Ghana official calls for effort to 'round up' suspected gays

In a new burst of African homophobia, a government minister in Ghana has drawn support after calling on the country's intelligence services to track down and arrest all gays and lesbians.

The call from Paul Evans Aidoo, the minister for the Western Region of Ghana, marks the latest in a series of expressions of officially condoned homophobia across the continent, which has previously been seen in Malawi, Uganda and South Africa.

Joy FM, a popular radio station in the capital Accra, reported earlier this week that Mr Aidoo, a Catholic, said: "All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in society." He called for the Bureau of National Investigations to round up gays and called on landlords and tenants to inform on people they suspect of being homosexual. "Once they have been arrested, they will be brought before the law," he is reported to have said.

The comments from the National Democratic Congress politician come in the feverish run-up to the 2012 elections in the West African country. There has been controversy over the meaning of a clause in the criminal code of Ghana's 1992 constitution which condemns "unnatural carnal knowledge". The constitution guarantees human rights "regardless of race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender", but does not mention sexuality.

The move by Mr Aidoo has drawn support from other politicians, including the general secretary of the People's National Convention (PNC) who told Radio Gold on Tuesday: "Homosexuality is abhorrent. Media discourse across the world is being dictated by the vulgar opinions of homosexuals. Ghana and probably Africa cannot sustain the menace of homosexuals."

The lifestyles of gay, lesbian, bisexuals and transgender people are listed as criminal in 38 African countries, according to South African campaigners. Last year, the launch of a parliamentary bill in Uganda proposing the death penalty for same-sex encounters sparked a campaign of "outing" of a dozen lesbians and gay men by a Kampala newspaper. One of those named, gay rights activist David Kato, was beaten to death with a hammer in January. The law is still under discussion in Uganda but after intense international pressure, MPs supporting it now say imprisonment rather than the death penalty would be appropriate.

In Malawi, two men who staged a partnership ceremony in December 2009 were jailed for 14 years. They were pardoned in April 2010 after pressure from European and American aid donors. The prime ministers of Zimbabwe and Kenya, where new constitutions are under debate, have in the past year denounced homosexuality.

South Africa, whose constitution recognises same-sex partnerships and condemns discrimination, has an uneasy relationship with homosexuality: township practice of "corrective" gang rape of lesbians seems on the increase. The current Mr Gay World is a South African, Charl van den Berg, and the country is hosting the contest next year.

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