A local journalist, through jhr training, prompted the first ever discussion on gay rights in Ghana on Joy’s Super Radio Show, a daily news program that reaches a quarter of Ghana’s population. The newscasts included interviews with a gay rights activist, human rights lawyer and an official from Ghana’s AIDS Commission, touching on topics such as gay marriage and health care restrictions. The controversial human rights discussion set-off a slew of emails, the debate spilling over into other media such as GhanaWeb and The Chronicle, generating public debate.
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Focus on Ghana’s Gay Population
By Evans Mensah and Colleen Ross, Joy FM, Accra, Ghana
This is an account of how a seemingly innocuous interview on a controversial human rights subject has the power to generate public debate.
Homosexuality is a hot-button issue in Ghana—so much so, it is rarely spoken of, much less debated. It would seem most Ghanaians prefer to think it doesn’t exist at all. So it was after some searching that Evans Mensah and Colleen Ross located a gay activist in Accra and sat down with him for an interview. It covered everything from what it was like to live as a gay man in a country where homosexuality is considered illegal…to how restricted gays feel getting access to health care. The activist says if you want to get treated at a clinic for a sexually-transmitted disease, you must bring in your partner as well. He says gay men are loath to bring in their male partner because of negative attitudes, so they don’t return for proper treatment, seeking it instead from less credible sources. He also mentioned that he was in love with his partner and they were intent on marrying (outside the country).
A 15-minute version of the interview was played on Joy’s Super Morning Show, an award-winning daily news program with approx. five million listeners (a quarter of Ghana’s population). A shorter version of the interview was then played on the midday news, which has an even greater listenership. It was accompanied by an interview with a human rights lawyer. For the evening news, Evans did a report including clips from the interview and the lawyer. It was followed by a substantial interview with an official from the Ghana AIDS Commission. Throughout the newscast, emails responding to the interviews poured in and were read out. Many spoke against the rights of gays to be together, let alone marry. Some, though, were in favour of granting them more open access to healthcare.
To continue the momentum, the next day, Evans went onto the streets to gauge people’s reaction to homosexuality in Ghana and filed a report. The day after, the host of the Super Morning Show interviewed both a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist. The debate on gays’ rights spilled over into other media such as GhanaWeb and The Chronicle. All this because of a little initiative to pursue an issue many find offensive, but nonethless necessary to debate. The issue of gay rights is, after all, a human rights issue.
Listen to original interviews below
These interviews ran back to back.