Ghana’s LGBTQ community has called for the release of 21 people, who were arrested by security forces last week while attending a conference in the southeastern city of Ho.
An online campaign with the hashtag #ReleaseThe21 has gone viral on social media platform Twitter, as people demanded the immediate release of the detainees. At least 16 women and four men were arrested by local police on Thursday after operatives invaded an hotel where a conference for LGBTQI persons was ongoing. A regional police spokesman, Prince Dogbatse, said in a statement that the detained individuals were arrested for “advocating LGBTQI activities.” A court in the Ho district on Friday ordered the 21 accused, who were charged with “unlawful assembly” to be remanded in police custody until their reappearance in court on June 4.
Ghana outlaws same-sex relationships and the country’s penal code prescribes between three and 25 years in prison for any citizen found to be in a same-sex relationship. Alex Kofi Donkor, the head of a community center in Accra, named ‘LGBT+ Rights Ghana,’ which was raided by police in February, told CNN that a female executive of his organization was among those arrested in the police’s latest clampdown on the community. Donkor said the conference which the police had tagged an “unlawful assembly” was a paralegal training for gay activists as discrimination against sexual minorities remains rife in Ghana. “LGBTQ persons continuously experience indiscriminate arrest and discrimination in Ghana because of their known or perceived sexual orientation… so some organizations chose to train some individuals within their various localities on human rights laws that exist in Ghana and how they can protect themselves and deal with issues of abuses when they arise within their local spaces,” Donkor told CNN.
Donkor narrated that two hours into the conference, the venue was “invaded” by journalists who came uninvited. “The event started at 9 am on Thursday with about 25 persons in attendance. Two hours later, some journalists invaded the space and started taking photos and videos,” said Donkor. He added that: “The police came almost immediately and arrested most of the attendees. They also took away banners and flip charts that were used during the training session.” Efforts by human rights lawyers to secure the release of the detainees were rejected by the Ho Circuit Court, Donkor said.