Several LGBTQ organizations in Ghana have condemned last week’s attack on a gay man at the University of Ghana’s Legon campus.
The university said a woman and a garbage director assaulted the man, who was dressed as a woman, when they discovered he was not female.
“A young man dressed like a female was seen in the Okponglo area, seeking accommodation, and was accommodated by some women in the area,” reads a statement that Dr. Elizier Ameyaw-Buronyah, the university’s director of public affairs, released. “During the night, his true identity was revealed, leading to physical assault by the women who accommodated him.”
The statement notes the assault took place behind a dorm.
“Realizing the true gender the following morning, the refuse collector also assaulted the young man, instructing him to leave the area,” said Ameyaw-Buronyah. “Security personnel were alerted by the University of Ghana students to intervene who handed both the young man and the refuse collector (both of whom are not students of the university) over to the Legon Police for investigation.”
Ameyaw-Buronyah said the university condemns the assault, while noting anyone affiliated with the university who is determined to be involved in the incident will be appropriately punished.
“The University of Ghana strongly denounces the assault and denigration perpetrated by the persons seen in the videos posted on social media on the victim, and strongly condemns such acts of lawlessness,” said Ameyaw-Buronyah. “The University of Ghana would like to affirm its commitment to the safety, dignity and inclusivity of all persons, as stated in its statutes.
LGBT+ Rights Ghana dismissed Ameyaw-Buronyah’s statement, and urged the university to reassess its position.
“The assertion that the victim was first assaulted by women and then by a refuse collector upon the discovery of their ‘true gender’ appears unsubstantiated and seeks to rationalize the victim’s abuse as a consequence of crossdressing,” said LGBT+ Rights Ghana. “Moreso, the assertion that the refuse collector would intervene and continue the assault without questioning, involving, stripping, beating, parading, filming and posting the video online flies in the face of logic and raises concerns about the level of security provided to students and visitors at the Legon campus. This claim does not just make any sense and depicts an attempt by the University authorities to cover up the truth as to what happened.”
“Even without having done any cursory investigation, the university authorities seem to excuse the actions of the perpetrators while unfairly placing the blame on the victim,” added the advocacy group. “This approach further blames the victim as the cause of what harm was perpetrated against them rather than seeking the justice they deserve.”
LGBT+ Rights Ghana urged other human rights organizations to work together to safeguard the rights and dignity of LGBTQ individuals in Ghana. It also said it is willing to work closely with the university if needed.
Rightify Ghana also criticized Ameyaw-Buronyah’s statements.
“Unfortunately this seems to indirectly victim-blame the individual involved, despite the claim that neither of the parties is a student,” said Rightify Ghana. “The university has a responsibility to address such incidents transparently, protect the rights of individuals on its campus, and ensure the safety and well-being of all students.”
Rightify Ghana further urged the university “to reevaluate and improve its response to this incident, taking into account the serious nature of the crimes committed.”
“It is essential to prioritize the rights and safety of individuals over preserving an image that fails to address the gravity of the situation at hand,” said Rightify Ghana.
The Center for Democratic Development – Ghana demanded the university launch an immediate investigation into the incident.
“CDD-Ghana condemns the recent incident involving the beating, abuse, and violations of the rights of an individual at the University of Ghana for allegedly being gay,” said the organization. “The center also condemns the filming of this barbaric action and the circulation of videos across social media. All individuals, including the victims involved in the incident, are presumed to be students at the university.”
Eduwatch called for increased security on all university campuses in the country.
“We regret that such cruel treatment was recorded on video and circulated on social media,” it said. “Eduwatch condemns in no uncertain terms this criminal inhumane and degrading act which violates the individual’s right to dignity and freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment as enshrined in Article 15 of the 1992 constitution.”
The Ghana Education Service earlier this month issued a code of conduct in primary and secondary schools. Section 2.16 (k) states any sexual conduct between students of the same sex shall constitute misconduct.
The new code of conduct has sparked concern among advocacy organizations that see it as a way to ensure those who identify as LGBTQ are silenced and treated as social delinquents. The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, which MPs first introduced in 2021, is meant to augment the 1960 criminal code that criminalizes so-called acts of unnatural carnal knowledge with up to three years’ imprisonment.
The measure would prohibit same-sex sexual activities; same-sex marriages; use of sex toys; identifying as LGBTQ; advocating for the LGBTQ community, even on social media platforms, and gender affirming surgeries, among other things.
The bill will most likely pass this year since most MPs are in favor of it.