President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia would veto any bill seeking to impose prison terms for homosexuality, the leader’s spokesman says.
The statement came in a letter to the British Guardian newspaper, which had reported on Johnson Sirleaf’s videotaped response to a question about decriminalizing homosexuality in Liberia. Her reply was, “We like ourselves the way we are,” a position that the Guardian initially summarized as “Nobel peace prize winner defends law criminalising homosexuality in Liberia.”
“The President and her Government believe that the current law regarding sexual practices sufficiently addresses the concerns of the majority of Liberians and guarantees respect for traditional values,” the letter said.
“There currently exists no law referencing homosexuality in Liberia, and as such the President could not be defending a law on homosexuality as was insinuated in your publication,” the letter said.
That position differs from the account of Liberian law in the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s 2011 report on laws about homosexuality worldwide.
The ILGA says Liberian law defines homosexual acts as criminal behavior, but defines no punishment. Specifically, it cites “Penal Law, Revised Liberian Statutes 137”:
Section 14.74 on ‘voluntary sodomy’ makes it an offence to engage in “deviate sexual intercourse” under circumstances that is not covered in Section 14.72 or 14.73. The offence is classified as a first degree misdemeanor.
Amnesty International cites no instances of imprisonment of homosexuals in Liberia for violations of that law.
The letter to the Guardian states, “The President and her Government believe that the current law regarding sexual practices sufficiently addresses the concerns of the majority of Liberians and guarantees respect for traditional values. The reality is that the status quo in Liberia has been one of tolerance and no one has ever been prosecuted under that law.”
Some Liberian legislators are seeking to toughen the country’s laws about homosexuality. A bill introduced by Rep. Clarence Massaquoi would make “same-sex sexual practices” a second-degree felony punishable with a five-year prison sentence, AP reports. A person who “seduces, encourages (or) promotes another person of the same gender to engage in sexual activities” would also be covered by the proposed law.
A similar bill proposed by Liberia’s former first lady, Sen. Jewel Taylor, would make same-sex marriage a first-degree felony punishable with a 10-year prison sentence.