The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has said that Africa is not deterred by the veiled threats of withdrawal of investments and international aid and other stringent economic measures that have attended the continent’s effort at protecting its culture, values, and societal norms and to safeguard the future of its youth.
He was speaking at a meeting with an array of Members of the British House of Lords and the House of Commons at Westminster in London. Of concern to the British Members of Parliament is the law passed in Uganda recently on the LGBTQI phenomenon, and the bill on Promotion of Human Sexual Rights and Family Values currently before Ghana’s parliament.
“Threats are not the way to go. If your neighbor or partner has a problem, you help him to solve it. Boycotts and threats do not solve problems: engagement and understanding do,” said the Speaker.
He explained that once a group of people is in agreement on what constitutes Human rights, values, and principles, they move on. What is required is alignment and understanding of their context.
Mr Bagbin told his hosts that the role of parliament is to receive bills from civil society or interest groups, usually through the process that allows for a Private Member’s Bill, or from the executive. Parliament then takes the bill through its processes and procedures outlined in its Standing Orders and in consonance with the provisions of Ghana’s constitution.
“There is nothing untoward; nothing wrong with the efforts by Ghana’s Parliament to legislate on the promotion of human sexual rights and family values in Ghana, using our constitution as a compass,” he declared.
“There is an urgent need for legislation in the area of LGBTTQR± in Ghana. Parliament is aware of the copious human rights provisions in the Constitution of the country. Parliament knows that any legislation that detracts from the human rights and freedoms guaranteed by our constitution will be a candidate for litigation in our court of law.”
Responding to a question on the role of the President in the bill under reference, the Speaker insisted that Ghana’s Parliament has the mandate and the capability to legislate on the subject, and will not countenance any interference from the executive.
He explained that the role of the President is to accent to bills submitted to him by Parliament. In the process, the President can make recommendations for the consideration of Parliament. However, final legislative powers rest with the legislature, not the executive. “Ghana’s democracy is based on the rule of law, not the rule of man,” he pointed out.
Besides, he said, Ghana’s constitution is heavy on the promotion and protection of various fundamental human rights and freedoms, and gave an assurance that curtailing human rights is not the target of the bill under reference; rather, it is about the protection of rights as well as values; so is it about the healthcare and welfare of Ghanaians, particularly those whose sexual orientation has implications for their health.
According to the Speaker, the legislature has engaged in very wide and broad consultations whilst working on the Promotion of Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill. Members of the select committee working on it have held consultations in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, EU, and Canada, among others for a deeper appreciation of the issues at stake.
In addition, the committee has received and considered about 400 memoranda on the issue and has granted an audience to many advocacy groups, professional associations, traditional leaders, civil society groups, and religious leaders. He said the approach to this bill has been to “think global and act local”.
Those with Mr. Bagbin at the meeting included the Clerk to Parliament, Mr. Cyril Kwabena Oteng Nsiah, the Assistant Clerk, Mr. Ebenezer Djietror, Legal Counsel to the Speaker, Magnus Kofi Amoatey, the Director of Communication, Mr. Gayheart Mensah and the Deputy Director of Parliamentary Relations, Mr. Charles Dery Tenzagh.