LGBT+ Bill: Parliament to retake bill through another second consideration stage

Parliament has adopted a new motion for the House to re-take the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, 2021 through another second consideration stage.

Per the motion, the House will reconsider 14 clauses all of which are targeted at substituting community service with incarceration for those who engaged and promoted lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) in Ghana.

The adoption negated the third reading to pave way for the passage of the bill today [Wednesday, Feb 15, 2024].

That came after the House had adopted the motion which was sponsored and moved on the floor by the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, who urged the House to thoroughly consider the amendments he had proposed for those who engaged and promoted in LGBT+.

He had moved the motion, which was seconded by the National Democratic Congress MP for Ho West, one of the sponsors of the anti-gay bill, in line with Standing Order 171 (1).

Order 171 (1) says “Where a member intends to delete, amend, or introduce a provision in a bill which has passed through the consideration stage, the member may, immediately before a sponsor rises to move the motion for the third reading of the bill, move that the bill passes through a second consideration either wholly” or in respect of a particular part or parts of the bill or some proposed new clause or new schedule

The House completed the second stage consideration of the bill last week and the Speaker referred it to the sponsors of the bill and the legislation draft office to piece it together and present to the House ahead of its third reading.

Earlier sentencing regime

Parliament approved an amendment to the anti-gay bill, imposing six-month custodial sentence or less on individuals who aided, facilitated, encouraged or promoted LGBTQ+ activities.

The amendment was proposed by co-sponsor of the bill Sam George who believed that strict punishment was necessary to ensure compliance with the law once passed.

Under the amended bill, those found guilty of promoting LGBTQ+ activities would face a minimum sentence of three months and a maximum of six months or a fine of GH₵600 minimum to GH₵1200.

Incarceration not the solution

However, providing a justification for his new motion, Mr Afenyo-Markin told the House that the amendments presented in the bill were motivated by strong convictions regarding the necessity of implementing a more rehabilitative strategy in Ghanaian criminal justice system.

“Mr Speaker, the issue before us is behavioural and it is my humble view that in dealing with behavioural matters, incarceration is not the solution as it makes the mater worse,” he said.

The MP for Effutu said various discourse advocated that court system should introduce a more humane reformative and rehabilitative system “where people who breached the law and sinned against our legislation will have the opportunity to reform and reintegrate.”

He argued that to jail a person for his or her sexuality would not be the solution in maintaining the Ghanaian family values and ensuring proper human sexual rights.

He expressed the worry that individuals who were sentenced as a result of homosexuality went to jail and became worse off.
I’m for the law

He argued that those who got jailed were often introduced to sodomy and other vices.

Telling the House that he was all for the anti-gay bill to protect Ghanaian family values, Mr Afenyo-Markin, however, said “I am against aspects of the law which will make that Ghanaian individual worse off.”

Hinting on the government’s intent to introduce Community Sentence Bill soon, the leader reminded the House that the Judiciary favoured custodial sentencing to curb congestion in prisons.

He also told the House that Parliament had also passed the Plea Bargaining Law, which was lenient on those who admitted the wrongs they had committed and had the means to pay the state for the wrong committed.

To that effect, Mr Afenyo-Markin argued the integration of community service as an alternative to incarceration would substantially bolster the efficacy and passion of Ghana’s judiciary system.

“Mr Speaker, I do contend that with all my experience at the bar and what I have seen in the society, incarceration will be counter-productive and we will not achieve the purpose and we will be worse.

“The non-custodial sentence approach is consistent with global recognised standards and safeguards the rights and dignity of persons while preserving the bills rights intents and purpose,” he said.

In his view, if the House was inclined to his position, there was no way the efficacy of the anti-gay bill would be defeated because “it is still a crime to engage in homosexuality and someone promoting it in manner that will destroy our cultural values will pay a price”.

“If this House endorses this non-custodial sentencing approach, specifically regarding the issue discussed in the proposed legislation, we will be making progress in confronting our legal system to international obligations imposed on us,” he said.