Manchester Day … Refugee Week … Gay rights in Ghana

News

Manchester Day

Manchester Day is an annual event that celebrates everything great about the city. It is a day for families, residents and visitors to get together and celebrate all things Mancunian that have made Manchester one of the world’s most iconic cities.

It has taken place every year since 2010, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible for the last two years in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Previously, 100,000 people gathered in the city centre to watch the procession which featured 22,000 people and 80 community groups ranging from the Manchester Chinese Centre to the trans youth group Afternoon Tea and the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue service. This is all of Manchester coming together, very visibly demonstrating all of its diversity and all of its solidarity.

This is why I love Manchester:

Refugee Week

Refugee Week is taking place from 14 to 20 June and is regularly used as a platform for hundreds of arts, cultural and educational events.

Refugee Week events are often intended to celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourage a better understanding between communities.

The theme for Refugee Week is “We Cannot Walk Alone” and recent events in Ghana show exactly why we still need to support refugees and those seeking asylum.

Idris Elba and Naomi Campbell sign letter backing gay rights in Ghana

A group of 67 high-profile figures say they are ‘deeply disturbed’ by the recent closure of the LGBT+ centre in Accra.

Edward Enninful (left), Naomi Campbell and Idris Elba are among the signatories of the letter. Photograph: Agencies

Some of the UK’s most prominent people of Ghanaian heritage have joined together to condemn their former homeland for its stance on gay rights in what will be seen as an extraordinary show of diaspora power.

The influential names in fashion, film and media, including Idris Elba and the Vogue editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, have signed an open letter in support of Ghana’s LGBT+ community. Naomi Campbell and Labour MP Diane Abbott, although not of Ghanaian heritage, have also put their names to the letter.

In February 2021 a community centre for LGBT+ people in Ghana closed its doors after mounting pressure by religious groups and anti-gay organisations against sexual minorities. Police later raided the centre its staff said, after its leaders were forced into hiding.

The letter, signed by 67 celebrities, politicians and other influential people largely of Ghanaian heritage, said they were deeply disturbed by the events and called on Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, and other political leaders to offer protection to the LGBT+ community: “We have watched with profound concern as you have had to question the safety of your vital work at the LGBT+ Rights Ghana Centre in Accra, and feared for your personal wellbeing and security. It is unacceptable to us that you feel unsafe,” it said.

“As prominent and powerful advocates for this great country, we are beseeching His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and political / cultural leaders to create a pathway for allyship, protection and support. We petition for inclusivity which will make the nation even greater and even stronger,” it continued.

In recent weeks several high-profile figures in Ghana had demanded the closure of the centre, intended to be a safe space for LGBT+ people to meet and find support. Yet since the centre’s opening in January in the capital, Accra, many people have received death threats and online abuse.

The opening of the centre amplified discrimination against the community, said activists. Although same-sex relationships are illegal in Ghana, the law is rarely enforced, according to a 2018 report by Human Rights Watch. Yet activists say abuse against LGBT+ Ghanaians has intensified in recent years, fuelled by influential anti-gay campaigners.

The community centre was set up by LGBT+ Rights Ghana. A fundraising event to mark the opening was attended by the Danish ambassador, the Australian high commissioner and EU delegates, which caused outrage and prompted repeated claims that the international community was promoting LGBT+ rights in Africa.

Earlier in February, the Catholic church in Ghana bishops’ conference released a statement demanding the centre be shut down and condemned “all those who support the practice of homosexuality in Ghana”. It urged the government “never to be cowed down or to succumb to the pressure to legalise the rights of LGBTQIs in Ghana”.

Roslyn Mould, a board member of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, said the group hoped the community space would protect LGBT+ people from threats and abuse in Ghana, increasing in recent weeks.

“This space or office was made to support a vulnerable community, these persons have been under attack for a long time,” she said. “We would also like this opportunity to thank all the allies who have supported the community throughout this ordeal.”

Ghana’s National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values has in recent weeks ramped up threats against sexual minorities, Mould said, including proposing conversion therapy.

Outcry after 21 people arrested in Ghana for ‘advocating LGBT activities’

Rights groups say the targeting and abuse of LGBT+ people in Ghana has sharply risen this year. Photograph: Micha Klootwijk/Alamy

Rights groups have condemned the arrest of 21 people by Ghanaian police for “unlawful assembly” and promoting an LGBT+ agenda, in the latest move against sexual minorities in the country.

Several rights groups called the arrests illegal, saying those detained did not have access to legal representation before they were remanded to court, and that some suffered medical illnesses and needed treatment for trauma.

The arrests came after a group of journalists reportedly descended on an event by Rightify Ghana, which was held to provide training for activists and paralegals when supporting LGBT+ people.

“The press teamed up with the police to storm the meeting location, started taking images, took their belongings and arrested them,” Rightify Ghana said.

The targeting and abuse of LGBT+ people in Ghana has sharply risen this year, said Alex Kofi Donkor, the founder and director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, an advocacy and aid organisation based in Accra.

“The [event] was to train them on paralegal services for vulnerable groups – how we can document issues of abuse, and how best these trained paralegals can provide support,” Donkor said.

“There is no law preventing advocates or LGBT+ people from existing or gathering. It’s a constitutional right.”

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Ghana, yet while prosecutions are rare, rights groups say it has led to widespread targeting and extortion of vulnerable people and anyone suspected to be gay.

A statement by the police calling members of the public to come forward with information about LGBT+ activities amounted to “a witch-hunt”, Donkor said.

“It is very, very disturbing – also for the fact that the police are now inciting the public against Ghanaians. It’s already a vulnerable situation for LGBT+ people in Ghana,” he said.

Last year over 10,000 people were identified in the UK as possible victims of human trafficking or modern slavery, around two thirds of whom were foreign nationals from places like Albania, Sudan and Vietnam.

22 June 2021 will mark the fourth national Windrush Day and 73 years since the SS Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex in 1948 carrying the first Caribbean migrants to the UK to help re-build Britain after the Second World War.

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