t beat the Gay out of someone..!! U can’t..!!”. Pop star, Wanlov, also showed support, arguing that homosexuality should be legalised since it’s a private act between consenting people, a reassuringly liberal stance in a country known for its homophobia. C-Real, Ghanaian rapper, went as far as to state ‘as a celebrity…it’s your social responsibility to help correct these wrongs in whatever little way you can.’, It’s good to see recognition, not only the potential for celebrities to facilitate change, but also considering it to be their duty.
Ghana is also amongst those countries that reacted negatively against David Cameron’s threat to cut aid to countries that abused LGBT+ peoples’ rights. The President at the time, John Atta Mills, stated, “I, as president, will never initiate or support any attempt to legalise homosexuality in Ghana”. The kind of action from celebrities discussed above could be much more effective in changing attitudes towards LGBT+ people in Ghana than threats from the West.
Male same-sex relations in Ghana are illegal and punishable for up to 3 years. The U.S. Department of State’s 2012 Human Rights Report stated that “LGBT persons faced widespread discrimination, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts”. Programs Manager at Human Rights Advocacy Centre, Robert Amoafo, reported that he has seen cases of LGBT+ who have been abused, lynched and thrown out of their homes.
Pope Francis who, allegedly, does not judge gay people has made yet more offensive remarks against the LGBT+ community. Last month, he claimed that same-sex marriage apparently ‘disfigures God’s plan for creation’ and ‘[threatens] the family’. This week, he has attacked transgender people:
“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation. With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator.”
References to ‘genetic manipulation’ and ‘manipulation of life’ in the context of gender are presumably references to transgender people expressing their gender identity as they are meant to, as opposed to how they are expected to. For some reason this is similar to nuclear arms. The term ‘gender theory’ in English generally refers to the academic field relating to gender. However in Italic languages, particularly French (see théorie du genre), it is used to describe the idea that gender roles are created and sustained by society, and so gender characteristics are not essentialist in a corporal sense. It is ironic, therefore ,that the Pope is arguing ‘gender theory’ is going against God’s natural creation, when in fact gender theory acknowledges that a vast majority of our personality is man made. It tries to undo the negative effect since our untainted ‘creation’.
Apparently, Pope Francis doesn’t see things this way. However, like many decisions affected by gendered roles, this decision is probably just a product of his societal experience. Moreover, he might have to rethink a few things, for example his Pope-mobile, if he’s only adhering to products of God’s creation!
I recommend that you watch this recently released video demonstrating what many trans people still have to go through in Europe.
It has been a significant week for same-sex marriage in Switzerland and Finland. A vote to extend marriage rights to same-sex people saw a landslide victory in the Lower House of the Swiss Federal Assembly, passing 12-2. Switzerland is generally not considered to be homophobic or backward, and there is thriving LGBT+ life in many cities in Switzerland. Nonetheless, it is fairly behind several countries in central and Western Europe. Although anti-discrimination laws for LGBT+ people were introduced just before 2000, same-sex couples were only recognised in 2007 and the country is lacking in equal access to adoption, IVF and surrogacy. The landslide victory is hopefully a good sign for further rights to be granted in the future.
The president of Finland has signed the law that legalises gender-neutral marriage. It was passed by the Finish Parliament with a vote of 105-92. However, same-sex marriage will not be permitted until 2017. Finland’s Justice Ministry states it needs to revise secondary legislation before this can go through. Same-sex marriage will be an addition to many rights awarded to LGBT+ people since the year 1999, including several anti-discrimination laws, rights to change legal gender (2002 – although ‘transvestism’ was only declassified as an illness in 2011) and access to IVF (2006). Last year, the Finish Medicines Agency repealed the permanent ban on MSM* to donate blood.
Despite the serious threat of IS, many people found it hard to take seriously the threat: ‘we will use your leaning tower of pizza to throw off homosexual’. It was made by an IS militant under the Twitter hashtag: ‘We_Are_Coming_O_Rome’. The threat comes after IS did in fact throw people accused of being gay off a roof in Tal Abyad, Syria. The internet responded accordingly, not only mocking them about the Leaning Tower of Pisa not actually being in Rome (and also being made out of marble, not dough!), but said they were sceptical this attack would be possible, considering the shambles that is apparently Rome’s transport and road system. Tweets included ‘Tomorrow is the strike of public transport. Good luck” and “Be careful on the highway-Ring Road: there’s too much traffic, you would remain trapped’. Although their threats were taken light heartedly by some, Italian security have plans to employ 4,800 soldiers in the city’s streets and sites thought to attract terrorism.
Elliot Fitzgerald (GR. Columnist)