Tough Africans

Ghana: Rihanna, FIFA, Guinness, Marvel, Nike – All Could Be Banned in Ghana

guest column By Daly Barnett, Paige Collings and Dave Maass

The Ghanaian Parliament has passed the so-called “Family Values” bill, an ill-informed and malicious bill which criminalizes LGBTQ+ identity, allyship, and discussion of almost any kind—meaning it will ban an amazing array of online speech, art, and even sport.

Civil society organizations from across Africa and around the world have called for quashing the bill, which awaits a final assent decision by President Nana Akuffo-Addo.

To be clear, this bill affects everyone, not just LGBTQ+ people. It specifically targets any kind of speech that promotes allyship for LGBTQ+ rights, online and off. It makes it illegal to identify as an ally, promote sympathy for LGBTQ+ people, or attempt to change public opinion regarding LGBTQ+ issues. And criminalizing the activities of brands and celebrities that endorse LGBTQ+ rights or work with LGBTQ+ people would be enormously harmful to the Ghanaian economy at large.

If President Akufo-Addo does approve the bill, here are 10 people or brands that would be banned in Ghana:

1. Musicians like Rihanna and Beyonce

Both of these popular celebrities have openly supported the LGBTQ+ community’s rights. A well known ally, Beyonce has showcased Ballroom culture on her Renaissance tour. And for more than a decade, Rihanna has advocated for the community on the international stage, including calling out Russia’s Principle 6 during the 2014 Winter Olympics through a post on Instagram. If Rihanna—or any other artist—were to post similar content online under Ghana’s Family Values Bill, they would face five to 10 years in prison.

2. FIFA and the Premier League

Ghanaians love football—who doesn’t? But FIFA (of which Ghana’s Black Stars are a member) celebrates Pride Month through initiatives like updating its social media accounts with rainbow branding, and the U.K.’s Premier League has a “Rainbow Laces” campaign to promote positive attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. Individual football clubs throughout Europe also include rainbow branding on their social accounts and jerseys. Yet any website streaming games that feature pro-LGBTQ+ branding would be in violation of the draconian law— potentially leading companies and streaming platforms to censor content and avoid liability..

3. Drinks like Guinness

According to Africa Outlook, Guinness has been operating in Ghana for more than 60 years, with its stout locally nicknamed “Black Gold.” But the company is also famous for standing up for its inclusive values: In 2014 it famously pulled its sponsorship from New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade over anti-LGBTQ+ policies. In 2019, the company painted its iconic gate in Ireland in rainbow colors to honor the LGBTQ+ Union Cup. And in 2022, Guinness’ parent company Diageo announced a two-year partnership with the UK’s first national LGBTQ+ museum, Queer Britain in London, to celebrate and support LGBTQ+ history. Online dissemination of these images and initiatives would be illegal under Ghana’s new law.

4. Movies Like Those in The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel movies are a huge industry across the globe, and West Africa is no exceptionBlack Panther: Wakanda Forever reached record-breaking revenue in the region. Marvel also has a reputation for featuring diverse characters representing an array of identities across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. But all scenes and speech that promote sympathy for LGBTQ+ people, or attempt to change public opinion regarding LGBTQ+ issues, would become a criminal offense, as would any conversation about these scenes in online forums or social media platforms.

5. The Legacy of Key Ghanaian Figures like Kofi Annan

Kofi Annnan, the revered Ghanaian diplomat and seventh secretary general of the United Nations, was a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. “We should be much more tolerant and compassionate,” he said at a UN Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees Organization event in 2003. “And I think what is important is that we should stress those positive aspects in our society, the things that bring us together, and move away from discrimination and persecution.” That sentence alone would be illegal under this new legislation.

6. Athletic Wear Brands like NikeAdidasPuma, and Reebok

Sports brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma, and Reebok are popular across the globe, including in Ghana. In 2022, Nike even created a sneaker celebrating Ghanaian culture and paying homage to the Ghanaian community in New York City. These brands are also vocal in their support of the LGBTQ+ community and have offered special Pride-themed apparel. Distribution of these products online, as well as the promotion across social media platforms, would be considered illegal under Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill.

7. Car companies like ToyotaNissan, and Mitsubishi

Toyota makes some of the most popular cars in Ghana, but the company also celebrates the LGBTQ+ members of its workforce. Meanwhile, other popular brands like Nissan celebrate Pride month and Mitsubishi has held “Gold certification” in the PRIDE Index since 2018. In fact, it’s hard to find a company that isn’t on’s list of “gay-friendly automakers.” Just supporting LGBTQ+ people who made the cars runs afoul of the law, but because more and more cars are equipped with proprietary internet-connected entertainment systems, the companies might also have to censor what drivers listen to on internet radio (for example, no more Lil Nas X when you’re driving on an old town road).

8. Video Game Companies Like PlaystationXbox, and Nintendo

LGBTQ+ representation has increased in both the game industry and in game characters over the last decade. Not only would each of these companies qualify as allies for their corporate stances on diversity, but their online stores could also be categorized as technological platforms that promote prohibited activities because of games featuring LGBTQ+ characters, such as the Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, Fallout, Assassin’s Creed, League of Legends, and Life is Strange franchises.

9. Celebrities like IdrisElba and Naomi Campbell

Idris Elba, whose mother is Ghanaian, not only called for a rejection of this bill but has met withPresident Akufo-Addo to discuss plans to open a film studio in Ghana. Any film studio enterprise of his would be a criminal activity given his allegiance to LGBTQ+ rights. Similarly, Naomi Campbell joined 66 other celebrities, designers, and politicians to directly call on Ghana to reject the law through a letter published on X called “Ghana Supports Equality.” The letter, and any similar support, would become illegal under Ghana’s law.

10. This article 

Needless to say, this very post would be seen as a criminal offense.

The sad reality is that bills like this are selectively and deliberately enforced to criminalize LGBTQ+ life, implemented to further marginalize LGBTQ+ people and create a legal cudgel for cultural bigotry. It may not land major celebrities in prison, but it will likely have that result for on-the-ground local LGBTQ+ activists fighting for human rights. It’s national legislation but will have an international impact upon freedom of expression online, and so it merits international opposition. Please join with groups such as Access Now to urge rejection of this terrible affront to human rights.

Daly Barnett is a Staff Technologist, Paige Collings is Senior Speech and Privacy Activist, and Dave Maass is Director of Investigations at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties nonprofit organization headquartered in San Francisco.

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