Ghanaian Chronicle

So No Bar To Exercise Of Fundamental Human Rights?

Date published: February 26, 2013

By I. K. Gyasi

Permit me, dear reader, to quote from the article entitled, OLEEEE, OLEEE, OLEE, OYE, written by Mr. Sidney Casely-Hayford, and published in the Wednesday February 6, 2013 issue of “The Chronicle”, page 14.

Mr. Casley-Hayford writes, “I am not interested in promoting gay rights. I have no specific interest in making people homosexual or lesbian if I had the power to do, but I firmly believe that everyone in this world is entitled to their choice of worship, situation, sexual preference and lifestyle.

“We make it what we want in the privacy of our lives, and it is not my place to determine what another person can and should not do in the privacy of their four walls.

“The Constitution of Ghana is clear that engaging in unnatural carnal knowledge in Ghana is illegal. Nowhere does it state that being a homosexual is illegal. If you equate homosexuality to unnatural carnal knowledge, then, of course, it becomes illegal.

“But even then, everyone has a guaranteed right to defend a preference of whatever form. What is so difficult to understand about that? The fundamental right of every Ghanaian is protected in the Constitution. Read Chapter 5 carefully, and especially, paragraph 17.”

Can we do whatever we like? How absurd. We are not so many Robinson Crusoes, each living alone on an island and cut off from one another. We live together in this administrative and geographical area called Ghana. Our having to live together imposes restrictions on our freedom to choose.

If my memory serves me right, I think I read this little story from the book CABINET GOVERNMENTS by Sir Ivor Jennings. An elderly gentleman stood waiting for a bus at a bus station.

Suddenly, a young man came into view twirling a cane dangerously close to the old gentleman’s nose. He told the young man, “Your freedom ends where my nose begins.”

If the two persons lived on separate islands, the young man could use his cane anyway he wanted, and the old gentleman would have no fear of anyone endangering the safety of his nose.

Does the 1992 Constitution guarantee unlimited freedom for anyone and everyone? Clause 2 of Article 12 of Chapter 5 states, “Every person in Ghana, whatever, his race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this chapter, BUT SUBJECT TO RESPECT FOR THE RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS OF OTHERS, AND FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST.” (Emphasis mine).

While the 1992 Constitution guarantees rights and freedoms to everyone, the same Constitution guarantees special rights and freedoms, specifically for certain categories of persons.

These are Widowed spouses (Article 22), Women, particularly pregnant women (Article 27), Children (Article 28), Disabled persons (Article 29), and the Sick (Article 30).

I will be happy to be told where in the 1992 Constitution, homosexuals, as a group, are specifically mentioned as having some special rights that the rest of us are bound to recognise and respect and protect.

Of course, Article 33 (5) of the Constitution states, “The rights, duties, declaration and guarantees relating to the fundamental human rights and freedoms specifically mentioned in this Chapter, shall not be regarded as excluding others not specifically mentioned, which are considered to be inherent in a democracy and intended to secure the freedoms and dignity of man.”

Perhaps the practitioners, promoters of homosexuals could say that one of the rights and freedoms not mentioned is the sexual orientation or sexual preference of some people that must be recognised and respected.

I say bring it on and go further, because there are other sexual preferences or sexual orientations that must also be recognised and respected.

These include bestiality, incest, paedophilia, necrophilia, etc. Of course, I find homosexuality deplorable, strange, unnatural, obscene, repulsive, morally repugnant, obnoxious and objectionable. I have the same attitude towards the other sexual aberrations mentioned above.

However, if homosexuality is seen as a perfectly normal alternative to heterosexuality, then let us treat the other sexual practices the same way, because they are other people’s sexual orientation or preference.

Let it be repeated that in a society such as ours, people do NOT have an unfettered right to do as they please, on the grounds that it is their lifestyle or a situation.

Article 41 states, “The exercise and enjoyment of rights and freedoms is INSEPARABLE FROM THE PERFORMANCE OF DUTIES AND OBLIGATIONS, AND ACCORDINGLY, IT SHALL BE THE DUTY OF EVERY CITIZEN TO (d) RESPECT THE RIGHTS, FREEDOMS AND LEGITIMATE INTERESTS OF OTHERS, AND GENERALLY TO REFRAIN FROM DOING ACTS DETRIMENTAL TO THE WELFARE OF OTHER PERSONS.” (Emphasis mine).

For example, no law stops a person from smoking, whether within the four walls of his home or in the public. But the law says that there are designated places where a person cannot smoke, because of the danger of passive smoking.

You can listen to music within the four walls of your room. But you cannot turn on the volume of the radio to the point where you disturb next-door neighbours.

Your right to free expression does not include the right to make hate speeches that incite people against others, on the grounds of their tribe, region, religion, profession, gender, etc.

The laws of Ghana do not prescribe a particular type of dressing for the citizens. But there is a law against indecent exposure. You cannot, therefore, walk naked in public and claim that that is your lifestyle, or that your religion says so.

If you have land and you want to go into farming, the law will not stop you. But the current law says that you cannot cultivate marijuana or poppy.

You can take part in a demonstration, or even organise one yourself. But the law says you cannot do so, unless you meet the requirements of the Public Order Act, 1994 (ACT 419).

You can buy a car and drive it. But the law says that you cannot drive that car without a valid driving licence, payment of a roadworthiness tax and motor vehicle insurance.

Ghana has no Morality Police Unit whose members peep through people’s bedroom windows to see how people sleep with their partners.

Indeed, the law respects the privacy of all citizens. But the same law permits an invasion of that privacy by the country’s security, if there are reasonable grounds to suspect the planning or perpetration of any unlawful activity by certain persons.

In short, it is simply not true that we can choose any kind of lifestyle without respecting the rights of other individuals and society as a whole. What is difficult to understand about that?

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