On the sticky question of homosexuality and Ghanaian society and culture, not many octogenarian Ghanaian scientists are quite as progressive as Prof. F. T. Sai. To be certain, generally speaking, most Ghanaians take the ancient Christocentric approach of letting the Bible do most of the talking and thinking for them; and where the choice of reference is extra-Biblical, the sources of authority have either been tradition and/or statute.
Well, for 87-year-old Prof. Sai, human sexuality, be it hetero- or homosexual, is purely a question of human rights and modernity. Predictably, not many Ghanaian octogenarians are as progressive as Prof. Sai because, of course, not many Ghanaian octogenarians, or even non-octogenarians, are as knowledgeable on the subject as this world-renowned expert in population and sexual health studies. And to those Ghanaians who claim homosexuality to have been effectively proscribed by the law, Prof. Sai has the following riposte: “There are constitutional provisions which also talk about “autonomy,” meaning, a human being given freedom to do with his [or her] own body whatever he wants, provided that his/her freedom and the expression of that freedom does not injure somebody. So why should what two people [consent to doing] in their privacy, without [importunately] confronting anybody, be subject to the law, when the law itself has got all of these provisions?”
Further, Prof. Sai observes: “It is really not [fully] appreciating what the law provides or we are limiting the interpretation of the law to suit ourselves and our circumstances rather than making it free for people to enjoy the provisions of the Constitution. My personal position on this practice is that I wouldn’t practice it; but who am I to judge someone who does it? Especially as a doctor, I don’t know whether there is a biological basis for it, a psychological basis for it, or simply a person’s choice. I [simply] don’t know” (See “Homosexuals Must Be Free to Practice – Professor Sai” (Citifmonline.com 6/24/11).
His tentativeness towards this whole question of homosexuality and, in fact, human sexuality in general, raises quite a few interesting questions. First of all, it strikingly reflects the forthright temperament of an astute physiologist who greatly and humbly appreciates the inescapable finitude, or limitations, of the human mind and ken. Consequently, it is no contradiction in terms at all, when the former advisor to President John Agyekum-Kufuor on HIV/AIDS and health in general, says that even though he is a medical doctor and an expert biologist, still, he is not quite certain whether homosexuality has “a biological basis for [its practical existence] or even a psychological [one].”
The foregoing observations make quite a lot of sense, since, needless to say, Prof. Sai is not a cutting-edge geneticist. And besides, even leading geneticists are not conclusive in their research findings on the issue. And neither are the leading psychologists cocksure as to whether homosexuality is more of a psychological trend than a genetic manifestation, or even a combination of both.
Prof. Sai also insightfully points out the fact that the expression of human sexuality may not be all that discrete or neatly packaged as some of us would have the public believe. And that, in reality, sexually active people are routinely crisscrossing boundaries not considered to be such all the time: “I have tried asking people what they [would] consider to be unnatural carnal knowledge. And somebody started with oral sex; somebody said anal intercourse, whether man-to-man or man-to-woman. And then someone else, including me, said how about the finger being used as a sex organ? Is that natural or unnatural.”
On the other hand, once religion, in particular Christianity, is introduced into the equation, then there begin to spark up what may be properly termed as “fireworks.” It was, indeed, on the latter score that the former chairman of the Ghana Aids Commission bitterly decried the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana’s characterization of homosexual practice and existence as being unpardonably “filthy” in the sight of God, as a rather uncharitable pronouncement to come from a proverbial man of the cloth.
Here too, Prof. Sai may have a point, even as Jesus Christ, of Nazareth, was widely known to deeply respect and heartily recognize social rejects. And thus arises the logical question: If homosexuals are too filthy to meet the criterion of charitable Christian acceptance, then wherein lies the authoritative designation of the Church as an unreserved sanctuary for the bereft, deprived and destitute? Of course, a confessing Christian may or may not accept the lifestyle of the homosexually inclined, but does such acceptance or rejection warrant any provocative name-calling on the part of those fully convinced of their Christian moral self-righteousness? This appears to be the question that is likely to occupy the thoughts of Ghanaian Christians and, perhaps, Muslims, too, as the issue of homosexuality begins to assume center-stage in our national political discourse.
The foregoing may also well shape up to be the most lasting legacy that Prof. Sai bequeaths the present generation of Ghanaian citizens. For me, personally, like President Barack H. Obama, the explosive question of homosexual cultural practice is still pretty much in its evolutionary stages. Indeed, with the recent passage and ratification of gay marriages by the New York State Assembly and Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, it clearly appears that it is only a matter of time before this hitherto volatile subject becomes pedestrian and decidedly passé, even as other landmark controversies in America’s recent past have become.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Danquah Institute (DI) and author of twenty-two books, including “The Obama Serenades” (Lulu.com, 2011), his most recent volume of poetry.