A prominent campaigner for LGBT+ equality is calling on the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene over legislation being considered in Ghana which would lead to anyone who is LGBT+ or anyone advocating for them, being imprisoned for up to ten years.
Jayne Ozanne is director of the Ozanne Foundation and a member of the Church of England's General Synod. She's been speaking to Premier:
"What is being proposed is going to be the most anti LGBT criminal sanctions in the world. They're proposing that anybody who is LGBT will be locked up, criminalised for five years and anybody who supports LGBT people, and works with them to try and create a more tolerant community will be locked up for ten years. This flies right in the face of all the human rights work that the UN and others have been doing, and perhaps most importantly, that the Anglican Communion itself has been doing and saying that LGBT people should not be criminalised.
"But what makes this proposal even more shocking is that it is the Ghanaian bishops themselves who are endorsing such sanctions. And that's, sadly, I think one of the most horrifying things of this whole really tragic and horrific proposal."
Bishops in Ghana are part of the Anglican Communion, headed up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby. Jayne Ozanne is calling on him to take action:
"I'm calling for the Archbishop to intervene and to stipulate what was agreed back in 2016 by the primates, that LGBT people should not be subject to criminalization and that we should be working with them to create tolerance and understanding and love. This flies in the face of all the work that the Anglican Communion primates have pledged themselves to, so the Archbishop must speak out.
"I'm afraid in staying silent, as so many bishops seem to do, they collude with the perpetrators, rather than actually speak out for those who are being beaten up, whose lives are being ripped apart and who are facing horrendous conditions in jail. One thing is being criminalised, the other is the violence that so many of the LGBT community in Ghana are now facing because the vigilantes feel they've got the right of the state behind them to go and often physically violate people, but also stop them getting jobs, education, health care. The lives of LGBT people and their families in Ghana right now are some of the most vilified that we're seeing in Africa."
The Church of England's General Synod is due to meet in November and Jayne Ozanne says many questions will be tabled to the Archbishop of Canterbury and also to the Diocese of Portsmouth which has a diocesan link with Ghana.
"Portsmouth is one of the most affirming dioceses in the country, so they need to think very carefully about how they manage that link with those Ghanaian bishops.
"I'm also calling for the Bishop of London to intervene as she is heading up the process within the Church of England called 'Living in Love and Faith' (the C of E's teaching and discussion document around identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage), as this is also being rolled out amongst the primates.
"So how on earth are we supposed to be talking about tolerance and reconciliation and recognising that real people's lives are being impacted by homophobic and transphobic rhetoric? How are we supposed to trust the process when people just go silent when lives are being put at risk?"
The issue comes amid tensions around issues of sexuality within the worldwide Anglican Communion between conservative bishops with traditional views on Scripture and those with a more progressive stance.
"I think first and foremost, we must pray, pray for protection for lives, independent of what you personally think about scripture. Obviously there are a range of feuds, but the sanctity of life, the dignity of life, the ability for people to live lives without fear, is right at the core of what we believe.
"So we must pray for truth and wisdom and for revelation to be given to those in authority in Ghana. I think we need to speak out when we see injustice is happening. I believe the Bible teaches us to speak out and to protect the vulnerable from injustice. If you feel motivated go to your bishop, to the Archbishop, write to your local MP, this is something that many of the international community are now very concerned about.
"Talk to LGBT members in your midst. We have this belief that it's only a white person's problem, it couldn't be further from the truth. There are many asylum seekers now in the UK, from African countries, from Middle Eastern countries who are gay because they've had to flee for their lives and we need to give them sanctuary. So look out for the vulnerable in your communities and see how you can draw alongside them and help them."
The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo supports the Bill which would also criminalise support for intersex people.
Premier has contacted the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury's office for comment.