Homosexuality, Moral Panic and Politicized Homophobia in Ghana – a public talk by Dr. Wisdom Tettey

Written by Stella Mozin, Maisha Maliha Badhon and Nene M. Azu


On January 22nd the Dean of Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Wisdom Tettey, gave a talk on ‘Homosexuality, Moral Panic, and Politicized Homophobia in Ghana’.  It was a very informative talk, giving the audience an insight into the way homosexuality is perceived in Ghana. If you were unable to attend, here is a synopsis of Dr. Tettey’s valid argument.

Homosexuality is an issue that is still seen as a taboo in many non-Westernized societies. Ghana can be seen to be one of such societies where certain sects of the society may “use homosexuality as a weapon to create unnecessary moral panic, feeding on homophobia”. Dr. Tettey explained how the very right to citizenship is eroded due to the categorization of homosexuals as ‘devils’,  that makes them ‘lesser citizens’ in the eyes of many .

This is reflected in the politicized nature of the subject. From what we heard, there are three main parties of the society that propagate homophobia: the media, politicians and moral leaders. Despite the constitution of Ghana dictating that everyone is equal in front of the law, homosexuals are seemingly discriminated. Ghanaian media sets the political agenda, amplifying homosexuality as a threat to the social order and implying that it needs immediate intervention. Dr Tettey highlighted that many politicians use it as a tool in politics to smear other politicians, by depicting them as supporting homosexuals which they then have to denounce. This furthers the propaganda of the media, and other agents who benefit from the constant vilification of homosexuals. Furthermore, religious leaders have often blamed homosexuality for the many problems people face in daily lives. A pastor was quoted saying,

“God of Heaven told him that the current rationing of electricity and the water shortage situation in the country was caused by the fact that some Ghanaians were tolerating homosexuals”

The talk gave an insight into the struggles of homosexuals in the country, which can be said to be very similar to the experiences of homosexuals in other societies that have not accepted them. However we can say that even in developed countries like the US, legalization of same sex marriage only happened recently in the year 2015, 200 years after their independence. Thus it is hopeful that in time progress can be made.

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