The rainbow flag flying over the Foreign Office in 2014 via Flickr

The US State Department has urged Ghanaian leaders to “uphold constitutional human rights protections” toward the LGBTQ+ community.

On Monday (May 24), the US State Department expressed concern over the arrest of 21 LGBTQ activists for in Ghana, as reported by the Washington Blade.

Last Friday (May 21) authorities arrested “suspects” for unlawful assembly at a conference in the West African nation.

“The command is cautioning the public, particularly parents, to be wary of activities of persons involved in this misbehaviour and report them to the police,” the Ghana Police Service said in a statement.

In a statement to the news outlet, a State Department spokesperson summarised the US’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms.

“[The US] promotes efforts worldwide to protect LGBTQI+ populations from violence and abuse, criminalization, discrimination, and stigma, and to empower local movements and persons seeking to advance the rights of LGBTQI+ persons,” the statement read.

The department spokesperson continued to address the tensions growing in Ghana following the activist arrests stating the State Department has been observing the unfolding situation and has called upon national leaders to protects the rights and freedoms of its LGBTQ+ people.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” the spokesperson told Washinton Blade. “We urge national leaders in Ghana to uphold constitutional human rights protections and to adhere to international human rights obligations and commitments for all individuals. This includes members of the LGBTQI+ community.”

“We call on all Ghanaians to respect the provisions under Ghana’s constitution that guarantee freedom of speech, expression, and peaceful assembly.”

Ghana is among more than 70 countries and provinces around the world that still criminalises consensual same-sex relationships.

LGBT+ people face widespread persecution in the West African nation where gay sex is punishable with up to three years imprisonment.

In 2018, The Human Rights Watch issued a report that documented violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in Ghana.

The report uncovered that homosexuality is banned under the Criminal Offences Act, however, the laws are believed to be a result of colonial legacy and rarely enforced.

Related: Ghana lawmakers propose bill criminalising promotion of LGBTQ+ rights