Violation of International Human Rights Law: Uganda and Ghana Criminalize Identifying as LGBTQ+

There are thirty-one African countries that criminalize same-sex relationships.[1] Most of these countries refuse to adopt U.N. recommendations and repeal these laws.[2] While thirty-one countries criminalize same-sex relationships, “there are only twenty-two African countries that neither directly nor indirectly criminalize same-sex sexual activity.” [3]

Recently, Ghana passed The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill.[4] Ghana’s Parliament passed the bill by a unanimous vote.[5] This proposed Bill makes it so that anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ could face up to three years in prison, and anyone who starts or funds LGBTQ+ groups could face up to 5 years in prison.[6] The intention of the Bill is:

to provide for proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values; proscribe LGBTQ+ and related activities; proscribe propaganda of, advocacy for or promotion of LGBTTQQIAAP+ and related activities; provide for the protection and support for children, persons who are victims or accused of LGBTTQQIAAP+ and related activities and other person; and related matters. [7]

The Bill will be passed on to President Nana Akufo-Addo, who must agree to the Bill before it officially becomes law.[8]

Similarly, Ugandan Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2023.[9] The Act implements severe punishments, including death and long prison sentences for same-sex acts.[10] It also criminalizes the “promotion” of homosexuality, making it punishable by up to twenty years in prison.[11]

Ghana and Uganda are member states of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).[12] The ICCPR is a UN treaty that was adopted and signed in 1966.[13] It builds on the premise and goals of the International Bill of Human Rights.[14] The ACHPR is a treaty between fifty-one African states that was enacted in 1981 to eradicate colonialism, promote international cooperation, and provide a better life for the people of Africa.[15]

The Ghanian bill and Ugandan Act violate the ICCPR and the ACHPR. Under the ICCPR, everyone has: the right to hold opinions without interference, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.[16] It is clear that Ghana and Uganda are violating international treaty and infringing upon protected rights. In addition to the ICCPR, Ghana and Uganda are violating the ACHPR. The ACHPR guarantees that every individual shall be equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law.[17] Additionally, there is an express provision that states, “Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.” [18] Ghana’s National House of Chiefs affirmed the Bill and stated that, “nowhere does the Ghanaian culture subscribe to LGBTQI which is a taboo, inhuman and alien to our society.” [19] Uganda’s Constitutional Court has upheld the Act, and in Ghana the Bill is currently being challenged on constitutional grounds. [20]

Criminalizing same-sex sexual activity and identifying as LGBTQ+ has an effect on citizens and their ability to gather as a community and to live openly.[21] The members of the LGBTQ+ community in African countries that criminalize same-sex sexual activity are not able to gather as a community, access health care, access recognition of their relationships, or marry their partners.[22] These laws violate international human rights law and basic human rights. It is important for the U.N. and other world leaders to call on Africa to repeal these laws and protect the LGBTQ+ community.

[1] Africa: Barrage of discriminatory laws stoking hate against LGBTI persons, Amnesty Int’l. (Jan. 9, 2024),

[2] Leanne Aban, Elaina Rahrig, & Emma Dozier et. al., International Regulation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Sexual Anatomy, 24 Geo. J. Gender & L. 595, 604 (2023).

[3] Id. at 607.

[4] Aimee Woodmass, Ghana passes law criminalising identifying as LGBTQ+ (Feb. 28, 2024),

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Warren Seay, Jr., Kaila D. Clark, Perilous Prejudice: Lgbtq+ Rights in Uganda and Beyond, N.Y. St. B.J., Jan./Feb, 2024, at 32.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] See International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 18, Dec. 10, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 [hereinafter ICCPR]; African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, June 27, 1981, 21 I.L.M. 58 [hereinafter African Charter].

[13] UN Human Rights Committee, Background to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Optional Protocols, U.N.,

[14] Id.

[15] African Charter art. 2663.

[16] ICCPR art. 18.

[17] Supra note 15, at 3.

[18] Id. at 4.

[19] Woodmass supra note 4.

[20] Peter Fabricius, Ghana and Uganda echo each other’s clamp down on gay people (Apr. 26, 2024)

[21] Supra note 2, at 613.

[22] Id.