Debate on LGBT rights in Liberia

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.”


About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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One Response to Debate on LGBT rights in Liberia

  1. Pingback: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf reverses herself « sebaspace

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