President MAHAMA

An invitation to the president of Ghana to
address MSPs undermines the safety of the
Scottish parliament for members of the
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
community, according to opposition MSPs.
The MSPs are joining with human rights
campaigners to call on the Scottish
government to confront President John
Dramani Mahama about his country’s abuses
of its lesbian and gay citizens.
Mahama received muted applause from the
Holyrood chamber as he listened to FMQs on
Thursday morning, but a meeting with
opposition leaders was cancelled.
After the Scottish parliament’s presiding
officer, Tricia Marwick, said she would “extend
the hand of friendship” to Mahama, members
of the Scottish Greens, including their co-
convenor Patrick Harvie, who is gay, wrote to
her on Wednesday to urge caution.
They said: “We believe that the Scottish
parliament should be a place where everyone
can feel safe. Yet the invitation to President
John Dramani Mahama to address MSPs can
only undermine this, given his full support for
the horrific discriminatory laws towards the
LGBT community in his country.”
Ghana is one of 75 countries around the world
where it is still illegal to be gay, carrying a
sentence of up to three years in prison.
While the director of Stonewall Scotland, Colin
Macfarlane, acknowledged “some promising
statements from President Mahama criticising
violence against LGBT communities”, he went
on to call for the Scottish government to
recognise its “important responsibility to help
advance the protection of LGBT rights across
the world”.
Responding to calls from opposition leaders, a
Scottish government spokesperson confirmed
that the first minister would “share her strong
view that the Commonwealth values of
humanity, equality and tolerance are universal
values” during the president’s visit.
Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s
programme director in Scotland, said her
organisation received regular reports that LGBT
people faced police harassment, while
repressive attitudes towards LGBT Ghanaians
meant they were vulnerable to discrimination
and physical attacks. This was against a
background of the use of torture and ill-
treatment by police and intelligence services,
alongside widespread violence against women
and girls.
McAuliffe said: “We understand opposition
leaders and MSPs choosing not to meet
President Mahama during his visit to the
Scottish parliament as Ghana’s human rights
record has serious failings. However, we are
not calling for a boycott of the visit as we view
this as an opportunity to raise our concerns
about LGBTI discrimination, violence against
women and girls, and the use of torture.
Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to raising
‘values of humanity, equality and tolerance’ is
welcome and we look forward to hearing about
any positive interventions.”
Mahama’s visit to Scotland will also entail him
receiving an honorary degree from the
University of Aberdeen on Friday.

Source: The Guardian

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