Showing posts with label Slavery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Slavery. Show all posts

August 10, 2017

"The Boy" Lost Dad Trying to Rescue Him but Still He Escaped from Boko Haram

The boy.
Picture huge eyes, a beautiful smile and a sadness no child his age should have to endure. That is the story of a young boy who is a survivor of Boko Haram abduction and captivity in northeastern Nigeria — as well as military detention and investigation.
For his own safety, we're not giving the boy's name or where he comes from.
This little boy is bright-eyed and polite. He is learning English and proudly counts up to 30. He is probably about 6, but he doesn't know for sure and there is no family here to tell us. His face crumples and his eyes cloud over and well up with tears as he tells his story.
"My father is dead, and my mother is in the bush," he says, speaking Hausa, the lingua franca in northern Nigeria. "It was when Boko Haram came to our village. They drove us out and snatched me and my siblings and our mother." He has two brothers. A cousin was also abducted.
"When they took us to the bush, my father followed and tried to rescue us," he continues. "When they realized my father was trying to take us back, Boko Haram killed him."

They are just a few of the thousands abducted by the terror network, which has wreaked havoc in the northeast, killing 20,000 and driving more than 2 million people from their homes.
The boy tears up at the memories but courageously continues recounting their ordeal. After Boko Haram insurgents killed his father, they took his family to a village "in the bush," where they attended Quranic school. He thinks they were there for about a year. And it was there that he was separated from his mother and one brother. Both are still missing.
"When my father died, I became so afraid," he says. "I was frightened of staying there. And the worst thing was when Boko Haram took us away from where we were with our mother so that we could go to school. And that's how our family was split up."

Now attending school, the boy is learning English and can count up to 30.
Jide Adeniyi-Jones for NPR
Another whimper from the small boy, as he recalls what he has lived through. One night, he, his brother and cousin decided they had had enough so, under cover of darkness, they sneaked out of the village. That is how they escaped and reached a village where the Nigerian military found them.
"It was the soldiers that brought us to Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri," he says. That's the main military barracks in the capital of Borno state — and the birthplace of Boko Haram.
"They did not maltreat us, but they gave us instructions on what to do and what not to do," he says. "They wouldn't allow us to leave the compound. And if you fight each other or if you're found trying to sneak out of your cell, they're going to beat you. Those were the rules in the barracks."
The three of them were held in military custody for interrogation and investigation for many months, says this young survivor of Boko Haram captivity. Still horrified, he describes a harrowing time with the military. "Former captives were herded in their dozens into small rooms," he remembers.
"It was stifling hot and babies were dying," he says.
"There were so many civilians at Giwa barracks. I can't tell you how many. And every day four to five people die there. The heat, the heat. The rooms are too hot and there's no ventilation, so people were dying. In the cells where women were being kept, small children and babies were dying every day. I was so frightened. At times, the corpses would be lying there, unattended for days on end before being disposed of."
Again the child's face creases into near tears at the memory, as he furiously furrows his brow to stop himself from crying. "It was so congested there, so they let some of us go — to reduce the number of people in the barracks". 
In its hunt for Boko Haram insurgents, the Nigerian military has been accused by human rights groups of mistreating suspects and even former captives, including women and children, at Giwa barracks.
These groups say the rescued civilians are held for many months.
According to a report from Amnesty International, up to 150 people died in detention at those barracks in early 2016, including four babies and 11 children under the age of 6.
But the military has denounced the accusations. "It is rather unfortunate that an organization of higher repute such as Amnesty International could release a report which is completely baseless, unfounded and source-less, with the intent of denting the image of the Nigerian Armed Forces," said a Defence Information statement in 2016.
The statement concluded that there was not an iota of truth in the report and said the fight against Boko Haram "terrorists" would continue "until they are annihilated."
The Amnesty International report also stated that of 1,200 civilians held at Giwa barracks in the first quarter of 2016, at least 120 were children.
"Many were arbitrarily rounded up during mass arrests, often with no evidence against them," the report said.
The Nigerian military says those detained are suspected of being Boko Haram sympathizers who could be dangerous or troublesome — including former captives of the group.
After what he says were many months, the young boy was released into the care of government house matrons at a rehabilitation center with social workers and psycho-social support funded by UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency. 
But he misses his family, especially his brother, cousin and best friend, who're still in military custody for reasons that aren't clear, as well as his mother and another brother, he says. The child says he has new schoolmates and mentions the name of a new friend — another little boy — but says he is lonely.
Teachers hold classes and organize activities to try to keep the children happy and busy. Wearing threadbare clothing and excited at the prospect of getting a new soccer ball to replace the one they mistakenly kicked over the wall into the adjoining compound, he is learning and getting along with the other children he now shares his life with.
But the future is uncertain for the orphans and children separated from their families by Boko Haram violence and captivity. Ahmed Jaha, the Borno state commissioner for higher and special education, says helping these kids adjust to freedom is a top priority for the state government. He warns that without an education, these youngsters could become the violent extremists of tomorrow.
"In our enlightened self-interest," says Jaha, "these orphans, we either take care of them today or, from what I see in Borno today — with more than 40,000 orphans — whether we like it or not in the near future, they are going to be a disaster that is going to consume everybody."
"If we cannot take care of them today, they will be the great monsters that are going to consume all of us."
Jaha talks of establishing mega boarding schools throughout the state, where he says these children would be taught and kept out of trouble. UNICEF and other relief agencies are offering counseling and encouragement to orphans and children like this young former Boko Haram captive — and some hope for the future.
Before he skips off to rejoin his classmates, the boy brightens up considerably when he starts passionately discussing soccer. "I want to be a soldier," he says at first, but then adds he wouldn't mind being a soccer player either. He's a fan of Argentina and Barcelona striker, Lionel Messi. For a moment, his boyish composure almost makes you forget who is speaking — impressive for a child who bears witness to so much suffering.
"I'm quite good at heading the ball," says the boy who escaped Boko Haram. "And I'm a real team player."


June 1, 2016

New Figures on Slavery on the US 57,700

Update on World Slavery of Today

Some 57,700 people are living in conditions that constitute slavery in the United States right now, according to report released today, with undocumented immigrants, refugees, and homeless LGBT youth are particularly vulnerable to abusive conditions.
The Global Slavery Index estimates that worldwide, 45.8 million people are living in some form of modern-day slavery–whether that’s forced agricultural or industrial labor, sex trafficking, or forced marriage.

The report, published yearly by an anti-slavery group called the Walk Free Foundation, ranked the U.S. 52nd out of 167 countries in terms of its protections against slavery and human trafficking. While modern-day slavery might not sound like something that happens on American shores, the disenfranchised face a serious risk of being exploited. Part of the problem is that they’re less likely to seek or receive support from law enforcement. That includes immigrants who may be taken advantage of because they worry about being deported and young homeless LGBT people who could feel pressured into “survival sex” for a safe place to stay.
“The U.S. attracts undocumented workers, migrants, and refugees, who can be at particular risk of vulnerability to human trafficking upon their arrival and during their stay in the U.S.,” the report says. “Research undertaken on vulnerable migrant labourer populations in San Diego, California, and in North Carolina suggests that these populations often include undocumented seasonal labourers who experience significant language barriers, cultural non-assimilation, and fear of deportation.”
The Obama administration has taken some specific steps to address human trafficking, like establishing the Office on Trafficking in Persons to raise public awareness and provide services to victims of human trafficking. But the GSI report says that what could really help is to curb the underlying reasons that people are preyed upon:
Poverty and social instability among specific populations – namely undocumented people, homeless persons, and runaway youth – are some of many vitiating factors contributing to the risk of slavery in the U.S. These factors motivate workers in manual sectors, such as manufacturing, construction, and farming to work in dangerous conditions. They also play a role in prompting minors to engage in survival sex.
Some undocumented immigrants fleeing traumatic circumstances in their home countries are already in a vulnerable position, according to an advocacy group called the Freedom Network which works specifically to fight human trafficking and labor abuses against immigrants to the U.S.
Aside from fearing contact with law enforcement, immigrants on temporary visas or with no documents at all are at a disadvantage because they may not be aware of their rights, the Freedom Network wrote in a 2013 report. “They exploit working conditions knowing that workers most likely do not understand their rights and the applicable laws, may not speak the language, and therefore, would not speak out and risk retaliation.”
The advocacy group suggests that providing a path to legalization for undocumented workers is one step to preventing worker abuses, along with giving immigrants of every status more access to information on their rights, and access to help from law enforcement without the threat of repercussions.
 Young homeless LGBT people who have left their homes after facing discrimination and a lack of support from their families or communities are left in a similarly disempowering situation. A national survey of youth homelessness service providers found in 2012 that somewhere between 30% and 43% of homeless young people served by those housing programs identified as LGBT.
Covenant House, a private child care agency based in New York which provides resources and shelter to homeless youth, found that one in four of the 174 young people they helped and then surveyedsaid they had been a victim of sex trafficking or “survival sex.” The six LGBT youth who were included in the random sample all said they’d been involved in one or the other. Like the other young people included in the Covenant House survey, they said being LGBT exposed them to more discrimination and made it even harder for them to find help.
While the U.S. is ahead of some other countries with severe trafficking problems, there are tens of thousands of people whose human rights are being abused, the report suggests. The approximate numbers in the index were calculated using global surveys conducted with the Gallup group, also referring to a combination of reports from governments, non-profits, and social services groups. The report says that because most cases of human trafficking likely go unreported, actual figures are probably much higher.

46 Mil People Trapped in Modern Day Slavery

Some are leashed and chained like in the old days others are watched by guards
Almost 46 million people are living as slaves globally with the greatest number in India but the highest prevalence in North Korea, according to the third Global Slavery Index launched on Tuesday with Australian actor Russell Crowe.

The index, by Australia-based human rights group Walk Free Foundation, increased its estimate of people born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, or trapped in debt bondage or forced labor to 45.8 million from 35.8 million in 2014.

Andrew Forrest, founder of Walk Free, said the rise of nearly 30 percent was due to better data collection, although he feared the situation was getting worse with global displacement and migration increasing vulnerability to all forms of slavery.

Forrest, an Australian mining billionaire and philanthropist, urged businesses to check their supply chains for worker exploitation, saying he found thousands of people trapped in slavery making goods for his company Fortescue Metals Group.

"But I've had some of some biggest entrepreneurs in the world look me in the eye and say I will not look for slavery in case I find it," he said at the launch of the index in London.

Crowe, who played Roman emperor-turned-slave Maximus in the 2000 movie "Gladiator", described the plight of people "in our communities who are stuck, utterly helpless and trapped in a cycle of despair and degradation with no choice and no hope."

“As an actor, my role is often to portray raw human emotion, but nothing compares with the people's lives reflected in the report published today," he said.

A file image of a North Korean welder at work in Poland's Gdansk shipyard
A file image of a North Korean welder at work in Poland’s Gdansk shipyard CREDIT: AFP 
Incidences of slavery were found in all 167 countries in the index, with India home to the largest total number with an estimated 18.4 million slaves among its 1.3 billion population.

But Forrest said India deserved credit for starting to address this problem with the government this week unveiling a draft of its first comprehensive anti-human trafficking law to treat survivors as victims rather than criminals.

North Korea ranked as worst in terms of concentration with one in every 20 people - or 4.4 percent of its 25 million population - in slavery and its government doing the least to end this with reports of state-sanctioned forced labor.

"We need to make it clear we're not going to tolerate slavery and when there is slavery in a regime we should not trade with them," Forrest told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Thai and Burmese fishing boat workers sit behind bars inside a cell at the compound of a fishing company in Benjina, Indonesia, Nov. 22, 2014.( AP/Dita Alangkara )  
The 2016 index was based on interviews with about 42,000 people by pollster Gallup in 53 languages in 25 countries.

But Forrest said a lack of hard data on slavery in the past had held back efforts to tackle this hidden crime and it was important to draw a "sand in the line" measurement to drive action. He challenged critics to produce an alternative.

The United Nation's International Labour Organization estimates 21 million people globally are victims of forced labor but this does not take into account all forms of slavery.

"Without measurement you don't have effective management and there's no way to lead the world away from slavery," he said.

Forrest said the Global Slavery Index aims to measure the prevalence of slavery in the 167 most populous countries as well as the level of vulnerability of people to enslavement and strength of government efforts to combat this.

The 2016 index again found Asia, which provides low-skilled labor in global supply chains producing clothing, food and technology, accounted for two-thirds of the people in slavery.

About 58 percent of people living in slavery are in five countries - India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.

However the countries with the highest proportion of their population enslaved were North Korea, Uzbekistan, and Cambodia.

The governments taking the least action to tackle slavery were listed as North Korea, Iran, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and Hong Kong.

By contrast the governments taking most action were the Netherlands, the United States, Britain, Sweden and Australia.

Forrest said a reason for launching the index in Britain was to acknowledge the lead set by the UK government which last year brought in the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

While Europe has the lowest regional prevalence of slavery, Walk Free said it was a source and destination for forced labor and sexual exploitation. The impact of a mass influx of migrants and refugees fleeing conflicts and poverty has yet to be seen.

Crowe said slavery was a problem that was not going away.

"I think all of us should keep focused on it until we get to that point ... where it just gets pushed over the edge and it's finished," he said.


The original article appeared on Reuters.

July 30, 2015

A US Epidemic: The Selling of Children

In the US, poverty, deprivation and exploitation draws thousands of its own children down into a dark underworld that offers few ways out. 
It is a world few Americans are aware of. But tens of thousands of American children are thought to be sexually exploited every year. 
It's believed that every night hundreds are sold for sex.
The FBI says child sex abuse is almost at an epidemic level, despite the agency rescuing 600 children last year.
"Trafficking" often conjures images of people from other countries being smuggled over land and across the sea and then forced to work against their will in foreign lands. People are trafficked into America from Mexico, Central and South America. But the vast majority of children bought and sold for sex every night in the United States are American kids. 
We have heard from a number of women from the East coast to the Mid-west who have frighteningly similar and horrific stories. Neglected, abused, exploited and often ignored starting from a young age - sometimes even prosecuted by the very people who should have protected them. 
A handful of good souls, the kindness of a few strangers and the good work of some law enforcement agencies and the FBI offer some relief to America's most vulnerable. But the stories we have heard suggest they are only scratching the surface of one of America's best-kept and darkest secrets.

When a choice is not a choice

In Minnesota, I met with former sex workers who had sought support through an advocacy group called Breaking Free. Half of the women in the group were under the age of 18 when they first were sold for sex. Many of the others were not much older than 18.
One woman says she was bought by her aunt at the age of 14.
"She gave my mom $900. Told me I was going shopping at the mall." 
The aunt would bring her to drug dealers' houses, where she was raped and given drugs.
"She would leave me...and then [was] like 'You were messed up, you wanted to stay'," she recalls. She soon believed the abuse was her fault and her choice.  Another woman says she was 17 when she was kicked out of the house.
"I wanted to get high," she says, and turned to working as a prostitute. She later started using the classified adverts website to make more money to keep up with her addiction.
A third was 14 when she was kidnapped by "a guy I thought I liked". She didn't return home for two years. 
Jenny Gains, who leads the group discussion at Breaking Free, says many "manipulate and take advantage of underage girls".
One woman said of her abuser, "He knew I was 14, he had to know that I was underage," despite her attempts to pretend to be 18.
“When he actually found out how old I was it didn't stop him... he wanted me even more." A woman who was first trafficked at 14 says she is living in a shelter right now and is struggling to not return to prostitution.
"There's tricks' names still on my phone, I haven't even deleted them yet and I need to delete them," she says. "Because when I get down, when I'm feeling really yucky it's almost like I want to have that number there."
But she says she doesn't want to return to that life.
"It's just a big circle, you get high, you get tricked, you get the money and you just keep going around and going around, and you have to break off all of them to even be doing okay."
Breaking Free
The women at Breaking Free support each other while they discuss the difficulty of leaving sex work
It is an uphill battle. 
"I just need the support and to believe in myself that I can make it. It's a funny spot I'm in."
Another woman says she hasn't been on Backpage on eight months.
"I'm not perfect. I'm just trying," she says. She finds it difficult to provide for her daughter without the money she made working as a prostitute.
"I stopped when I was 22 and had my first son," the woman says, detailing her "off and on" experience. She's been away for seven months, partially because she is pregnant with her fourth child. 
She hopes attending Breaking Free will prevent her from returning.
Gains listens to another woman
Gains listens to a woman speak at Breaking Free
"I'm going to have a daughter," she says. "I don't want her to do like what I did."
Another woman likens it to an addiction.
"It's like I have this hole like whatever it is it's not enough, that fills it for me, my kids get what they want," she tells the group. "I don't ever have to ask nobody for nothing," 
Many of the women in the Breaking Free yearn for sense of normalcy.
"I just want my freedom back," one woman says. "I just want to look out for my kids, and live my life, live a normal life."
But for women who were sold for sex as children, abuse, drugs and sex work is normal. 
One woman we spoke to in Minnesota was not at Breaking Free. She was on the streets, still working at five months pregnant. 
She says was groomed from age 12 by a neighbour, who enticed her with a garage full of toys and games. He offered her money for topless photos. 
"I see more and more younger girls out here now and it's really sad," she says. 
"It's not a choice. At 12, it was not a choice.”
Some of the groups that helped the BBC during the reporting of this story include Breaking FreeThe Samaritan Women and Angels of Addiction

November 17, 2012

IKEA says They Did Not Sell Furniture Made in Cuba Prison Forced Labor only East German Forced Labor

 In May, cheap chic Swedish furniture giant IKEA was rocked with shocking accusations in the German press: That it had manufactured products using forced prison labor in East Germany in the '70s and '80s. Of more interest to Miami, one paper also reported the company had contracted with Fidel Castro to use Cuban prisoners to make sofas.
This morning, IKEA released an independent report into the allegations. It found that indeed German prisoners had been used to make furniture -- but that Cuba only delivered a few dozen samples 

See also:
IKEA Used Cuban Prison Labor to Build Furniture, New Report Says

"There is no evidence that the IKEA Group was aware of the possible use of political prisoners in Cuba," the company says in a statement.

The Cuban allegations were worrisome enough to IKEA -- which has a store near the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise -- that its U.S. president met with the Cuban-American delegation in Congress over the summer.

The report released this morning, though, found the company never sold any Cuban-made furniture and was unaware of any ties to prison labor used to produce it.

Independent firm Ernst & Young compiled the report after looking at more than 100,000 documents, interviewing 90 people and opening a hotline for tips about the allegations.

In the end, they found that Cuba did produce 71 sofa suites for the company, but that the furniture was not up to quality standards and was never sold. Here's the company's full statement on the Cuban connection:

In May, media reported that in the 1980's the IKEA Group may have purchased products from Cuba that were made using prison labor. The IKEA Group took the allegations very seriously and initiated an investigation. In May 2012, Ernst & Young's investigation services were engaged to conduct an independent investigation into the purchase practices in Cuba and in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), as trade with Cuba was supposedly initiated by the former GDR state trade organization.

IKEA US President Michael Ward and IKEA of Sweden Sustainability Manager Jeanette Skjelmose met with U.S. lawmakers from the Cuban- American delegation in June 2012 to assure them the inquiry was a high priority.

This investigation has now been completed. The investigation concludes that the IKEA Group has never had any long-term business relations with suppliers in Cuba and that there is no evidence that the IKEA Group was aware of the possible use of political prisoners in Cuba.

Since May, approximately 20,000 pages of documents from the internal archives of the IKEA Group and 80,000 archived objects at German federal and state archives have been analysed. Around 90 individuals, both active and retired IKEA Group co-workers as well as witnesses from the former GDR have been interviewed. In addition, a public hotline was established and questionnaires to both active and former co-workers were distributed.

The report noted that 71 sofa suites - which included a sofa and two matching chairs - were produced in Cuba as samples for the IKEA Group. At least one set was sent to the former GDR for quality inspection by associates of the IKEA Group. The furniture did not meet quality requirements. There is no evidence that the IKEA Group received other products produced in Cuba.

Since 2000, the IKEA Group has had one of the most progressive and respected supplier codes of conduct in the world (IWAY) and conducts more than 1000 audits per year to confirm compliance by suppliers. IWAY explicitly prohibits the use of forced labor in production.
The report was not as reassuring, though, about IKEA's ties to East German forced labor. The report found that political prisoners and convicts were used to make some furniture in the '80s and '90s and that some managers in the company knew about it.

"We are deeply sorry that this could happen," says IKEA executive Jeanette Skjelmoset. "Using political prisoners in production has never been accepted within the Ikea Group."

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

April 1, 2012

Clash Over Gay Rights in Ghana. Legal, Religious, Moral

slave girls carry water
 “Why can’t the law protect us? We are all Ghanaians,” says Hillary, a 27 year-old Ghanaian gay resident in Accra who has adopted a female name as his alias. “We all have rights that must be protected,” he adds.
Hillary and members of his homosexual fraternity were recently attacked and chased out of a party by the Ga-Mashie Youth for Change in Accra for what the group described as the growing phenomenon of gay marriage in the area. There was speculation that a gay marriage ceremony between two lesbians was taking place in the area and the youth group will not entertain such a thing which they described as ‘taboo’.
But Hillary says a gay marriage never occurred. “It wasn’t a lesbian marriage it was just a party, there were heterosexuals among us,” he says.
“They beat some of our lady friends who were not able to run, took their phones and money and stripped them naked,” he says. “They chased us with canes, cutlasses, stones, and bottles.”
The gang assault on the suspected homosexuals, which happened on Sunday March 11, 2012, left the victims with no alternative but to leave the community and seek refuge with FIDA and the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Police Service.
The Ga-Mashie Youth for Change claims the activities of the gay people are eating into the moral fiber of the community and therefore must do something to stop the progression of the act in the community.
“We invaded the place with the intention of stopping them but not to hurt anyone or beat them,” says Daniel Wettey, coordinator of the youth group. “We want to register our feelings against it (homosexuality),” he adds.
He admits they chased the homosexuals out with sticks and ordered the disc jockey (DJ) to stop the music; their main aim was to stop the activity and nothing else. “We didn’t beat anyone.”
Members of Gamashie Youth for Change
“When they saw the crowd, they started running, with some of them leaving their belongings behind. Those who run were those that fell and hurt themselves,” Wettey says.
But Hillary disagrees and says the youth group continued with its attacks days after the incident.
The group went to the homes of the gay people and threatened them to either leave the community or face the consequences.
“I had to run and leave James Town because I was scared,” Hillary says. “We have all left our homes.”
In show of their determination to completely drive away the gay people from the community, the youth group sent a petition to the James Town District Police Command notifying them to go on a peaceful demonstration in their fight against “sodomy and lesbianism”.
Excerpts of the petition read, “With the recent trends of sodomy and lesbianism eating into the moral fiber of the Ga Mashie community, we the youth for change in the community wishes [sic] to create awareness of immorality of such acts and demonstrate peacefully against such acts throughout the Principal Streets of the Ga-Mashie community.
“We wish to converge at [sic] the Mantse Agbonaa Park on Friday (yesterday) 30th March 2012 at 9am and move through the principal streets of Accra Central and end at the Bukom Square.”
As of Friday, the demonstrators had not gotten permission to protest from the police. The demonstration has been pushed back indefinitely.
Hillary is now in a dilemma over his safety as he says he has no support. “It was only Human Right Advocacy Centre who helped us by taking us to the police headquarters to file our complaint and we were brought here (DOVVSU); as at now they have not said anything.”
Legal Support  
Nana Oye Lithur
Under Ghanaian law, male same-sex sexual activity is illegal. Gay men can also be punished under provisions concerning assault and rape, only if “in public or with minor”.
Criminal Code 1960, Chapter 6, Sexual Offences Article 105states, “Whoever is guilty of unnatural carnal knowledge (a) of any person without his consent, is guilty of first degree felony; (b) of any person with his consent, or of any animal, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
The Constitution of Ghana also guarantees the protection of all human rights for Ghanaian citizens but does not mention sexuality.
The issue of gay rights has dominated the local media for some time, with pressure on the president to declare his position, especially in view of the conflicting information from government quarters against the thorny issue of gay rights. Last November, President John Evans Atta Mills, finally, in response to British Prime Minister, David Cameron’s statement that international aid would be cut from  countries that fail to respect gay rights said, “I as the president, I will never initiate or support any attempt to legalize homosexuality in Ghana.”
President Mills said Cameron was entitled to his own views but that he did not have the right to dictate to other sovereign nations what they should do.
He said Ghana has societal norms that are different from those of the UK’s.
Martin Amidu, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, had said at a press conference in Accra even before his exit from the government that the laws of Ghana only frowned on homosexuality when it involved a minor or when one partner was forced into a sexual act.
Amidu explained that when two consenting male adults had sex with each other in the privacy of their rooms, such a situation could not be described as illegal and the participants were at an absolute liberty.
“The law does not follow you to see what you do; your house is your castle. Your room is your castle; what you do there is nobody’s business. It is only when you rape an adult by way of unnatural carnal knowledge that you become a subject of prosecution,” he said.
Comfort Quartey
Nana Oye Lithur, executive director of the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC), finds the current situation at Ussher and James Towns surprising because “it’s a tolerant society”.
She says it is difficult to address the level of tolerance as both pro and anti-gay groups are now more vocal on their position on the issue.
She says the position of the organization is that homosexuals have rights.
“We believe that they are human beings and every single right that is granted through the constitution, they are equally entitled to,” she says.
She explains that finding the act homosexuals engage in offensive does not mean people’s rights should be violated.
“For me, what they do behind closed doors is their own business,” Oye Lithur says.
Religious Views On Homosexuality
Religious groups have been at the forefront of the fight against homosexuality. They threatened even to the point of blackmailing that gay right would be made an election issue, forcing the president to take a position.
The Presbyterian Church of Ghana described the former Justice Minister’s position on homosexuality as “illogical” and one that smacked of a “dead sense of morality”.
The church’s moderator, Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Martey, argued on an Accra-based radio station that the consequences of what went on in the bedrooms of homosexuals affected the larger society and not just the partners.
The Moderator said there was nothing private about homosexuality because it affects everyone.
“So if a mother kills her child in her room, if a husband kills his wife in their room, it is the privacy of their room, why should the law then follow them?” he questioned.
In the same vein, the Christian Council of Ghana took a critical view of the practice of homosexuality and asked government not to pass it into law. Some pastors threatened to tell their congregation to vote against any party that endorses the practice.
According to them, homosexuality is “detestable and abominable act” and opined that if passed into law, in Ghana the country shall incur the wrath of God “and the consequences will be unbearable”.
The National Chief Imam, Sheik Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, on behalf of the Muslim community also bemoaned the act, stressing that homosexuality and lesbianism was detestable in the sight of Allah.
He said if Allah wanted human beings to practise homosexuality and lesbianism, He would not have created a woman when Adam wanted a partner in the Garden of Eden.
Sheik Sharubutu thus implored Ghanaians to frown on homosexual and lesbian practice in order not to incur the wrath of Allah.
The Coalition of Muslim Organizations, Ghana (COMOG) also called for the law making body of the country, Parliament to introduce the ‘Prohibition of Homosexuality and Lesbianism Bill’ which would imprison homosexuals without the option of a fine.
COMOG bemoaned homosexuality and called for a collective effort from government and religious groups to battle it.
Moral Arguments
Isaac MacCarter, a 32 year-old member of the youth group in James Town, says the activities of gay people are crippling the moral values in the community.
He says marriages are being dissolved, children are not being cared for and business in the community is not progressing because of the gays in the community.
“We used to get a lot of money from the trading business we do here but since we noticed them here things have been difficult for us; things are not moving on smoothly as it once used to be.”
He says married women who are also lesbians neglect their role as mothers and concentrate on their lesbian partners.
He says the children also need their parents together, “so if this will tear apart families we will stop it”.
Comfort Quartey, 32, once a lesbian, says homosexuality isn’t something that one should crave.
“(Homosexuality) isn’t something good,” she says. “It draws people back and it gives bad luck, when something good is coming your way it hinders it.”
She says she and her peers once engaged in homosexual acts and it destroyed their lives.
“When you see yourself, you will realize you are not what you used to be,” she says.
Nonetheless, Hillary wants government to do something about the situation.
“We are not asking the government for gay marriages we are asking the government for our human rights,” he says.
He says government should let people know that they are also part of the community and are human beings with blood flowing in their veins.
Nana Oye Lithur emphasizes the need for a dialogue between the two factions in the community.
She says the youth have taken the law into their own hands and that can lead to a breakdown of law and order, thus government has the responsibility to protect the people.
“The state institutions should be carrying their mandates and be protecting the people of Ghana,” she says.
She says there is also the need for the people to reduce homophobia by understanding the issues related to homosexuals.
“Whether we like it or not, we have homosexuals living in Ghana,” Nana Oye says.
 By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri 

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