21 gay activists in Ghana were denied bail on Tuesday when they appeared in court in the southeastern city of Ho. The activists had been arrested three weeks ago on May 20, for what police described as an unlawful gathering, according to their lawyer.
At the time of the arrest, police accused the 21 activists — 16 women and 5 men — of distributing books and flyers containing LGBTQ-related information. Rightify Ghana, a rights organization, claimed that the group had been meeting to discuss how to document and report human rights violations experienced by members of Ghana’s LGBTQ+ community, Reuters reports.
In a post on Twitter, the group said, “The press teamed up with the police to storm the meeting location, started taking images, took their belongings and arrested them.”
LGBTQ+ individuals face persecution across West Africa, where homosexuality is illegal in many countries. In Ghana, charges of homosexuality could carry a prison sentence of up to three years. Reuters reports that while no one has formally been charged for years, police and authorities have cracked down on the queer community in recent months. In March, authorities arrested 22 people for allegedly attending a “lesbian wedding.”
“We cannot condone a situation where people attend a workshop on rights only to be arrested and have those very human rights they were learning about be trampled upon,” said Julia Selman Ayetey, the lawyer representing the 21 activists, in a statement posted on the Twitter feed of the rights group, LGBT+ Ghana — the same group which, earlier this year, was forced to close its LGBT center, the first of its kind in the country, following an intense wave of anti-gay backlash.
“We cannot condone a situation where people attend a workshop on rights only to be arrested and have those very human rights they were learning about be trampled upon,”
-Julia Selman Ayetey
Lawyer for the defendants.#ReleaseThe21 #FreeTheHo21https://t.co/2jlmvvzp3B
— LGBT+ Rights Ghana (@LGBTRightsGhana) June 4, 2021