Note: All names have been removed to protect the identity of those at the event.
On May 17th I celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) here in Accra, by attending an event put on by the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights, Ghana (CEPEHRG). CEPEHRG is a local NGO that works to combat the impact of HIV and AIDS and works to promote equality and diversity in Ghana.
CEPEHRG brought together community groups and individuals who are committed to helping improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana for a day of solidarity and storytelling. Each community group that was invited was asked to give a short message of solidarity, and I was honoured to attend and speak on behalf of the the Humanist Association of Ghana.
We heard from over 10 different organizations who are all working for and with the LGBTQ+ community here in Accra, and throughout Ghana. Each had a powerful message of support, and hope for the future. I was happy to see so many different groups in attendance speaking so strongly in support of LGBTQ+ rights.
About half way through the day’s events there was a message from a member of the Ghana Police Service - something I was surprised to see as “unnatural carnal knowledge” is still a criminal offence in Ghana (and this law is used almost exclusively against the LGBTQ+ community). The police representative shared his advice on how the members of the community should conduct themselves, and how they should try to interact with police. Although his message was problematic in many ways, it did open up a dialogue for the LGBTQ+ community to share some of the issues they have faced with the police force here in Accra. I was incredibly impressed with representatives from both CEPEHRG and The Solace Brothers Foundation in their efforts to educate the police representative. There is still so much work to be done in regards to the relationship between the police force and the LGBTQ+ community, but it was inspiring to see a short moment of dialogue and resistance.
In the end, the most powerful part of the day, for me, was when members of the LGBTQ+ community spoke about their own struggles. They shared deeply personal stories of being beaten, sexually assaulted, and abandoned by their families. But they also shared stories of their resiliency, strength, and courage. They spoke about the fact that they had been able to move away from the communities that hurt them, and into communities where they can be be safe and supportive of one another. It was an incredible privilege to hear their stories and to be part of the IDAHOT event with them.
A big thanks to both CEPEHRG and the Humanist Association of Ghana for allowing me to join in this event. It was an amazing day, and I was so grateful to be a part of it.
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