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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 24, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 08
Liberia's president won't sign anti-Gay bill
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Liberia's president won't sign anti-Gay bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has announced that she will not sign a proposed law to increase penalties for same-sex relations.

Liberia's senate is scheduled to consider the bill on February 23.

Liberian law currently treats Gay relationships as a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to a year in prison. The proposed law would prohibit same-sex marriage and make same-sex sexual relations a first-degree felony punishable by 10 years in prison.

Among the backers of the law is Senator Jewel Taylor, the former wife of one of Sirleaf's predecessors, Charles Taylor. He is currently on trial in The Hague for war crimes allegedly committed during Liberia's civil war.

Charles Taylor defeated Sirleaf in Liberia's 1997 presidential election, during which he campaigned with the slogan 'He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I'll still vote for him.'

He resigned in 2003 as part of a peace deal. Sirleaf was elected president in 2005 and reelected last year. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with another Liberian woman, Leymah Gbowee, and a Yemani woman, Tawakel Karman, 'for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work.'

Meanwhile, Senator Jewel Taylor denied reports that she wanted to execute Gay Liberians.

'We are only strengthening the existing law,' she said. 'Some media are reporting that I said anyone found guilty of involvement in same-sex should face the death penalty. I did not say so, I am calling for a law that will make it a first-degree felony.'

'Liberia is a member of the global community and therefore cannot kick against the rights of others to do what they choose to do,' said Archie Ponpon, chairman of the newly-formed Gay rights organization Movement for the Defense of Gays and Lesbians in Liberia.

Ponpon said he and his family have already faced hostility because of his fight for Gay rights in Liberia. Weeks ago, his mother's house was set on fire, and he and another activist, Abraham Kamara, were mobbed by angry students while campaigning at the University of Liberia.

'We will not relent,' he promised. 'People will come to the realization that in this day and age, individuals should be free to practice what they wish.'

In January, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said African countries should stop treating their LGBT people as 'second-class citizens, or even criminals.' Ban told African leaders that discrimination based on sexual orientation 'has been ignored or even sanctioned by many states for far too long.'

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