The United Nations human rights office Friday expressed concern over a pending law in Liberia that would criminalize homosexual behavior. Gay sex – “voluntary sodomy” — is already illegal in the West African country and punishable by up to one year in prison. But this legislation would go further, penalizing any person who “seduces, encourages, or promotes another person of the same gender to engage into sexual activities.” The proposed law also prohibits same-sex marriage in Liberia.
The legislation would make homosexuality and gay marriage second-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison. The antigay law passed the Liberian Senate last week, is currently pending in the House of Representatives, and is supported by Liberian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In a videotaped interview with The Guardian, Sirleaf defended the law criminalizing homosexuality, saying, “We like ourselves just the way we are. We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve." Sirleaf was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her work advancing safety and equality for women in Liberia.
Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN’s Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, said in a statement, “We are … concerned about the atmosphere of intimidation and violence against gay and lesbian activists, as well as reports of attacks against them. Such harassment illustrates the difficult, discriminatory environment in which gay rights activists are operating. The proposals going through the legislature could make an already bad situation for lesbian and gay people in Liberia even worse.”
All Africa reports that LGBT activists have started an online petition calling for Sirleaf’s Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked if she signs the law, pointing out that in her campaign, candidate Sirleaf vowed to veto any legislation regarding homosexuality.