GHANA AND THE LGBTQIA+ AGENDA
By Nana Yaw Aidoo
The battle over the Sam George led anti-lgbtqia+ bill continues to be "fought" both among our lawmakers and the citizenry, though admittedly it is not as raging as it used to be when it was first introduced in parliament. At the moment, it is not an issue of what the Bible says for the Bible believing community’s support of the bill tells its own story. Rather, it is or has become a “human rights and justice” issue. “If a man and a woman are allowed to marry,” says the pro-lgbtqia+ group, “then not only is it unjust to deny homosexuals the same permission but it also is an abuse of their human rights.” Is it unjust and an abuse of their human rights to prevent homosexuals from joining themselves in civil unions? I believe that it is neither unjust nor an abuse of their human rights to prevent homosexuals from joining themselves in civil unions and I purpose to prove so in this paper. This I shall do by first, looking at the human rights argument and then the argument from justice
- The Human Rights Argument Considered
All men, including those in the lgbtqia+ community, have been endowed with natural, inalienable rights by God, which are universally recognized and protected by law. That men have rights however does not mean that men can claim rights for just about anything. Merely claiming that a thing is a human right does not make it so. Rather, for a thing to be called a human right, it must be characterized by the following:
First, it must be deserved: “Human rights are inherent to all human beings as a birthright. Why should that claim not need any particular behaviour to back it up? Why shouldn’t we require human beings to deserve their rights?” (“What are Human Rights?”).
Second, it must be moral: “A human rights claim is ultimately a moral claim, and rests on moral values” (“What are Human Rights?”).
Ultimately, rights ought to be viewed on the basis of their benefit to society as a whole.
A consideration of the foregoing should cause us to ask the following questions. First, is the homosexual lifestyle deserving of a “rights” status? Second, is it moral? Third, does it benefit society in any way? I shall overlook the moral question and focus on the other two with the aim of arriving at whether or not the lgbtqia+ agenda is a human rights issue.
2.1 Is the Homosexual Lifestyle Deserving of a “Rights” Status?
John Stuart Mill has observed that, “when we call anything a person’s right, we mean that he has a valid claim on society to protect him in the possession of it, either by the force of the law, or by that of education and opinion” (“What are Human Rights?”). That being the case we need to identify the “value proposition” of the homosexual lifestyle or its “valid claim on society” for which reason it is worthy of or deserving of protection by the state as a human right. My thesis is that there is no such value whatsoever in the homosexual lifestyle. Take for example in the area of health:
A 1979 survey in the book The Gay Report revealed the percentage of gay men who engaged in the following practices: 99% oral sex, 91% anal sex, 82% rimming (analigus), 22% fisting, 23% golden showers (urination on another), 4% scat (defecation on another). The book’s two authors were of the same-sex sexual attraction. A May 2011 medical journal article found that felching (“sucking or eating semen out of someone’s anus”) was a sought-after practice in one-sixth of men’s profiles in “one of the largest Internet websites specifically targeting MSM looking for partners for unprotected sex.”
The Gay Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) website describes the following detrimental effects associated with same-sex sexual practice: higher rates of HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, depression/anxiety, hepatitis, sexually transmitted illnesses (anal papilloma/HPV, gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia), certain cancers, alcohol abuse, tobacco use, eating disorders and (in subsets) obesity (Van Mol).
These are reports and statistics not from opponents of the homosexual lifestyle but from people actively involved in the practice. Though I have borrowed from a western context, there is no reason to think that it would have been any different had the study been conducted in a local setting.
Some have suggested that the reason for these negative health impacts on the lgbtqia+ community is the lack of acceptance of their lifestyle. However, this assertion does not stand up well to scrutiny taking into consideration what happened in February 2009, when:
…a Canadian GLBT group filed a human rights complaint against the Canadian government and Health Canada asserting that the Canadian GLBT population had poor statistics for life expectancy (twenty years short of standard), suicide, alcohol and illicit drug/substance abuse, cancer, infectious disease, HIV/AIDS, and depression. This is noteworthy in that…Canada provides a highly supportive government, celebration from liberal churches, and a public coerced into silence by hate speech codes, yet the poor health indicators for the GLBT populace remains. This demonstrates that acceptance and affirmation of same-sex sexuality is not the promised antidote for the problems inherent in the GLBT sexuality (Van Mol).
Groups like the Family Research Council have also made arguments from social science that contend that the homosexual lifestyle cannot make a “valid claim on society” to grant it protection as a human right (see the article, “Ten Arguments From Social Science Against Same-Sex Marriage”). However, I shall keep the discussion just in the area of health. Should the State grant “human rights” status to a practice that harms its citizens the way the homosexual lifestyle does? The statistics and reports above speak for themselves and I leave it to the reader to determine whether or not these “detrimental effects associated with the same-sex sexual practice” are deserving of protection by the State as a human right.
2.2 Is the Homosexual Lifestyle Beneficial to Society?
Furthermore, we need to consider the human rights issue on the basis of the homosexual lifestyle’s benefit to society as a whole. Either the homosexual lifestyle is beneficial to society or is crucial to the flourishing of society and that as a people, we cannot refuse to support it or it is an incubus to society in which case the majority of people becoming homosexuals would not be beneficial to society or would result in societal ruin. Better put, if we found ourselves in the situation whereby all or majority of Ghanaians were homosexuals, would that be a favorable or an unfavorable situation? Why? It is an open secret that heterosexual union is the only means by which humans come to this world in order to the propagation of society or human civilization. “And the fact that every known civilization has done just that is testament to the fact that this is a universally shared intuition” (Spiegel 83). The foregoing being true, homosexuality is not and cannot be a human right since the majority of people in a society becoming homosexuals would lead to the ruin of said society making homosexuality an incubus to society or unbeneficial to society. My argument is that since all human rights claims must be beneficial to society or human civilization, and since the homosexual lifestyle is not beneficial to society or human civilization because it cannot promise the existence and continuation of society or human civilization, then the homosexual lifestyle is not and cannot be a human right.
2.3 Marriage is not a Human Right
Moreover, marriage is not a human right. No one has the right to get married at least not according to the 1992 Constitution, which is our nation’s supreme body of laws. The Constitution provides no citizen of any stripe or of any orientation a right of marriage. Rather the suggestion is that it is something for Ghanaians “to take advantage of” (“Marriage Registration”). Someone has rightly opined that, if marriage “…were a natural right, we wouldn’t have to get marriage licenses or to be married by someone the state has authorized to perform marriages” (Turley). Can one claim that his or her right has been violated if a person he or she loves does not grant his or her desire for marriage? The answer is self-evident. Marriage is therefore not a human right but a civil or societal privilege and like all privileges are contingent upon certain factors:
Civil rights include, for example, basic freedoms of speech, assembly and legal representation when one is accused of a crime. They apply to all citizens regardless of their race, age, religion, or sexual orientation. By contrast, civil privileges, such as the freedom to operate an automobile, practice law, or join the armed forces, are contingent upon such factors as age, sensory functionality, and demonstration of certain physical and/or intellectual aptitudes. Marital contracts, like all such privileges, must be applied for and certain criteria must be satisfied in order for applicants’ requests to be granted… (Spiegel 84).
Marriage as a privilege is contingent upon the ability to perpetuate the nation, thereby strengthening society. This is the main reason why the State has an interest in marriage and attempts to protect it. The same cannot be said for homosexual unions. The primary purpose of homosexual unions “is the personal gratification of two individuals whose union is sterile by nature” (10 Reasons). Since marriage is not a human right but a civil privilege, to seek the “right to marry whoever you want to be with” is nothing but a call for extra rights.
2.4 Answering Objections
The most common objection to the above arguments is that not all heterosexual unions produce children and therefore if such unions are allowed to stand then homosexual unions should be given the same allowance. “If marriage as a privilege” says the pro-lgbtqia+ group “is contingent upon the ability to perpetuate the nation, thereby strengthening society, heterosexual unions that do not produce children should be rejected.” While on the surface this objection seems justified, I argue that heterosexual unions not producing offspring are not the norm but the exception. All things being equal, heterosexual unions would produce offspring whereas on the other hand, homosexual unions would not produce offspring. And more, even though some heterosexual unions “…might not be reproductive in effect, they are nonetheless reproductive in type” (Spiegel 87). Homosexual unions on the other hand are neither reproductive in effect nor in type.
Another objection is that advances in technology such as in vitro fertilization make invalid the claim that heterosexual unions are the only means of reproduction. While I acknowledge the existence of such assisted reproductive technology, this only goes to bolster my point. In vitro fertilization requires the union of male and female germ cells – sperm and mature eggs - not male and male germ cells or female and female germ cells.
- The Argument from Justice Considered
The pro-lgbtqia+ group also argues that it is unjust for homosexuals to be prevented from joining themselves in civil unions. Since justice is virtually a byword for fairness, the argument is simply that homosexuals are not being treated fairly. I have already posited that marriage as a civil privilege must be or is contingent on the ability to perpetuate society. Nonetheless, to the argument under review, I contend that if both unions had the same social value, then the argument from justice would have been correct. However, that is simply not the case. Thus, the argument is flawed because it places the same value on homosexual and heterosexual unions alike when they simply do not have the same value. This as Spiegel noted, “is in itself a de facto denial of the special value of the latter” (85). It is like crying “injustice” simply because a colleague who works harder and is more valuable to the company than you would ever be, is paid more wages than you or is given due recognition. Crying “injustice” in this case is obviously wrong. Rather, what would be real injustice is receiving the same wages or recognition as your more hardworking colleague. Evidently, it would be an injustice against your colleague to be given the same wages and recognition as you when his output and value to the company far surpass yours.
In like manner, heterosexual unions are superior to and more valuable than homosexual unions because they benefit society in a way homosexual unions do not in that “…what they contribute to society is uniquely valuable, viz. the production of new human beings” (Spiegel 85). Thus, to place both unions on the same pedestal by allowing homosexual unions is an injustice against heterosexual unions. Spiegel summed up the argument thusly:
1. Heterosexual union is the indispensable means by which humans come into existence and therefore has special social value (indeed, the greatest possible social value because it is the first precondition for the existence of society as well as its continuation).
2. What has special value to human society deserves special social recognition and sanction.
3. Civil ordinances which recognize same-sex marriage as comparable to heterosexual marriage constitute a rejection of the special value of heterosexual unions.
4. To deny the special social value of what has special social value is unjust.
5. Therefore, same-sex marriage is unjust (83).
3.1 Answering Objections
On this point, some might argue that since homosexuals are not trying to stop heterosexual unions from taking place, we can give heterosexual unions their prominent place in society, whiles at the same time permitting homosexual unions. While this idea might sound tempting, it:
… raises practical issues… But the most direct way of meeting this objection might be simply to note that if same-sex marriages are permitted, then any extra endorsement of heterosexual marriage would be merely symbolic and therefore trivial. Only truly significant benefits accorded to heterosexual married couples are sufficient to justly honor the special social value of such unions. If the current social benefits of marriage are extended to homosexual couples, then it’s hard to imagine what substantive advantages or privileges could be reserved for heterosexual unions. For this reason it appears that any such ‘extra endorsement’ from a public policy standpoint, would amount to little more than damning with faint praise (Spiegel 88-9).
It is not unjust to reject the lgbtqia+ agenda. Rather, a permission of such a lifestyle is an injustice against heterosexual unions because to the extent that the homosexual lifestyle is permitted, “it constitutes an elimination of the special sanction of traditional marriage, as warranted by the unique and significant social goods that heterosexual unions provide” (Spiegel 89).
This paper is not a stand against any individual per se. Rather, it is a stand for what I believe is right. As such, I roundly condemn any physical violence directed towards those who have been overcome by the homosexual lifestyle. As Ghanaians, a majority Bible-believing people, we must be guided by the “golden rule” (Matt. 7:12) and the Constitution’s mandate to respect each person’s dignity. This is the way that is right and cannot be wrong. However, insofar as the homosexual lifestyle is an incubus to society, is a clamour for extra rights and is “essentially unjust,” it must be rejected and opposed by each and every well-meaning Ghanaian. According to an Afrobarometer survey released in July 2021 by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD – Ghana), those who approve of the lgbtqia+ agenda in Ghana make up just about seven percent of the population (“Only 7%”). What this means is that the majority of Ghanaians rejects the homosexual lifestyle. It is my hope then that in due course our lawmakers would make the will of the people stand as far as this issue is concerned.
“Marriage Registration.” Registrar-General’s Department, 2019, rgd.gov.gh/marriage.html. Accessed 21 June 2023.
“Only 7% of Ghanaians are tolerant of same-sex relationships – Afrobarometer survey.” Citi Newsroom, 5 Oct. 2021, citinewsroom.com/2021/10/only-7-of-ghanaians-are-tolerant-of-same-sex-relationships-cdd-survey/. Accessed 16 Oct. 2021.
Spiegel, James. “Why Same-Sex Marriage is Unjust.” Think, vol. 15, no. 43, 2016, pp. 81-90, Academia. doi:10.1017/S1477175616000075. Accessed 11 Oct. 2021.
Turley, Alyson. “Viewpoint: Marriage is a privilege, not a right.” The Daily Universe, BYU School of Communications, 2 Mar. 2004, universe.byu.edu/2004/03/02/viewpoint-marriage-is-a-privilege-not-a-right/. Accessed 16 Oct. 2021.
Van Mol, Andre MD. “Negative Health Consequences of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior.” Christian Medical and Dental Associations, 27 July 2011, cmda.org/article/negative-health-consequences-of-same-sex-sexual-behavior/. Accessed 12 Oct. 2021.
“What are Human Rights?” Council of Europe Portal, coe.int/en/web/compass/what-are-human-rights-. Accessed 12 Oct. 2021.
10 Reasons Why Homosexual Marriage is Harmful and Must be Opposed. PDF file, TFP Student Action, 2013.