NPR recently did an interview with Tamasin Ford, a freelance reporter for the BBC and Britain’s newspaper, The Guardian, on April 9 about the issue of gay rights in Liberia. Same-sex encounters have already been deemed illegal in Liberia and is punishable up to one year in jail. However, since Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s announcement in December that America’s foreign aid budget would promote gay rights overseas, two new bills have been introduced in the country that would tighten anti-gay laws.
The first bill would amend the penal code to make a person guilty of a second degree felony if he/she “seduces, encourages, promotes another person of the same gender to engage in sexual activities, or purposefully engage in acts that arouses or tend to arouse another person of the same gender to have sexual intercourse,” according to the interview. It would carry a five year prison sentence.
The second bill would make same-sex marriage a first degree crime with up to 10 years in jail.
According to Ford, same-sex relations was not really a topic of debate in Liberia until Clinton’s announcement in December. When the announcement was made in America, the media misreported it, saying that America would not give Liberia aid if they did not introduce same-sex marriage–which is untrue. The issue then became how America was telling Liberia what to do and how same-sex encounters are “un-Christian” and “un-African.”
Ford interviewed Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for The Guardian. In the interview, Ford asked Sirleaf about same-sex encounters and Sirleaf replied, saying that Liberia has to maintain its traditions.
Towards the end of the interview, when Ford was asked about the future of the two bills, she said that Sirleaf said she would not sign the two bills. However, the momentum against gays in Liberia has taken off. Ford said she had a flier in front of her that listed people who the Movement Against Gays in Liberia, or MOGAL, saythey will go after using “all means in life.”