Human rights groups are pushing the University of Ghana to take stronger action in response to a widely publicized anti-gay attack that occurred on a university campus targeting a young man who was believed to be homosexual.
During the Jan. 14 incident at the Legon campus outside the capital city of Accra, “a young man, believed to be in his twenties, was assaulted and stripped naked on campus by fellow students. The attackers, wielding sticks, subjected him to a traumatic experience while labeling him as gay. The victim, visibly traumatized, walked naked on campus, with bystanders from their hostels watching and questioning the unfolding situation,” the LGBTQ rights group Rightify Ghana reported.
On Jan. 16, the university issued a statement that described the incident and expressed “concern” about it:
“The Management of the University of Ghana has learned with concern that a young man was assaulted around the southern part of the University’s Legon campus. The attack was videoed and widely shared on social media. Preliminary information from the University’s Security Services Unit uncovers the following:
- A young man dressed like a female was seen in the Okponglo area, seeking accommodation. Believing him to be a woman, he was accommodated by some women in the area.
- During the night, the women realised that he was a man, and physically assaulted him.
- A refuse collector, assuming the young man to be a woman, intervened and took him to a refuse collection site behind Dr. Hilla Limann Hall on the University of Ghana campus.
- Realising the true gender of the young man the following morning, the refuse collector also assaulted the young man, instructing him to leave the area.
- University of Ghana Security Personnel were alerted by students to intervene.
- Some of the students who watched the scene took videos.
- The University Security Services Unit handed both the young man and the refuse collector (neither of whom is a student of the University) over to the Legon police for investigation.”
In addition to its expression of concern, the university stated that it:
“Strongly denounces the assault and denigration perpetrated by the persons seen in the videos posted on social media, and strongly condemns such acts of lawlessness. The University of Ghana would like to affirm its commitment to the safety, dignity and inclusivity of all persons, as stated in its statutes ….”
The university’s rules and regulations are progressive for Ghana, demanding that “no member of the university shall engage in a course of vexatious conduct that is directed at one or more specific individuals, and that is based on the race, ancestry, place of birth, origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation, creed, age, marital status, family status, disability, receipt of public assistance or record of offences of that individual or those individuals.”
The university’s statement added: “Management takes its commitment to the enforcement of the rules and regulations governing the University seriously, and any member of the University community identified to be involved in this cruel incident will be appropriately sanctioned. Management assures the public that the university will continue to work with the Ghana Police Service for a thorough investigation into the matter and to ensure the safety of all members of the university community as well as visitors to our campuses.”
Human rights activists called on the university to do more.
LGBTQ rights activist and researcher Papa Kojo Ampofo launched an online petition, signed by more than 200 people, calling on the university to:
1. Appoint an independent investigator approved by all stakeholders to investigate this issue.
2. Release a new public statement based on independent and certified investigation that does not solely platform hearsay from perpetrators of abuse.
3. Suspend … with immediate effect any student believed to have had a hand in this as they pose an imminent danger to other Ghanaian and international students who are open or perceived members of the LGBTIQ community.
Ampofo also urged the university to “produce a work plan on how they intend to prevent an human rights violation of this scale from happening again.”
Rightify Ghana also urged the university to do more, stating:
The recent horrifying incident on your campus, where a queer individual was stripped naked, assaulted, and publicly humiliated by a group of men believed to be students of the University of Ghana, has deeply disturbed us. The act of violence, accompanied by the recording and sharing of videos on social media, not only subjected the victim to further victimization but also brings the reputation of the university into disrepute.
While the University of Ghana’s students’ handbook stands as one of the most inclusive and progressive, explicitly discouraging vexatious conduct based on certain characteristics, including sexual orientation, it is evident that more action is needed. Merely having these rules in writing is not sufficient; we urge the university to take robust measures to create a safe and inclusive educational environment for all students.
Rightify Ghana is calling upon the authorities at the University of Ghana to initiate a thorough investigation into this matter. Additionally, we request the collaboration with the Ghana Police Service to ensure that the perpetrators of this violent act face legal consequences.
Details of the case outline a distressing situation where a young man, believed to be in his twenties, was assaulted and stripped naked on campus by fellow students. The attackers, wielding sticks, subjected him to a traumatic experience while labeling him as gay. The victim, visibly traumatized, walked naked on campus, with bystanders from their hostels watching and questioning the unfolding situation.
This incident underscores the urgency for concrete actions to enforce the principles of inclusivity and tolerance, fostering an environment where every student can pursue education free from fear and discrimination.
The University of Ghana has an opportunity to lead by example in championing human rights and equality within its academic community.
Source: African Human Rights Media Network member Erasing 76 Crimes.