Deconstructing homosexuality in Ghana

Authored by: Wunpini Fatimata Mohammed

Routledge Handbook of Queer African Studies

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138503472
eBook ISBN: 9781351141963
Adobe ISBN:


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In recent years, there have been heated debates on homosexuality in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, the Gambia, and Zimbabwe among others. Anti-gay sentiments have been expressed in public discourses on platforms such as social and legacy media (TV, radio, and print media). Over 30 African countries have laws that criminalize homosexuality (Gaffey 2017), ultimately leaving LGBTQIA+ people as perpetual targets of physical and psychological violence. Homosexuality and anti-gay violence in Africa have been theorized extensively from various perspectives (Dankwa 2009; Msibi 2011; Tamale 2011, 2014; Tettey 2016a). Much of the research on homosexuality has presented evidence of the existence of homosexuality in precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial Africa. This mode of argumentation has been developed to counter the widely held notion that homosexuality is unAfrican. Despite the presentation of evidence on the existence of homosexuality in precolonial African societies, little impact has been made on changing the narrative that fuels homophobia in the public sphere today. Countries like Ghana have recently recorded homophobic violence despite attempts to legitimize homosexuality in African societies through arguments presented in research (Msibi 2011; Tamale 2011, 2014; Tettey 2016a). For instance, in early 2015, a young man was physically assaulted in Newtown, Accra because the perpetrators believed he was gay (Joy FM, February 11, 2015b). This chapter explores homosexuality in Ghana within the notion of taboo, examining closely media discourse on the issue and the contributions by institutions such as religion, politics, law, and education to anti-gay sentiments in Ghana. While previous research has adopted a reactionary stance to discussing homosexuality, a deconstruction of homophobia by examining sexuality, taboos, and sexual deviance, drawing parallels between manifestations of homophobic violence and actions taken towards various types of sexual deviance in Ghanaian society, is presented. While sexual deviance like adultery is frowned on, sexual taboos like rape and incest are highly discouraged. It is imperative to note that the framing of discourses around the unAfrican-ness of homosexuality has drawn on taboo notions to support this argument; therefore, deconstructing sexual deviance in the provisions of social taboos provides an avenue for further unpacking homophobia.

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