4 February 2013

Ghana: Oye Lithur Crosses Hurdle On Homosexuality

An attempt to put impediments in the way of Nana Oye Lithur on her nomination as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection by the Concerned Clergy Association of Ghana and the Ghana Social Moral Fabric was quashed, when petitions from the two bodies failed to meet the standards of the Appointments Committee of Parliament.

The two petitioners had objected to Nana Oye Lithur's nomination in a memoranda sent to the Appointments Committee. However, the memoranda from the two concerned bodies were not duly signed, thereby receiving massive condemnation from the committee.

"Honourable members, we have received petition from the Concerned Clergy Association of Ghana against the nominee, but unfortunately the petition was unsigned and we don't think we want to encourage that kind of conduct. We will ignore it.

"There is another petition in defense of the Sustainability of Ghana Social Moral Fabric objecting to Nana Oye Lithur becoming a minister. That one too remained unsigned. I don't think it is fair to this committee for petitions to be brought unsigned," noted Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Ebo Barton Odro.

But despite the quashing of the petitions, the Chairman ruled that the issues raised by the petitioners concerning gay and lesbian rights would be addressed by the nominee.

The Chairman's ruling was well received by the panel and so when the floor was opened for them to quiz the nominee, the Member of Parliament for Ledzokuku, Benita Sena Okity-Duah asked Nana Oye Lithur to clear the air on the issue of gay and lesbian rights.

Speaking on the matter for the very first time after the hullabaloo surrounding her earlier comments on homosexuality, Nana Oye Lithur denied ever saying that homosexuality should be promoted.

"Mr. Chairman, I have never said that homosexuality should be promoted or that I will promote homosexuality. I have never said that homosexuality should be legalized," she noted in a perky voice.

However, she told the committee that she is a human rights lawyer, activist and advocate and that "I stand for justice for everybody. And what I said was the rights of everybody, including homosexuals should be protected."

She told the committee that she believes in the Constitution since it clearly reflects the mirror of our aspirations as a people in the sense that it guarantees the fundamental human rights of the citizenry.

"In Chapter 5 of the Constitution, it is said that everybody is entitled to fundamental human rights - the rights to human dignity, the rights to privacy, the rights to equality and also non discrimination.

"These are entrenched in the Constitution and everybody knows my stance on human rights. I will continue to defend human rights of everybody today and tomorrow," argued the Minister-designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection.

Answering a question on what she would do stop the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Nana Oye Lithur said since the issue was a societal issue because it was cultural, it would be very difficult to deal with it because it is how some groups of people are identified.

However, she noted that since 98% of the affected persons of such act frown on the practice, there was a motivation to put in measures that will address the problem.

One of such measures, she noted was to look for more innovative strategies to deal with the situation. Another solution to stop the practice of FGM, she argued was to look at an alternative right for the community and also to help men appreciate that FMG was not good.

She also took turn to address what needed to be done to ensure that women are not trafficked and not abused as espoused by the MP for Agona East, Queenstar Pokua Sawyerr.

In her remarks to the question, the Human Rights Activist said the issue of women being trafficked from and into Ghana was a major issue confronting the nation since the victims were mainly exploited into employment and labour.

She said when given the nod to become a minister, she would strengthen existing legal laws that seek to address the problem. Notwithstanding, she argued that there was the need to look at the issue from the sub-regional level and the need to support victims.

She told the panel that she would also ensure that the budget allocation for the ministry was increased to enable the outfit build more shelters for the deprived ones in society

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