- By Sophia Jones<p> Sophia Jones, a former editorial researcher at Foreign Policy, is an Overseas Press Club fellow and freelance journalist based in Cairo. Follow her on Twitter: @Sophia_MJones. </p>
While gay Americans have a lot to celebrate lately — the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and New York becoming the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, among them — 76 countries still consider being gay a crime. Homosexuality has long been a heated issue in Ghana, and now its LGBT community may face jail time. "All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in the society," said Paul Evans Aidoo, an MP from the western region. Ghana’s Bureau of National Investigations has been directed to track down and arrest anyone suspected of being gay.
Aidoo is not the first high profile person to go on the attack publicly. Reverend Stephen Wengam, a prominent religious figure in Ghana, recently wrote an op-ed for the Ghana Broadcasting Company where he stated:
"If homosexuality is tolerated, very soon the human race will be extinct."
Aidoo’s efforts could lead to a witch-hunt as he has asked landlords to keep an eye out for "people they suspect of being homosexuals". The police are to be informed of any suspicious activity.
Ghana News Agency, a media outlet based in Accra, is claiming that homosexuality can lead to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. While Ghana has recently cut its AIDS rate in half, the disease remains a constant fear of the small West African nation. The homosexual community has now fallen victim to the AIDS blame game.
Apart from South Africa, where gay marriage is formally recognized, homosexuality is shunned by most African leaders. Along with Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Africa is also home to several countries where being gay is quite literally, a death sentence. In Nigeria, those convicted face death by stoning. LGBT individuals in Ghana may soon join this disturbing trend. One member of parliament, David Tetteh Assuming, recently hinted that more permanent punishments will be instituted for those found guilty of homosexuality:
"I believe that they are treading on dangerous grounds and they could face lynching in future."