A social media analysis of conversations about Lesbians, Gays, Transgender, Bisexual and Queer (LGBTQ+) in Ghana has exposed the use of coded homophobic slurs, gay-labelling, emotional language, polarisation and red herrings as tactics to reinforce popular opposition to the community. 

For more than three years, a debate about criminalising LGBTQ+ activities in Ghana has dominated public discourse and brought the community under intense public scrutiny. 

On February 28, 2024, Ghana’s parliament passed the “Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill” (the Anti-Gay Bill) that outlaws LGBTQ+ and the promotion of their activities in Ghana. However, the president has yet to assent it to become law pending the determination of two Supreme Court cases. 

Despite the significant public support for the bill, some notable Ghanaians have opposed it, and that includes Professor Takyiwah Manuh, Professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh, Prof. Audrey Sitsofe Gadzekpo, the late lawyer Akoto Ampaw and others. 

Here are some highlights after GhanaFact processed collected data on the subject from Brandwatch, a social media analytics tool, covering the period from February 2023 to March 2024. 

    1. Charged social media commentary on the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana was heavily influenced and triggered by news reports and happenings in parliament. 
    2. The use of red herrings saw concerns about the spread of HIV/AIDS among members of the LGBTQ+ community becoming a major point of discussion, diverting attention from the provisions in the anti-gay bill. 
    3. The emotionally charged polarising debate about the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana has also been framed along religious lines and presented as a clash of values – Western and Ghanaian values / “us” vs “them”.
    4. The investigation found a coordinated doxxing campaign on X (formerly Twitter) targeting persons alleged to have abused members of the LGBTQ+ community.
    5. The highest volume of mentions of LGBTQ+ on X over the period assessed was on February 28, 2024, when Parliament passed the anti-gay bill. Data from Brandwatch shows there were 13,724 mentions on the day.

Proceedings in parliament trigger LGBTQ+ debate

Available data from Brandwatch shows LGBTQ+ was mentioned 247,800 times by 37,020 unique authors on X, between February 20, 2023, and March 19, 2024, in Ghana. 

Among the trending topics centered on LGTBQ+ are: “anti-LGBTQ+ bill; Trumu Trumu and President Akufo.” These topics originated from posts by individuals and media organisations on X. 

Investigations by GhanaFact researchers based on the collected data showed public sentiment on the subject was heavily influenced and triggered by news reports and happenings in parliament.

Within the period assessed, the LGBTQ+ debate gained increased traction on X, on April 1, 2023, which is after the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs laid the Bill before the Parliament of Ghana.  

LGBTQ+ gathered over 1000 mentions on the day, the highest volume of mentions up until that day. 

LGBTQ+ gathered over 1,000 mentions on X on April 1, 2023

The conversations on social media tapered off until July 6, 2023, when there was a surge in public commentary on the subject on X leading to 3,977 mentions. This was after the 275 representatives in parliament unanimously adopted the bill the day before so it could move to the consideration stage. 

LGBTQ+ mentioned 3,977 times on X on July 6, 2023

On January 3, 2024, the volume of mentions of LGBTQ+ on X rose exponentially, hitting 11,664.

LGBTQ+ mentioned 11,644 times on X on January 3, 2024

Investigations by GhanaFact connected the spike to conversations relating to a leaked gay sex tape involving a socialite known as Hayford. On the day, the phrase “Trumu Trumu” topped the trends.

A word cloud of the conversations relating to LGBTQ+ on X


A table detailing the trending topics and the kinds of sentiments being shared on X

The highest volume of mentions of LGBTQ+ over the period assessed was on February 29, 2024, a day after Parliament passed the anti-gay bill. Brandwatch analysis shows there were 13,724 mentions on the day. Then public conversations on the subject reduced to 1,998 mentions as of March 3, 2024, before seeing another quick jump a day later. 

The highest volume of mentions of LGBTQ+ on X was on March 3, 2024

This jump was after President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo met with the diplomatic community on March 4, 2024, to reassure them that the country would not backslide on its “long-standing record on human rights observance” and his decision to not assent to the bill due to a legal challenge.

A private legal practitioner, Richard Dela Sky, on March 5, 2024, submitted an application to the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that the anti-gay bill violates Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and should be declared null and void. 

LGBTQ+ mentioned 8,559 times on X on March 5, 2024

Investigating narratives and tactics

Even before the introduction of the anti-gay bill and the resulting polarising online debate, the closure of an office belonging to an LGBTQ+ rights group in Accra in February 2021, has become a major defining point in throwing the spotlight on LGBTQ+ activities in Ghana.  

Indeed the the second paragraph of the Memorandum for the anti-gay bill captures that incident and its aftermath as the justification for the promulgation of a law due to “calls for such activities to be punished as they do not accord with the sociocultural values of any ethnic group in Ghana.”

The use of a coded homophobic slur for gay sex gained significant traction during the LGBTQ+ debate, and using Brandwatch, the research revealed “Trumu,” as a keyword used on X during conversations about the LGBTQ+ community. 

Trumu” in the Akan language means anus and our checks on Brandwatch showed the word had a total of 34,105 mentions within the period under review. In Ghana, “trumu trumu” is a dysphemism of gay sex (1,2,).

Despite X’s policies against hateful conduct which partly relates to attacks against other people based on their sexual orientation, the coded homophobic slur “trumu trumu” was successfully used to get around X algorithms used to detect hateful content.  Also, the lack of understanding of the local context would mean even human moderators at X who are not from Ghana would be helpless. 

Further investigations into the narrative emerging from the use of the word “trumu” online showed how a graphic gay sex video (now removed from X) involving a young man known as Hayford was being shared online amidst heightened public disaffection (2).

Then a supposed Lesbian Sex Party, being organised to celebrate Pride Day was circulated on social media which further crystalised public outrage/polarisation after many social media users described LGBTQ+ activities as foreign to the Ghanaian culture. 

Afrobarometer data shows that most Ghanaians are intolerant towards people in same-sex relationships and according to the report this is pervasive across age groups, religious affiliations, and urban as well as rural locations.

Ghanaians are socially conservative and hold the view that marriage or sexual intercourse must be between a man and a woman. Anything outside this is seen as alien or foreign to the Ghanaian culture as mentioned by some social media users on X and captured below. 

A post on X dismissing LGBTQ+ as being alien to Ghanaian culture


A post on X describes LGBTQ+ as a foreign practice


An X user says LGBTQ+ is not part of Ghana’s culture

Another dominant narrative that spread on social media was that members of the LGBTQ+ community were more likely to contract HIV and this was based on reports published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ghana Aids Commission (1,2).  

A post on X by the lead sponsor of the anti-LGBTQ+ bill

GhanaFact has previously flagged a claim suggesting that 80% of people living with HIV in Ghana pick it through gay or bisexual activity. The claim was fact-checked using a report from the Ghana Aids Commission – Ghana Men’s Study (GMS) II. The Programme Manager at the National AIDS/STI Control Programme at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo also provided insight which shows that the claim was false. 

Another claim debunked by GhanaFact suggested that more than 78,000 men in Ghana contracted HIV in 2021 from other men and this claim was attributed to a senior official at the National AIDS Control Programme, Kenneth Ayeh Danso. GhanaFact contacted Mr Danso who debunked the claim and said; “The 78,450 that was mentioned [in the article], under no circumstance did I make references to that.”

Other narrative that dominated social media conversations was the possible end to donor support and it’s concomitant negative economic impact on the country if the bill should become law since Ghana is currently under an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

Subsequently, a statement from the Finance Ministry to President Nana Akufo-Addo suggested Ghana could lose up to $3.8 billion from the country’s international financial partners if the President signs the bill into law.

The religio-cultural angle of the anti-gay Bill

While Ghana is constitutionally a secular state, it is widely known to be a deeply religious country, and according to the 2021 census, about 71% of the population are Christians, and 18% Muslims. Followers of indigenous religious beliefs are 5% and another 6% are members of other religious groups or don’t have religious beliefs. 

A strong basis for the opposition to LGBTQ+ activities is the religious and cultural imperatives of Ghanaians, with members of the clergy – Muslim and Christian – citing religious texts to back their express aversion to same-sex relationships and or marriages.

The Anglican Church in Ghana clashed with the Archbishop of Canterbury, after Justin Welby spoke in support of LGBTQ+ rights, suggesting that the church in Ghana had to take the position of the global church. The Conference of Catholic Bishops has also been very vocal on the issue as have been other members of the influential charismatic faith.

Traditional leaders have also weighed in strongly on the issue, with some chiefs threatening violent treatment of gays who are apprehended in their domains. 

Anti-LGBTQ+ protests have also been held by religious groups in several parts of the country buttressing the strong disapproval of same-sex relations across the country especially along religious and cultural lines. 

Investigating the Authors  

Using Brandwatch, GhanaFact has mapped the different actors and voices online shaping the conversations on the subject including prominent politicians, religious leaders, international advocacy organisations, Civil Society Organizations, diplomats and foreign governments. 

The Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, were on a state visit to Ghana between March 26 and  29, 2023

Her trip was focused on increasing investments in Africa, facilitating economic growth and opportunity – especially for women and girls –  empowering entrepreneurs, advancing digital inclusion, and supporting work on food security. 

However, the subject of LGBTQ+ dominated media commentary of her visit, with  Kamala Harris’ response to a question on the anti-gay bill in Ghana drawing a sharp rebuke from Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin. 

GhanaFact also found several international organisations that had shown strong interest in the anti-gay bill and its potential to undermine the human rights of a section of the population. They include:

Human Rights Watch (HRW): HRW, an independent human rights group, has been vocal about the ramifications of the anti-LGBTQ+ bill in Ghana. They’ve expressed concerns regarding potential human rights violations and discrimination against sexual minorities.

Amnesty International: This global human rights organisation has condemned the proposed bill in Ghana, advocating for the protection of LGBTQ+ rights and urging its rejection.

United Nations (UN): The UN, through multiple agencies, has consistently stressed the importance of safeguarding the rights of all individuals, irrespective of sexual orientation. They’ve voiced apprehension about the bill’s potential impact on LGBTQ+ individuals in Ghana.

Family Watch International: Additionally, the involvement of Sharon Slater and other US evangelicals in the persecution of the LGBTQ+ community in Africa is evident. For instance, Uganda’s President’s endorsement of so-called conversion therapy, informed by Ms. Slater, underscores the influence of such actors.

Chatham House: The UK-based pro-democracy outfit in speaking generally about the bill across Africa critiqued Uganda, Kenya and Ghana stressing the impact of the contents of Ghana’s anti-gay bill on democratic rights generally and sexual rights specifically.

Prominent Individuals and Celebrities on X

Ellen DeGeneres: The American comedian and LGBTQ+ advocate utilised her platform to raise awareness about the situation in Ghana, tweeting in support of LGBTQ+ rights and criticising the bill.

Richard Branson: The British Billionaire expressed his concern regarding the anti-LGBTQ+ bill, questioning the rationale behind criminalising individuals based on their identity. He emphasised the importance of freedom of expression and the detrimental effects of discrimination.

Ricky Martin: The Puerto Rican singer and actor expressed solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana, urging authorities to reconsider the bill and uphold human rights.

Cara Delevingne: The British model and actress shared information about the bill on X, encouraging her followers to oppose discrimination and support LGBTQ+ rights in Ghana.

International Media Reportage

The Guardian: In an article titled “‘Erasing our existence’: Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill blamed for rise in attacks,” The Guardian shed light on the sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ draft bill introduced in Ghanaian parliament. The bill criminalises various LGBTQ+ acts and advocacy, with activists facing violence and discrimination since its introduction.

El País (English): A report discusses the global offensive against LGBTQ+ rights, citing the rise of the far-right, hate speech, and religious extremism as contributing factors to backlash against the community.

NBC News: Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill has garnered international condemnation after its passage in parliament, with organisations like the United Nations expressing concern over the criminalisation of LGBTQ+ individuals and their supporters.

BBC News: A March 6, 2024 report titled: “Ghana’s LGBT terror: ‘We live in fear of snitches’,” read in part: Homophobia is not uncommon in Ghana, where gay sex is already against the law and carries a three-year prison sentence, but now the LGBTQ+ community is feeling terrorised. A new bill, passed by MPs last week, will impose a jail term of up to three years for simply identifying as LGBTQ+ and five years for promoting their activities.

Gay labelling on social media

GhanaFact also found gay labelling as a popular tactic being used by some social media users against advocates of LGBTQ+ activities and people who have spoken up against the anti-gay bill.

Data collected from Brandwatch shows advocators such as Musician – Kwame Nsiah-Apau (Okyeame Kwame), Majority Leader of Parliament – Alexander Afenyo Markins, Richard Dela Sky and some socialites have been labelled as gays due to their positions on the anti-gay bill.

Popular Ghanaian YouTuber, Kwadwo Sheldon accused of being a homosexual (“Trumu Trumu”)


Majority Leader in Ghana’s Parliament, Alexander Afenyo Markins accused of being gay (“Trumu Trumu”)


A social media user asks Richard Sky if he was gay?


Musician Okyeame Kwame accused of being homosexual

The fight back

The investigation also found a coordinated doxxing campaign on X targeting persons alleged to have abused members of the LGBTQ+ community (1,2,3). Doxing is the act of revealing personal information about someone online without their consent. 

Through Brandwatch, GhanaFact found an X account, GhanaGayblackmaillist, involved in the campaign and according to the platform it “exposes notorious persons who steal, abuse & blackmail Gay men in Ghana.”

The platform in posts on social media claimed that with the introduction of the Anti-LGBTQ+ bill, there has been an increase in cases of abuse and blackmail against members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

A doxxing attempt on X


Another doxxing attempt on X


A doxxing attempt on X

This tactic is also against X private content policy which was updated in March 2024 and states that: “You may not threaten to expose, incentivize others to expose, or publish or post other people’s private information without their express authorization and permission, or share private media of individuals without their consent.” 


The stakes are very high as a mere mention of LGBTQ+ generates passionate emotions among many Ghanaians. 

The twists and turns would not be ending anytime soon as the country awaits the court processes and the impact it might have on voters’ choices as Ghana heads into the December 2024 presidential and parliamentary elections. 

By: GhanaFact