Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
Commonwealth member state
Criminal Code 1960, Section 104 Unnatural Carnal Knowledge

Section 104 uniquely distinguishes between non-consensual and consensual sexual intercourse in “an unnatural manner” – the former being a ‘first degree felony’ and the latter a ‘misdemeanour’.1 Under the Criminal Procedure Code, misdemeanour offences carry a penalty of up to three years imprisonment.2 The law is only applicable to sexual intercourse between men.



Human Rights Watch reported in January that they were not aware of any prosecutions under Section 104, however, they were aware of instances in which police had arrested individuals suspected on being homosexual, and extorting money from them. In 2016, three women were arrested at a soccer camp on suspicion of being lesbians. When released from detention, their families disowned them.


The US Department of State Human Rights Report for Ghana stated that there were reports of prosecutions for same-sex sexual conduct, however no convictions were reported.


In July, a 29-year-old lesbian father reported her to the police. Her grandmother paid for her bail after her arrest and she was told she must return to the police station approximately five times.


In 2014 there was considerable public debate over whether Section 104 could be used to prosecute consenting adults for same-sex sexual activity, but there were no reports it had been used.

In August, police in Walewale, a small farming town and capital of the West Mamprusi District, Northern Region, arrested a 21-year-old man on suspicion of being homosexual and “recruiting” other youth to be homosexual. Police stated the arrest was for the suspect’s own safety, since residents of the town had vowed to kill the man and his entire family if he was not removed from the community.


In February, Attorney General, Marietta Appiah Oppong, declared that “the Criminal Offences Act of Ghana says that unnatural carnal knowledge is a criminal offence and so the position of the law is clear and that will be my advice to government.”3

Statements by Public Figures


In June, Head Pastor of Osu Church of Christ, Kofi Tawiah stated that “Homosexuality is considered as a capital offence which is abominable and is accompanied by capital punishment.” He continued, “hence Ghanaian Christians must rise up and fight a justice course for the country. It is unfortunate for anybody to think that today homosexuality is accepted by God.”

In April, Dr. Charles Wereko Brobby, Chief Policy Analyst at Ghana Institute for Public Policy Options, wrote on Facebook that, “Respect for an individual’s rights must never be construed as an imposition of those rights on all individuals #supportlgbtrights!” In response, legal practitioner Moses Foh-Amoaning, stated “so if you are a homosexual let us help you out of it rather than using vestiges of colonialism to support this degenerate moral behaviour.”


In February, At Accra International Airport, a sign was posted that stated: “Ghana warmly welcomes all visitors of goodwill. Ghana does not welcome paedophiles and other sexual deviants. Ghana imposes extremely harsh penalties on such sexually aberrant behaviour. If you are in Ghana for such activity, then for everybody’s good, including your own, we suggest you go elsewhere.” The words “sexual deviants” were clearly extended to LGBT visitors.

Religious and academic leader Pastor Mensa Otabli gave a sermon in February equating marriage equality with darkness and called on Christians to “overcome the darkness.”


In July, the Humanist Association of Ghana (HAG) condemned the treatment of LGBT persons. In a statement, HAG said: “We, at the Humanist Association of Ghana (HAG) in clearest terms: 1. Condemn the dehumanizing treatment of gay people in our society. It is, to say the least, embarrassing that in 2015 we treat productive members of our society whose sexual orientation isn’t mainstream with the courtesy afforded the carcass of rabid dogs. That a postcolonial African society will suffer any section of its members to humiliation, dehumanisation, violence and even death based on their sexual orientation is bizarre. Even more so, if you consider that pre-colonial African societies were often very tolerant of gay people and in some societies, they were elevated to divine status. We, at HAG, stand in solidarity with members of Ghana’s LGBTQ community. We acknowledge their humanity and their rights to live free of intimidation. We know that the idea that homosexuality is a Western import is a myth, and more importantly that homosexuality is human and what is inhuman is the lack of compassion shown towards the LGBTQ community. Tons of research data and anthropological work inform that same-sex behaviour existed in pre-colonial and pre-Islamic sub-Saharan Africa. That the wave of homophobia currently sweeping our country and large parts of the African continent is the result of the works of bigoted homophobic Judaeo-Christian missionaries in Africa.”

Muslim Chief Iman of Takoradi, Alhaji Mohammed Awal, stated in July that homosexuality was “dirty and abominable” and same-sex acts were “devilish acts.”


Cardinal Peter Turkson, leader of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Ghana, criticised Uganda’s anti-gay laws in April, saying: “homosexuals are not criminals.”

In March, a Former Ghanaian politician and ex-High Commissioner to India reportedly told a group of anti-gay activists: “One thing I’ll want to emphasise is that homosexuality today has become a cult. It has become a club. It has become a foundation. It has become something that some people are promoting and putting billions of dollars into so that this unusual and abnormal behaviour should be accepted by force by the world. This is the strength of the danger and for which matter we must stand up strongly against it.”

In February, Alex Afenyo-Markin, a Ghanaian MP, called for the government to set out its position on gay rights. The minister did not say whether he was pro or anti-homosexuality but stressed the importance of picking a side in order to direct future policy: “If we are for gay practices and we say it’s a human rights issue, we are accepting it, we have to live with it, then we should provide facilities at the health centers to take care of them because people are dying.”


In December, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Creative Arts, Dzifa Abla Gomashie, argued against discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, regardless of personal attitudes towards homosexuality. At the same time, Dr. Kojo Obeng, representing the Chief Psychiatrist of Ghana made similar comments: “Not accepting homosexuality does not mean we should discriminate and persecute them.” The Chief Psychiatrist, Dr. Akwasi Osei, had previously stated in March 2013 that “homosexuality is not natural and should not qualify for human rights, which are natural rights. In its true nature, it is a disorder”.

Then President of Ghana, John Mahama, set out his position in October: “I believe that laws must prevail. For instance, people must not be beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, but in my country there is a strong cultural hostility towards it.”

People must not be beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, but in my country there is a strong cultural hostility towards it.

John Mahama, Former President

The son of the first President of Ghana spoke out in support of gay rights in August, arguing that gay people should not be prosecuted.

The head of the Ghanaian Presbyterian Church, Emmanuelle Martey claimed in July that “gays” wanted to destroy the country and formed part of “Satan’s deadly agenda.

In February, the Government of Ghana released a statement that then President John Mahama “does not subscribe to homosexualism and will not take any step to promote homosexualism in Ghana” following news reports of the President’s friendship with openly gay US writer Andrew Solomon.

In January, Nana Oye Lithur, after her appointment as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, was forced to defend statements she had made years earlier on gay rights: “I have never said that homosexuality should be promoted or that I will promote homosexuality. I have never said that homosexuality should be legalised… I stand for justice for everybody. And what I said was the rights of everybody, including homosexuals should be protected.


In August, former Attorney General, Minister Martin Amidu stated that private same sex conduct between two consenting adults is legal in Ghana: “The law does not follow you to see what you do, your house is your castle; your room is your castle, what you do there is nobody’s business. It is only when you rape an adult by way of unnatural carnal knowledge that you become a subject of prosecution.

The law does not follow you to see what you do… It is only when you rape an adult by way of unnatural carnal knowledge that you become a subject of prosecution.

Martin Amidu, Former Attorney General

The General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana was quoted in July as saying that “we Ghanaians and for the matter Africans cherish our rich and strong values on issues such as homosexuality and we must not allow anyone or group of people to impose what is acceptable in their culture on us in the name of human rights.”

In the same month, Paul Evans Aidoo, a Ghanaian minister, called for the investigation and arrest of gay people living in Ghana. In making his comments, he also implored landlords to report suspected homosexuals to the authorities.

Persecution and Discrimination


In June, in the end of mission statement after his visit to Ghana, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights stated that: “Discrimination against LGBTI people makes them vulnerable to extreme poverty and LGBTI people living in poverty experience intersecting forms of discrimination that prevent the full enjoyment of their human rights.”

In a Human Rights Watch report in January it was found that most of the LBT women interviewed were pressured into marriage and having a family. Those that did not conform faced violence. In 2015, a lesbian woman named Khadija told the story of how her family had arranged a marriage for her; she ran away from home but upon her return they still wanted her to get married.

Human Rights Watch recorded horrifying cases of violence and domestic abuse against lesbian and bisexual women. HRW interviewed Pearl, who in 2009 was sexually and physically assaulted by a senior government official and senior police officer. Following this assault, Pearl was also attacked by a mob of people who beat her and, if not for her father intervening, would have set her on fire.


The US Department of State Human Rights Report for Ghana stated that LGBT persons faced widespread discrimination in education and employment, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts. There were reports police were reluctant to investigate claims of assault or violence against LGBT persons. Gay men in prison were often subjected to sexual and other physical abuse

In June, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in Ghana reported receiving 41 reports of discrimination against LGBT people as of June 2017.


In January, three male students were lynched by a mob of students at Opoku Ware Senior High School in Kumasi, accusing them of having “engaged in homosexuality.” They had been armed with clubs, machetes and stones. Teachers intervened to stop the attack.


In August, a soldier reportedly rescued a gay man being severely beaten by a mob at Kawukudi Park in Accra. The victim was invited by a friend to watch a football game with an intention to beat him up.

In the same month, a violent homophobe’s Facebook page was reportedly blocked and a police investigation started after complaints from UK based activist Pastor Jide Macaulay alleging that he was using social media to entrap and assault LGBT people.

Also in August, police reportedly launched a search for a group of about 20 attackers that brutally assaulted a man suspected to be a homosexual in a suburb of Accra. Police later revealed that the victim was assaulted after he had contacted one of the local men to be his friend. The incident was recorded on a video that went public.

In March, a group of women perceived to be lesbians were confronted by a mob during a private birthday party in the town of Teshie near Accra and pelted with human faeces” according to reports. Local residents later printed and circulated posters in an attempt to ‘out’ the women.

InA well-known event promoter was beaten by a mob in Accra in February due to his perceived sexuality. A video recording of the attack was circulated widely through social media. Popular Ghanaian singer Efya later condemned the attack on Twitter.4


An article published by News Ghana in October carried the headline: “I Was Introduced into Gayism by My Class Teacher” and warned of “an underworld of child recruitment into homosexuality.”

A 21-year-old man was targeted by a group for wearing women’s clothes and having sex with men in August. They threatened to kill him and his family. The police responded by arresting the victim.

In May, a gang of Muslim youths were wanted by police following the lynching of a gay man because of his sexuality. According to reports, local villagers refused to help the police in their investigation and were still looking for the man’s lover.


The Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana (CEPEHRG) recorded five cases in 2013 of LGBT people in Ghana being robbed or beaten after responding to profiles on dating websites.

In April, 53 students were expelled from a school after being suspected of being gay.


In August, 9 LGBT people fled the Accra neighbourhood of Jamestown after a group of youths were assaulted people in the area perceived to be homosexual.

The 2012 UK Country of Origin Report on Ghana suggests that persecution often occurs “at the hands of, or with the collusion of, the police or other agents of the state”. It adds that sexual minorities faced “widespread discrimination, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts”, and are often subjected to physical and sexual assaults.

Legislative News


During its third UPR cycle, Ghana supported recommendations to takes measures to end discrimination and violence against LGBT people. Ghana noted recommendations to decriminalise and to have sexuality education and discrimination prevention for young people.


In its concluding observations for the review of Ghana, the Human Rights Committee expressed: “concern about reports that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons are subjected to discrimination, intimidation and harassment and about the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of such acts.”

The Committee recommended that: “The State party should take the steps necessary to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons against all forms of discrimination, intimidation and violence. Furthermore, the State party should amend section 104 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, to ensure that sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex are not considered a misdemeanour and not punishable by law.”


In March, the Deputy Attorney-General and Deputy Minister of Justice gave guidance on the issue: “Unless and until an issue, be it social, religious, economic or political is sufficiently advanced in the moral consciousness of the citizenry and an unequivocal demand is made on Parliament to address the issue through effective legislation, any attempt to bypass the true wishes of the people will be counter-productive.”


During its second UPR cycle, Ghana rejected recommendations to decriminalise same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults and to adopt measures that would raise awareness in the fight against homophobia. Ghana considered that it had already taken steps to prevent acts of violence against the gay community.

1. Criminal Code 1960, Section 104 Unnatural Carnal Knowledge

“(1) Whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge—

(a) of any person of the age of sixteen years or over without his consent shall be guilty of a first degree felony and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than twenty five years; or

(b) of any person of sixteen years or over with his consent is guilty of a misdemeanour;

(2) Unnatural carnal knowledge is sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal.” Full text.

2. Criminal Procedure Code 1960, Section 296 General Rules for Punishment

“(4) Where a crime, not being a crime mentioned in sub-section (5), is declared by any enactment a misdemeanour and the punishment for the crime is not specified, a person convicted thereof shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.” Full text.

3. Peace FM Online

Addo-Tetteh, R., “I Disapprove Of Gays – Attorney-General, Peace FM Online, February 2013, accessed on 19 July 2014.

4. Gay Star News

Wee, D., “Gay man brutally beaten by mob in Ghana”, Gay Star News, 11 February 2014

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