What an African Cardinal Said about Bill Criminalizing Homosexuality in Ghana

Cardinal Turkson at the Vatican Press Office. Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson has been at the center of controversy in Ghana following his Monday, November 27 comments on Ghana's Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill (anti-LGBTQI+ Bill).

In a Hard Talk interview with the BBC, Cardinal Turkson said homosexuality and LGBT in general should not be a criminal offense and that people should be helped to understand the issue better.

“My position has simply been this, that LGBT, gay people may not be criminalized, because they’ve committed no crime, but neither should this position also become something to be imposed on cultures, which are not yet ready to accept stuff like that,” the Ghanaian Cardinal said.

The Bill that was approved and adopted by the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in July seeks to criminalize the promotion and practice of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) behavior.

“LGBT cases are not to be criminalized but neither, and this I think is basically what caused all of this in Ghana,” the 73-year-old Cardinal said.


He explained, “The Ghanaian culture has known of people, with some such tendencies, and I say this because there is an expression in the local Akan language, that of mine, of men who act like women, and women who act like men, there is an expression for them, which means that this phenomenon has been known, was known in the culture and in the community and all of that.”

The Ghanaian Cardinal further continued, “But nobody went on to make any policy out of that, now I think what caused all of these was our attempts to link some foreign donations and grants to certain positions, which needed to be imposed in the name of freedom, in the name of respect for rights and stuffs like that. I think that is what led to this thing going to Parliament.”

Making reference to Pope Francis’ stance on homosexuality, Cardinal Turkson said, “about a week or so ago he came out with a small document just saying clearly what his position on all of these are, that LGBT people can be blessed, they can be admitted to church, and all of that, they can even become God parents of children and people who are being baptized and all of that. So he (Pope) himself has signaled, partly, stuff that used to be left neck below, undecided and all that and come clearly with these.”

In the November 27 interview, Cardinal Turkson highlighted the importance of educating people to understand this phenomenon.

“It is time to begin education, to help people understand what this reality, this phenomenon is. We need a lot of education to get people to make a distinction between what is crime and what is not crime,” he said.

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The Cardinal who retired as Prefect of the Vatican-based Dicastery for Promoting of Integral Human Development in December 2021 said, “ If culturally we have expressions for this type of thing, it just means that it is not completely alien to Ghanaian society.”

“I think this drastic form that it has taken in Ghana and probably in Uganda is bringing the perception that the west was imposing this, connecting or linking it with donations and grants and all of time, is kind of politicizing the thing in such a way that the reaction has also been political in character,” Cardinal Turkson explained.

He added, “But I think, all of this from my point of view, and this is what I think I speak about with a couple of other Bishops is to be able to understand more deeply this phenomenon.”

Meanwhile members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC) have sought to clarify Cardinal Turkson’s comments on homosexuality.

In a Tuesday, November 28 interview with TV3’s Portia Gabor, GCBC President, Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi said that the Cardinal’s position “has always been the stand of the Catholic Church.” 


“It may be a moral issue but does not rise to the level were homosexuals, lesbians and gays are considered criminals,” Bishop Gyamfi  said.

He added, “That is the position of the Catholic Church. That has been the position of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference. So he is not stating something new.”

On claims that Catholic Bishops in Ghana had earlier backed the criminalisation of the act, the GCBC President said that asking that the act should not be legalized and made part of Ghanaian culture is not the same as saying it is a crime.

“To be a crime means it is punishable. Like someone committing murder. It will be included in the list of crimes in Ghana. That is not what we are saying. We are saying it should not be permitted,” Bishop Gyamfi said.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.