Lady Phyll rejects Ghana’s attacks on LGBT+ community: ‘It is un-African to treat people with hate’

Maggie Baska
·3-min read

British political activist and co-founder of UK Black Pride, Phyllis ‘Lady Phyll’ Akua Opoku-Gyimah, denounced Ghana’s recent attacks against the LGBT+ community as “un-African”.

In a column for British Vogue, Lady Phyll said the recent closure of the new LGBT+ centre in Accra, Ghana “has broken my heart”. She said: “As a queer Black African woman who has worked hard alongside others to build spaces for people like us to feel free, safe and seen, I know all too well how difficult – arduous, even – it can be to create something so necessary and have it met with such vitriol.”

Ghanaian authorities have faced global condemnation after police forcibly closed the offices of LGBT+ Rights Ghana on 24 February, putting a spotlight on the oppression of the country’s queer community.

There are no laws protecting LGBT+ individuals from discrimination in Ghana, and gay sex is illegal.

Lady Phyll said it is “un-African” to “treat people with hate and ignorance” and “to threaten our sons, daughters and siblings with violence because they dare create space for themselves to be free”.

She said queerness, love, freedom and doing the right thing “even when it’s difficult” are all African.

Lady Phyll added it “breaks my heart that people like me live under threat of violence and second-class citizenship”, especially because she is Ghanian. She argued the recent violence is “not who Ghanaians are”.

Lady Phyll said Ghanians “know well the trauma, violence and human rights violations that flourish under oppressive regimes”, and it is unacceptable that violence against the LGBT+ community is “co-signed by leaders elected to protect” its citizens.

She added that there will be questions about what “business those of us” outside of Ghana have in speaking up for LGBT+ people in the African country. But she argued: “We are Ghanian by birth and in spirit, and we are African together.

“We each have a responsibility to speak up and speak out in support of those who will be trampled by others simply for wanting to live their lives without interference.”

Ghana LGBT+ office stormed by police

Alex Kofi Donkor set up the LGBT+ Rights Ghana office on 31 January, but national security forces stormed in and forcibly closed the premises on 24 February. He told Reuters that he did not expect “such an uproar” when the organisation was set up in January, adding that the “anti-gay hateful reaction” to the group “has been unprecedented”. He now fears for his safety.

On Monday (1 March), 67 Brits of Ghanaian heritage signed a letter condemning the treatment of Ghana’s LGBT+ community. Idris Elba, Naomi Campbell, Edward Enninful and more said they stood in solitary with the nation’s queer people.

On the same day, Ghana’s inspector general of police James Oppong-Boanuh threatened to further curb gay and lesbian practices and queer groups following the closure of an LGBT+ group’s office. He said so long as the country’s anti-LGBT+ laws “remain in our statute books” then the police will “enforce it”.

Oppong-Boanuh warned that anyone found to have infringed on the law would be swiftly dealt with, according to Ghanian news website Pulse.