Africa as a whole has been the target of criticism in the global community for its lack of LGBT-supportive legislation. Accra, the capital city of Ghana where the NYU site is located, possesses a small but thriving gay culture, with clubs, bars, and some growing activist organizations.
An extremely Christian country, Ghanaian law bans homosexuality and has no anti- discrimination clauses or other laws protecting the rights of LGBT people.
A significant difference of African cultures is that heterosexual men holding hands or being affectionate with one another is an accepted cultural norm; however, this is not acceptable of men labeled as homosexual.
- Many people consider homosexuality a grave sin and do not believe it exists in Ghana. Others have blamed homosexuality on foreigners bringing it in like a disease. You will meet young educated people that actually do not believe in it.
- While LGBT issues are a very new idea to Ghana, this does not mean that they are non- existent. Keep this in mind as your semester progresses and your connection with the community deepens.
On Experiencing Ghana as an LGBT Person
Same-sex relationships were nonexistent in Ghana. Same-sex friendships were very different: it is common to see two men holding hands, hugging, and being very affectionate with each other. Homosexuality is barely recognized by most people, so there is no stigma attached to close same-sex friendships, or what we in the U.S. would identify as a “gay” way of talking or dressing or acting. I did not feel comfortable at all in talking with people outside the NYU community and the West African AIDS Foundation (where I volunteered) about my sexuality. We did find a couple of places that were queer-oriented, and I felt comfortable there. Despite this, I never actually felt threatened, and always felt safe, regarding my sexual orientation. – Ben
On Being an LGBTQ-Ally in Ghana
As a straight ally in Ghana, I felt like I was really being called to action. Being an ally in New York City is sometimes more of a title than a job. Yet while I was living in Accra, I found myself rising to the challenge of openly and publicly committing to my connection with the gay community (there really is no full LGBT community there, only an emerging gay presence). I believe very strongly that it is so important for straight allies to recognize this before they leave, and utilize their position as a hetero in parts of the world that discriminate against homosexuality. There is a strong “us and them” feeling that prevails even in our own culture. In a place like Ghana, where being gay is not merely frowned upon, but actually outlawed, it was safe for me to admit to other people that I too, as part of “us,” was friends with “them.” It helps to normalize and works to hopefully break down the image of homosexuals as outsiders committing deviant acts. As an ally, you have the opportunity to help spread awareness when it may not be safe for others to do so openly – so take it! – Lisa
Getting Involved and Informed
- The website http://www.mask.org.za is aimed at spreading awareness and creating a forum not only for Ghanaians but all LGBT African citizens to discuss contemporary issues and communicate.
- Popular locations, like Chester’s, give an outlet and center for LGBT communication through its many events.
There are a couple night clubs in Accra that quietly accept the LGBT community.
Chester’s – Though advertised as an average nightclub, this hotspot has been ushering in the queer community of Accra for quite some time. It offers an inviting atmosphere for both natives and visitors.
Strawberry’s – Another nightclub of Accra in the Adabraka area. A heterosexual venue that attracts a large portion of the gay male community on Friday and Saturday nights.