A recently-opened center for the LGBTQI+ community in Ghana, has been shut down after it was raided by security forces in the West African country Wednesday.
Alex Kofi Donkor, who heads the center named ‘LGBT+ Rights Ghana’ in the country’s capital, Accra, told CNN Thursday that he is now concerned for his safety after the raid.
“I just contacted our lawyers, there is an unsafe situation right now, and I need to go offline,” Donkor told CNN.
The community center – which opened on January 31 in a ceremony attended by a delegation of the European Union and other foreign embassies – faced opposition from the start and attracted a lot of anger among locals who called for it to be closed down.
Ghana proscribes same-sex relationships and intolerance and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people has remained rife among Ghana’s population, Human Rights Watch said.
Being in a same-sex relationship in Ghana’s LGBT can attract between three to 25 years in prison, according to the country’s penal code.
A spokesman for Ghana Police Service declined to comment on the shutdown of the not-for-profit center, described as a movement “championing the fight for freedom for LGBT+ persons in Ghana.”
Although short-lived, the center would remain in “hearts and minds,” Donkor posted on his social media page.
“We anticipated this,” he posted. “We will triumph. The police may have raided our office and closed it down but the real office is in our hearts, and minds.”
The country is one of more than 30 countries in Africa where same-sex relationships are against the law, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).
Ghana’s minister-designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Sarah Adwoa Sarfo, said in a video during her confirmation hearing on February 17 that Ghanaian laws against same-sex relationships are not up for debate when asked her stance on social protection for non-heterosexual people.
“The issue of LGBT is an issue that when mentioned creates some controversy, but what I want to say is that our laws are clear on such practices. It makes it criminal…to have unnatural carnal knowledge with another person,” Sarfo said in the video.
“On the issue of its criminality, it is non-negotiable, on the issue of cultural acceptance and norms, these practices are also frowned upon. For me, these are two distinct clarity on the matter and this is what I strongly stand for,” she added.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden directed United States foreign departments and agencies to “promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons everywhere.”
President Biden sought to decriminalize LGBTQI+ status overseas in a memo issued on February 4 where he threatened wide-ranging sanctions against countries where gay rights are suppressed.
“When foreign governments move to restrict the rights of LGBTQI+ persons or fail to enforce legal protections in place, thereby contributing to a climate of intolerance, agencies engaged abroad shall consider appropriate responses, including using the full range of diplomatic and assistance tools and, as appropriate, financial sanctions, visa restrictions, and other actions,” the presidential memo said.
However, Ghana responded by responding that the country’s laws are supreme, and legislation criminalizing gay sexual activities would remain in place.
Stephanie Busari contributed to this story