Ghana is a constitutional democracy with a strong presidency and a unicameral 275-seat parliament. Presidential and parliamentary elections conducted in December 2020 were generally peaceful, although there were isolated incidents of violence during the voting and vote count, resulting in as many as eight deaths, some by security forces. Domestic and international observers assessed the elections to be transparent, inclusive, and credible.
The Ghana Police Service, under the Ministry of the Interior, is responsible for maintaining law and order; however, the military, which reports to the Ministry of Defense, continued to participate in law enforcement activities in a support role, such as by protecting critical infrastructure and by enforcing measures to combat COVID-19. The National Intelligence Bureau handles cases considered critical to state security and answers directly to the Ministry of National Security. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents; cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or on behalf of the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence and threats of violence against journalists, and unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists; substantial interference with freedom of assembly; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic or intimate partner violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex persons; existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.
The government took some steps to address corruption and human rights abuses by officials, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Impunity remained a problem, however.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
There were a few reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Offices charged with investigating security force killings include the Special Investigations Branch of the Ghana Armed Forces and the Police Professional Standards Bureau.
On June 26, unidentified perpetrators beat #FixTheCountry movement supporter and social activist Ibrahim “Kaaka” Muhammed in Ejura, Ashanti Region. On June 28, he died in the hospital from his injuries. Muhammed, who was also a member of the Economic Fighters League (EFL), was a vocal anticorruption activist, and #FixThe Country had protested against restrictions on freedom of assembly (see section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly). EFL reported that Muhammed had received threats due to his activism, and police had warned him prior to his beating and death against disturbing the peace. An investigation into Muhammed’s death continued. On June 29, during protests in the wake of his death, security forces shot and killed two persons (see section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly).
During the 2020 election period, authorities, media, and observers reported as many as eight killings, with at least two killed by the National Elections Security Task Force (NESTF), composed of military and police units, and at least two deaths from civilian violence. Investigations continued into these deaths (see section 3, Freedom to Participate in the Political Process).
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
While the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were credible reports police beat and otherwise abused detained suspects and other citizens. Victims were often reluctant to file formal complaints. Police generally denied allegations or claimed the level of force used was justified.
According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there was one open allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to the UN Mission in South Sudan: a 2018 case involving 12 peacekeepers’ alleged transactional sex with six adults. A UN investigation substantiated some of those allegations, leading the United Nations to repatriate the alleged offenders. As of December the United Nations awaited reporting from the government regarding what actions it has taken in response to the allegations the United Nations considered to be substantiated.
Impunity remained a significant problem in the Ghana Police Service, and the investigation and complaints processes did not effectively address reports of abuses and bribery.
Corruption, brutality, poor training, lack of oversight, and an overburdened judicial system contributed to impunity. Police often failed to respond to reports of abuses and, in many instances, did not act unless complainants paid for police transportation and other operating expenses. The Office of the Inspector General of Police and the Police Professional Standards Board investigated claims of excessive force by security force members.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were generally harsh and sometimes life threatening due to overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, lack of medical care, physical abuse, and food shortages.
Physical Conditions: In September the Ghana Prisons Service reported prison overcrowding stood at 135 percent of capacity, with a prison population of 13,480 compared to a total prison capacity of 9,945 inmates, a 20 percent reduction in overcrowding from 2019. The Ghana Prisons Service held women separately from men. Although authorities sought to hold juveniles separately from adults, there were reports detainees younger than age 18 were held with adults. Authorities held pretrial detainees in the same facilities as convicts but generally in separate cells, although due to overcrowding in convict blocks, Nsawam Prison held some convicts in blocks designated for pretrial detainees. The nongovernmental organization (NGO)-led Justice for All program with the support of the government continued to expedite judicial review for many pretrial (remand) prisoners, including virtually, reducing their numbers significantly. Paralegals and civil society were heavily involved in the program.
While prisoners had access to potable water, food was inadequate. Meals routinely lacked fruit, vegetables, or meat, forcing prisoners to rely on charitable donations and their families to supplement their diet. The prisons public relations officer identified feeding of inmates as a key problem. The Ghana Prisons Service facilitated farming activities for inmates to supplement their feeding. Authorities did not provide pretrial detainees food or changes of clothes. If community or family members were not able to provide them, prisons officers paid with their own funds.
Officials held much of the prison population in aging buildings or abandoned public or military buildings, which despite improvements had poor ventilation and sanitation, substandard construction, and inadequate space and light. The Ghana Prisons Service periodically fumigated and disinfected prisons. There were not enough toilets available for the number of prisoners, with as many as 100 prisoners sharing one toilet, and toilets often overflowed with excrement. There were no facilities to support intersex or transitioning persons.
The Ghana Prisons Service avoided large outbreaks of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases by designating certain facilities for new prisoners, testing the prisoners upon arrival, and putting them in isolation or quarantine as appropriate. The Ghana Prisons Service also conducted regular health checks on prisoners and relied on donations of personal protective equipment. Medical assistants provided medical services, but they were overstretched and lacked basic equipment and medicine. At Nsawam Prison a medical officer operated the health clinic. All prison infirmaries had a severely limited supply of medicine. All prisons were supplied with malaria test kits. Prisons did not provide dental care. Doctors visited prisons when required, and prison officials referred prisoners to local hospitals to address conditions prison medical personnel could not treat on site, but the prisons often lacked ambulances to transport inmates off site properly. To facilitate treatment at local facilities, the Ghana Prisons Service continued to register inmates in the National Health Insurance Scheme. The Ankaful Disease Camp Prison held prisoners with the most serious contagious diseases. Religious organizations, charities, private businesses, and citizens often provided services and materials, such as medicine and food, to the prisons.
Although persons with disabilities reported receiving medicine for chronic ailments and having access to recreational facilities and vocational education, a study released in 2016 found that prison facilities disadvantaged persons with disabilities, since they faced problems accessing health care and recreational facilities. No prison staff specifically focused on mental health, and officials did not routinely identify or offer treatment or other support to prisoners with mental disabilities.
Administration: There was no prison ombudsperson or comparable independent authority to respond to complaints; rather, each prison designated an officer-in-charge to receive and investigate complaints. Authorities suspended access to visitors as a COVID-19 health measure, although visitors could still bring food.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local nongovernmental organizations, which were independent of government influence. They monitored juvenile confinement and pretrial detention, bail, and recordkeeping procedures. Local news agencies also reported on prison conditions.
Improvements: The president pardoned 1,589 prisoners to mitigate the dangers to health caused by overcrowding, particularly the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic: 1,555 first-time offenders who had served half their sentences, 15 seriously ill prisoners, and 19 elderly prisoners.
As a COVID-19 mitigation strategy, the chief justice directed the judiciary to reduce sentences for a range of offenses to reduce the prison population. The chief justice also directed the justice sector to pursue alternatives to incarceration including fines and noncustodial punishment, especially for minor crimes.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law provide for protection against arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government frequently disregarded these protections.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
The law requires detainees be brought before a court within 48 hours of arrest in the absence of a judicial warrant, but authorities frequently detained individuals without charge or a valid arrest warrant for periods longer than 48 hours. Officials detained some prisoners for indefinite periods by renewing warrants or simply allowing warrants to lapse while an investigation took place. The constitution grants a detained individual the right to be informed immediately, in a language the person understands, of the reasons for detention and of his or her right to a lawyer. Most detainees, however, could not afford a lawyer. While the constitution grants the right to legal aid, the government often did not provide it. The government has a Legal Aid Commission that provides defense attorneys to those in need, but the commission was often unable to do so. Defendants in criminal cases who could not afford a lawyer typically represented themselves. The law requires that any detainee not tried within a “reasonable time,” as determined by the court, must be released either unconditionally or subject to conditions necessary to compel the person’s appearance at a later court date. The definition of “reasonable time,” however, has never been legally determined or challenged in the courts. As a result, officials rarely observed this provision. The government sought to reduce the population of prisoners in pretrial detention by placing paralegals in some prisons to monitor and advise on the cases of pretrial detainees, and assist with the drafting of appeals, and by directing judges to visit prisons to review and take action on pretrial detainee cases.
The law provides for bail, including those accused of serious crimes, but courts often struggled to come to timely decisions concerning bail or used their unlimited discretion to set bail at prohibitively high levels.
Arbitrary Arrest: The general practice of holding detainees without proper warrant or charge continued (see Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees). On May 20, police arrested 21 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) activists in the city of Ho on spurious unlawful assembly charges. Authorities released the activists on June 11, and dropped the case on August 5 (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).
Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem. In September the Ghana Prisons Service indicated 1,595 prisoners, approximately 12 percent of all prisoners, were in pretrial status. The government kept prisoners in extended pretrial detention due to police failure to investigate or follow up on cases, case files lost when police prosecutors rotated to other duties every three years, slow trial proceedings marked by frequent adjournments, detainees’ inability to meet bail conditions that were often set extremely high even for minor offenses, and inadequate legal representation for criminal defendants. The length of pretrial detention exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime in numerous instances.
Inadequate recordkeeping contributed to prisoners being held in egregiously excessive pretrial detention, a few for up to 10 years. Judicial authorities continued implementing a case tracking system on a trial basis in seven different regions. The system tracked cases from initial arrest to remand custody in the prisons, prosecution in the courts, and incarceration or dismissal. The system was envisioned to be used by all judicial and law enforcement participants, including police, public defenders, prosecutors, courts, prisons, the Legal Aid Commission, the Economic and Organized Crimes Office, and NGOs, with the intention of increasing transparency and accountability. Some commentators believed the tracking system could be used to press for release of remand prisoners held for lengthy periods.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, but lack of legal representation for detainees inhibited this right.
While the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was subject to unlawful influence and corruption. Judicial officials reportedly accepted bribes to expedite or postpone cases, “lose” records, or issue favorable rulings for the payer of the bribe.
A judicial complaints unit within the Ministry of Justice headed by a retired Supreme Court justice addressed complaints from the public, such as unfair treatment by a court or judge, unlawful arrest or detention, missing trial dockets, delayed trials and rendering of judgments, and bribery of judges. The government generally respected court orders.
The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women but not spousal rape. Sexual assault on a man may be charged as indecent assault. Prison sentences for rape range from five to 25 years, while indecent assault is a misdemeanor subject to a minimum term of imprisonment of six months. Domestic violence is punishable by a fine or a sentence of up to two years imprisonment. Rape and domestic violence remained serious problems. Authorities did not enforce the law effectively.
In July the Koforidua Circuit Court B sentenced a man to a nine-year, five-month term of incarceration for throwing acid on his girlfriend and her mother. The survivors sustained serious injuries that required hospitalization.
In August police in the Central Region arrested 14 men in connection with the alleged shooting and rape of a girl, age 13, who required hospitalization.
The Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service worked closely with the Department of Social Welfare, the Domestic Violence Secretariat, CHRAJ, the Legal Aid Commission, the Ark Foundation, UNICEF, the UN Population Fund, the national chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, and several other human rights NGOs to address rape and domestic violence.
In 2020 there were two government-run shelters for survivors of domestic violence, the Madina Social Welfare Center and the Center for Abused Children. On June 21, DOVVSU established a third shelter, the national One-Stop Center colocated with the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service. This new facility hosted ancillary agencies of the DOVVSU-Legal Aid office, a shelter for survivors of domestic violence, a social welfare unit, a holding cell for suspects, an interviewing room for minors, and two courts with seconded judges and prosecutors for domestic violence cases.
DOVVSU continued to teach a course on domestic violence case management for police officers assigned to the unit. It had one clinical psychologist to assist domestic violence survivors. DOVVSU tried to reach the public through various social media accounts. DOVVSU also addressed rape through public education efforts on radio and in communities, participation in efforts to prevent child marriage and gender-based violence, expansion of its online data management system to select police divisional headquarters, and data management training.
Pervasive cultural beliefs in gender roles, as well as sociocultural norms and stereotypes, posed additional challenges to combatting domestic violence. For example, media reported in 2020 that the central regional coordinator for DOVVSU stated that “denying your spouse sex amounted to emotional abuse” and suggested that men whose wives denied them sex could report them to the DOVVSU.
Unless specifically called upon by the DOVVSU, police seldom intervened in cases of domestic violence, in part due to a lack of counseling skills and shelter facilities to assist survivors. Few of the cases in which police identified and arrested suspects for rape or domestic abuse reached court or resulted in convictions due to witness unavailability, inadequate training on investigatory techniques, police prosecutor case mismanagement, and, according to the DOVVSU, lack of resources on the part of survivors and their families to pursue cases. Police could refer survivors to government or NGO-operated shelters. In cases deemed less severe, survivors were returned to their homes. Authorities reported officers occasionally had no alternative but to shelter survivors in the officers’ own residences until other arrangements could be made.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Several laws include provisions prohibiting FGM/C. Although rarely performed on adult women, the practice remained a serious problem for girls younger than age 18 in some regions. According to the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, FGM/C was significantly higher in the Upper East Region with a prevalence rate of 27.8 percent, compared with the national rate of 3.8 percent. According to the 2017 to 2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), women in rural areas were subjected to FGM/C three times more often than women in urban areas (3.6 percent compared with 1.2 percent). Intervention programs were partially successful in reducing the prevalence of FGM/C, particularly in the northern regions.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The constitution prohibits practices that dehumanize or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person. Media reported several killings and attempted killings for ritual purposes. In the Northern, North East, Upper East, and Upper West Regions, families or traditional authorities banished rural women and men suspected of “witchcraft” to “witch camps.” Most of those accused of witchcraft were older women, often widows. Some persons suspected to be witches were killed. According to a local group, there were six witch camps throughout the country, holding approximately 2,000 to 2,500 adult women and 1,000 to 1,200 children. One camp saw its numbers go down significantly due to education, support, and reintegration services provided by the Presbyterian Church. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection has the mandate to monitor witch camps but did not do so effectively.
The law criminalizes harmful mourning rites, but such rites continued, and authorities did not prosecute any perpetrators. In the north, especially in the Upper West and Upper East Regions, some widows were required to undergo certain rites to mourn or show devotion for a deceased spouse. The most prevalent widowhood rites included a one-year period of mourning, tying ropes and padlocks around the widow’s waist or neck, forced sitting beside the body of the deceased spouse until burial, solitary confinement, forced starvation, shaving the widow’s head, and smearing clay on the widow’s body. In the Northern and Volta Regions along the border with Togo, wife inheritance, the practice of forcing a widow to marry a male relative of her deceased husband, continued.
On April 8, police arrested two youths from Kasoa for a ritual killing. According to media reports, the youths were following instructions given to them by a “witch doctor” supposedly promoting a syncretic form of Christianity and local beliefs, using body parts of victims to bring wealth to practitioners.
Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, although authorities prosecuted some sexual harassment cases under assault and other provisions of the criminal code.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government officials.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence through the National Health Insurance Scheme. This included emergency contraception as part of the clinical management of rape cases.
In 2017 the maternal mortality rate was 308 per 100,000 live births, according to the UN Trends in Maternal Mortality report. A lack of skilled birth attendance, especially in rural areas, was a major contributing factor. According to the UN Population Fund, the contraceptive prevalence rate was 27 percent for women ages 15 to 49.
Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. While the government generally made efforts to enforce the law, predominantly male tribal leaders and chiefs are empowered to regulate land access and usage within their tribal areas. Within these areas women were less likely than men to receive access rights to large plots of fertile land. Widows often faced expulsion from their homes by their deceased husband’s relatives, and they often lacked the awareness or means to defend property rights in court.
The law protects members of racial or ethnic minorities from violence and discrimination, but it was unclear if the government enforced them effectively.
Unlike in 2020 when municipal authorities closed more than 100 shops owned or operated by Nigerian nationals in the Ashanti Region for violation of municipal or commercial regulations, border closures due to COVID-19 prevented foreign traders from entering the country and eliminated the tension between foreign traders and local authorities.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth in the country or outside if either of the child’s parents or one grandparent is a citizen. Children unregistered at birth or without identification documents may be excluded from accessing education, health care, and social security. Although having a birth certificate is required to enroll in school, authorities indicated children would not be denied access to education based on a lack of documentation. According to the MICS, birth registration increased with levels of education and wealth and was more prevalent in urban centers than in rural areas. Authorities adjudicated birth registrations in a nondiscriminatory manner.
Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free, compulsory, and universal basic education for all children from kindergarten through junior high school. The government continued to implement tuition-free enrollment in senior high school, including by rolling out a “double-track” system that helped increase enrollment from 800,000 in the 2016-17 school year to 1.2 million in the 2019-20 school year.
Girls in the northern regions and rural areas throughout the country were less likely to continue and complete their education due to the weak quality of educational services, inability to pay expenses related to schooling, prioritization of boys’ education over girls’, security problems related to distance between home and school, lack of dormitory facilities, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene facilities. After closures of schools over several months in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in August all public schools opened for the regular school year with in-person learning.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits sex with a child younger than age 16 with or without consent and sexual abuse of minors. There continued to be reports of male teachers sexually assaulting and harassing both female and male students. Physical abuse and corporal punishment of children were concerns. Local social workers rarely effectively monitored cases of child abuse and neglect.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage for both sexes is 18. Early and forced child marriage, while illegal, remained a problem, with 34 percent of girls living in the five northern regions of the country marrying before age 18. According to the MICS, child marriage was highest in the Northern, North East, Upper East, Savannah, and Volta Regions; it was lowest in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Ahafo Regions.
The Child Marriage Unit of the Domestic Violence Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection continued to lead governmental efforts to combat child marriage. The ministry’s National Strategic Framework on Ending Child Marriage in Ghana (2017-26) prioritized interventions focused on strengthening government capacity to address neglect and abuse of children, girls’ education, adolescent health, and girls’ empowerment through skills development. The National Advisory Committee to End Child Marriage and the National Stakeholders Forum, with participation from key government and civil society participants, provided strategic guidance and supported information sharing and learning on child marriage among partners in the country. The Child Marriage Unit maintained a manual with fact sheets and frequently asked questions, and used social media accounts to reach wider audiences.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, although it does not specifically mention sale, offering or use of children for commercial sex. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16, and participating in sexual activities with anyone younger than 16 is illegal. The law criminalizes the use of a computer to publish, produce, procure, or possess child pornography.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The law bans infanticide, but several NGOs reported that communities in the Upper East Region killed “spirit children” born with physical disabilities who were suspected of being possessed by evil spirits. Local and traditional government entities cooperated with NGOs to raise public awareness concerning causes of and treatments for disabilities and to rescue children at risk of ritual killing. Authorities enforced governing prohibitions on infanticide.
Displaced Children: The migration of children to urban areas continued due to economic hardship in rural areas. Children often had to support themselves to survive, contributing to both child sexual exploitation and the school dropout rate. Girls living on the streets were among the most vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
The Jewish community has a few hundred members. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and protects the rights of persons with disabilities’ access to health services, information, communications, transportation, public spaces such as schools and public buildings, the judicial system, and other state services, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Few adults with disabilities had employment opportunities in the formal sector. In September the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations reported there was a slight increase in the number of workers with disabilities in the local government sector.
Some children with disabilities attended specialized schools that focused on their needs. The Ghana Education Service, through its Special Education Unit, supported education for children who are deaf or hard of hearing or have vision disabilities through 14 national schools for deaf and blind students, in addition to one private school for them.
Persons with both mental and physical disabilities, including children, were frequently subjected to abuse and intolerance. Authorities did not regularly investigate and punish violence and abuses against persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities who lived at home were sometimes tied to trees or under market stalls and were caned regularly; families reportedly killed some of them.
Thousands of persons with mental disabilities, including children as young as seven, were sent to spiritual healing centers known as “prayer camps,” where mental disability was often considered a “demonic affliction.” Some residents were chained for weeks in these environments, denied food for days, and physically assaulted. Officials took few steps to implement the law that provides for monitoring of prayer camps and bars involuntary or forced treatment. International donor funding helped support office space and some operations of the Mental Health Authority.
Discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS remained a problem. Fear of stigma, and fear that getting tested would mean immediate labeling as gay, discouraged persons from getting tested for HIV infection, and many of those who tested positive avoided seeking timely care. HIV-positive persons faced discrimination in employment and often were forced to leave their jobs or houses. The government and NGOs subsidized many centers that provided free HIV testing and treatment for citizens, although high patient volume and the physical layout of many clinics often made it difficult for the centers to protect confidentiality.
The law penalizes discrimination against a person with HIV or AIDS, although the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law contains provisions that protect and promote the rights and freedoms of persons with HIV or AIDS and those suspected of having HIV or AIDS, including the right to health, education, insurance benefits, employment, privacy and confidentiality, nondisclosure of their HIV and AIDS status without consent, and the right to hold a public or political office.
The Ghana AIDS Commission continued to raise concerns regarding how high levels of stigma and discrimination contributed to the spread of HIV in the country.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There were some reports of police violence against LGBTQI+ persons. LGBTQI+ persons faced police harassment and extortion attempts (see also section 1.d, Arbitrary Arrest). There were reports police were reluctant to investigate claims of assault or violence against LGBTQI+ persons. Stigma, intimidation, and the perceived negative attitude of some police toward LGBTQI+ persons were factors in preventing survivors from reporting incidents of abuse. LGBTQI+ activists also reported widespread attempts to blackmail LGBTQI+ individuals, with prosecution difficult due to police inaction. LGBTQI+ persons in prison were vulnerable to sexual and other physical abuse, which authorities generally did not investigate.
Beatings and public humiliation of LGBTQI+ persons by community members were common and growing in number. The attacks were sometimes shared on social media in an effort to further humiliate and ostracize LGBTQI+ persons. There was a notable increase in anti-LGBTQI+ statements by political, religious, and community leaders, and media coverage of these statements.
The law criminalizes the act of “unnatural carnal knowledge,” which is defined as “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal.” The offense covers only persons engaged in same-sex male relationships and those in heterosexual relationships. There were no reports of adults prosecuted or convicted for consensual same-sex sexual conduct.
The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQI+ persons faced widespread discrimination in education and employment.
Activists working to promote the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons noted great difficulty in engaging officials on LGBTQI+ problems because of social and political sensitivity. Media coverage regarding homosexuality and related topics was almost always negative.
On February 2, the local NGO LGBT+ Rights Ghana inaugurated its new office space in the Ashongman area of Accra. After anti-LGBTQI+ activists complained in local media concerning the existence of the center, on February 15, police raided the center and closed it. The center remained closed at year’s end.
On March 27, police arrested 22 persons in Kwahu-Obomeng, Eastern Region, for participating in an alleged lesbian wedding. Police arrived at a popular community location in response to reports that two women planned to be married. Police justified the arrests on the grounds the venue’s owner complained participants were violating COVID-19 protocols. Authorities released them due to lack of evidence.
On May 20, police arrested 21 LGBTQI+ activists attending a conference in the city of Ho, Volta Region. On an official Twitter account, police acknowledged making the arrests because the suspects were believed to be pro-LGBTQI+. Authorities charged the “Ho 21” with unlawful assembly, conspiracy to commit a crime, and acts of “unnatural carnal knowledge.” After multiple requests, on June 11, authorities released them on bail. On August 5, a court dropped all charges for lack of evidence, and ordered the return of the defendants’ confiscated property including laptops and smart phones.
The LGBTQI+ activists reported harassment and humiliation by police during their detention. They also reported their inability to return to their previous lives, since they were suspended from work and banned from their communities after their identities were broadcast by police.
Chieftaincy disputes, which frequently resulted from lack of a clear chain of succession, competing claims regarding land and other natural resources, and internal rivalries and feuds, continued to result in deaths, injuries, and destruction of property. According to the West Africa Center for Counter Extremism, chieftaincy disputes and ethnic violence were the largest sources of insecurity and instability in the country. The government generally sought to tamp down violence and encourage dialogue and peaceful resolution of disputes.
Disputes continued among Fulbe herdsmen as well as between Fulbe herdsmen and farmers that at times led to violence. On September 3, officials from the Ministry of National Security reportedly arrested 31 Fulbe men at an Islamic school in Diare in the Northern Region on suspicion of ties to terrorist groups in Burkina Faso and Mali. After transporting them to Accra, authorities released 29 of the 31 men. One of the two men who remained in detention until their release in October was an Islamic cleric who founded the school.
There were frequent reports of killings of suspected criminals in mob violence. Community members often saw such vigilantism as justified in light of the difficulties and constraints facing judicial and police sectors. There were multiple reports police failed to prevent and respond to societal violence, in particular incidents of “mob justice.”