I know Ghana quite well because I was born and raised there. Like most African countries, it is a multi-tribal nation. Its tribes speak different languages and have vastly different cultures and religions. In spite of that social complexity, over the last several decades Ghana has been one of the rare stable countries on a continent beset with civil wars and various forms of strife. It is a vibrant democracy with a population that is known to be quite tolerant.

In light of that national character, the recent announcement that Ghana’s parliament had passed a bill that would impose a jail sentence for anyone identifying as LGBTQ+ came as a huge surprise. The bill has to be signed by the country’s president before it becomes law, but it is unclear at this point whether he will. If it does become law, those convicted of having engaged in same-sex activity would be jailed for up to three years. It would also impose a maximum five-year prison sentence for anyone forming or providing funding to LGBTQ+ groups.

I lack the knowledge required to make an informed judgment about whether someone’s same-sex orientation is learned behavior or biologically driven. But I am aware that for centuries, gay people faced extreme levels of persecution and all forms of social isolation here in the West. That is the reason gays went to great lengths to hide their sexual identities. Because of that, I am inclined to believe that biology has something to do with that choice. Otherwise, why would anyone knowingly choose to live that way given the harsh penalties that they would certainly pay?

In America and the rest of the Western world, whatever social acceptance there is today of same-sex relationships came about through a multi-century evolutionary process. Former President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law in 1996. DOMA defined marriage as only between a man and a woman for purposes of Federal Law. When then U.S. Senator Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he said he was opposed to same-sex marriage. It subsequently emerged that he had misrepresented his views on the subject because he saw it as a political minefield that he needed to navigate carefully in order not to derail his quest for the presidency.

It was only recently, in 2015, that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. In a narrow 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that states could not keep same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions. Even with that, same-sex marriage remains deeply unpopular in America, with nearly half of the population—mostly Republicans—unhappy with it.

Clearly, there is nothing even remotely close to a national consensus on this issue in America. It is a similar picture in other parts of the Western world. It is therefore quite arrogant for political leaders and LGBTQ+ rights advocates in the West to push this issue so forcefully in other parts of the world, as if it were a straightforward matter that should be easily recognized as such by everyone, everywhere. These people have to shoulder a large part of the blame for the current global backlash against LGBTQ+ lifestyle.

I worked for a multi-national corporation for several years, and one of the things we were constantly reminded of as employees was to be respectful of local cultures in the foreign countries we operated in. That is useful advice for Western political leaders and LGBTQ+ rights advocates. They currently demonstrate an astonishingly high level of tone-deafness that is seriously hurting the very cause they are trying to champion.

The other big problem is our increasing inability to draw boundaries for anything in the Western world nowadays. We pretty much approach all issues on all-or-nothing terms. While people on the far right want to ban all forms of same-sex activity, extreme leftists seem to want little to no age restrictions for administration of gender-affirming care, and minimal parental involvement in those medical decisions. The result is a tense stalemate, with people simply talking past each other.

Fighting for the rights of sexual minorities in other parts of the world, as Western political leaders and LGBTQ+ activists are doing, is a noble cause. But it is best to do so through education and persuasion, not threats. If it took centuries for the Western world to realize that it was wrong to persecute gays all that time, isn’t it unreasonable to expect that people in countries with extremely conservative cultures and low levels of education would reach that position as quickly as these advocates demand?

I am a big believer in the use of the power of the purse to prevent political and other forms of abuse within countries. But that power has to be used judiciously so that it doesn’t become diluted over time. That is why it was a grave mistake for the World Bank to rush the decision to halt new lending to the Ugandan government, just a couple of months after the country passed its anti-LGBTQ law. It would have been far better to wait and see how the law was actually applied. Such a lending ban would be more widely supported if the Ugandan authorities were to begin rounding up large numbers of suspected gays and throwing them in jail. That is not an observation that could have been made reasonably within such a short period of time.

Other than the people who identify as LGBTQ+, I am not sure that the rest of us have any way of knowing what drives that choice. Perhaps some medical and scientific experts can offer some clues based on their training and experience. But those expert voices are unlikely to carry much weight anyway because we live at a time when many people say they have lost faith in science. Ironically, the people who distrust science happen to be the most vehement opponents of LGBTQ+ rights. They insist that the atypical sexual orientation is learned, sinful behavior. But they don’t bother to explain how they acquired that knowledge. They simply ask us to believe them, when they themselves don’t trust anything anyone says.

Some Ghanaians may be uncomfortable with the idea of their neighbors identifying as LGBTQ+. But I’m not sure how these private choices, which a relatively small number of individuals make, could do so much collective harm to society that it must warrant such a drastic national reaction. Would any social, economic or other benefits of the law outweigh its potential costs? Ghana’s president should think carefully about those implications before making his decision to sign the bill or let it die.