Activists are calling for justice after a group of 21 people were arrested for attending a conference advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in Ghana.
The incident in question took place last week in the southeastern city of Ho in Ghana. Alex Kofi Donkor of LGBT+ Rights Ghana told CNN that the purpose of the conference was to provide paralegal training for those who may face legal pushback due to their sexuality. Things seemed to be going well when Donkor explained that a group of journalists entered the conference and began taking pictures. Shortly thereafter, Donkor explains that security forces and began arresting attendees.
"The event started at 9 a.m. on Thursday with about 25 persons in attendance. Two hours later, some journalists invaded the space and started taking photos and videos," Donkor explained.
"The police came almost immediately and arrested most of the attendees. They also took away banners and flip charts that were used during the training session."
Early reports indicate that 21 people have been arrested. Thus far, all of those involved in the conference have been charged with "advocating LGBTQI activities" at an "unlawful assembly." Those who have been arrested will remain in custody until an upcoming court date in early June. According to Ghanaian law, those who engage in same-sex relationships can be sentenced to anywhere between three and 25 years in jail.
"There is freedom of expression and all that, but our criminal offenses act prohibits unlawful assembly," Sergeant Prince Dogbatse of the local police force said.
"We have arrested these persons and preferred the charge of unlawful assembly against them. So we will allow the court to make a determination on the matter."
In response to this event, a number of activists have taken to social media to call for the release of those who have been arrested. The #ReleaseThe21 campaign has garnered support from activists in North America, Europe and other portions of the world.
"LGBTQ persons continuously experience indiscriminate arrest and discrimination in Ghana because of their known or perceived sexual orientation so some organizations chose to train some individuals within their various localities on human rights laws that exist in Ghana and how they can protect themselves and deal with issues of abuses when they arise within their local spaces," Donkor continued.
"We are hoping that the government of Ghana, individuals, human rights advocates, and activists in this country will rise and speak against the injustice and the abuse that the police have meted out and continues to mete out towards the LGBTQ community."
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