Parliament has approved an amendment to the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, also known as the anti-gay bill.
This includes imposing a six-month custodial sentence or less on individuals who aid, facilitate, encourage, or promote LGBTQ activities.
The amendment was proposed by co-sponsor of the bill Sam George who believes that strict punishment is necessary to ensure compliance with the law once passed.
Under the amended bill, which is currently at the consideration stage, those found guilty of promoting LGBTQ activities will face a minimum sentence of three months and a maximum of six months, or a fine of GH₵600 minimum to GH₵1200.
Speaking in Parliament, Sam George said that, “for me, even the GH₵600 is a bargain because it aims to prevent lengthy custodial sentences. However, judges retain the discretion to impose fines, imprisonment, or both. Therefore, I believe that GH₵600 to GH₵1200, or a minimum of three months and a maximum of six months, will serve as an adequate deterrent.
However, Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin opposed the amendment, advocating for a custodial sentence of not more than three months.
He argued that imprisonment not only incurs state costs but there have been studies that show that people go to prison and become worse off after their release.
Also addressing parliament, Mr Afenyo-Markin noted that, “we should rather look at one month and three months, instead of three months and six months. Yes, if the commensurate penalty unit cannot be defined within the context of the proposal which is two months and four months, then we should not go higher.”
On fine, he added “the court has a position on sentencing. It’s the reason why we have now introduced this plea bargain thing. The plea bargain in law that we have enacted is also aimed at dealing with some of these things.
“In even serious criminal matters if the person is ready to pay to deal with the issue of the time for the trial and all, and also depopulate our prisons,” they are allowed the option of a fine.
He emphasized the importance of retaining the option of a fine, stating, “this parliament must not depart from that. So please colleagues, we cannot do away with a fine. And we should not attempt to say that merely being guilty of this should lead to imprisonment without an option for a fine. Let’s be careful.”