US Department Spokesperson

The United States on Thursday cautioned that it might limit foreign aid to Ghana if President Nana Akufo-Addo signs a new bill criminalising LGBTQI+ activities into law.

Ghana’s Parliament on Wednesday approved legislation that could lead to prison sentences of up to three years for identifying as LGBTQ+ and five years for forming or supporting LGBTQI+ organizations.

US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller expressed concerns about the potential consequences of the bill, stating, “So we have made very clear what our opinion is on that law – you can look at my statement yesterday – and we have made that clear in private conversations with the Government of Ghana as well. I don’t think I should get any more specific than that, but if this bill becomes law, it would certainly have a chilling effect on foreign investment and tourism in Ghana”. 

He added that the enactment of the bill could affect U.S. assistance to the country.

“You’ve seen that same chilling effect bear fruit in Uganda, which passed a very similar law in the past, and I can say that should the bill pass, it would potentially have ramifications on U.S. assistance in the country”.

While the bill awaits Akufo-Addo’s assent, he has indicated his willingness to approve it if it aligns with the wishes of the majority of Ghanaians.

The United States provided over $211 million in assistance to Ghana in fiscal year 2022, supporting various sectors including agriculture, malaria prevention, and AIDS combat efforts. The extent to which aid would be affected by the new law remains uncertain.

Although many African nations criminalize same-sex relationships, recent legislative efforts across the continent have sought to reinforce such laws.

Ghanaian parliamentarian Sam George, who sponsored the bill, celebrated its passage online, emphasizing the protection of national values.

However, the proposed legislation drew swift condemnation from the United States, echoing similar criticism directed at Uganda for its harsher anti-LGBTQ+ measures.

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller underscored Ghana’s tradition of tolerance and respect for human rights, expressing concern that the bill could undermine these values.

In Uganda, the law includes severe penalties such as the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and life imprisonment for “homosexuality,” prompting the U.S. to restrict $20 million in aid to the country.

Amnesty International has urged President Akufo-Addo not to sign the bill, emphasizing the importance of respecting the human rights of all individuals.

Amnesty’s country director for Ghana, Genevieve Partington, condemned the legislation, citing reports of rights violations against LGBTQ+ individuals since the bill’s introduction in parliament.