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Not So Nobel: Peace Prize-Winning President of Liberia Supports Homophobia

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday Mar 20, 2012

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia's president and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said that she supports a law that can put homosexuals in prison for a year, the U.K. newspaper the Guardian reported.

"We like ourselves just the way we are. We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve," she told the newspaper.

Liberia is located in West Africa and bordered by Sierra Leone and Guinea.

She made her initial remarks during a joint interview with former U.K. prime minster Tony Blair, who was noticeably uncomfortable. Blair has supported LGBT issues while in office as he promoted laws that recognized civil partnerships.

When Blair was asked if "good governance and human rights went hand in hand." Blair said, "I'm not giving you an answer on it. One of the advantages of doing what I do now is I can choose the issues I get into and the issues I don't. For us, the priorities are around power, roads, jobs delivery."

Sirleaf, 73, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work in campaigning for women's rights. In 2006, she became Africa's first female president and was reelected last year.

"If she tried to decriminalise the [current anti-gay] law it would be political suicide," said Tiawan S Gongloe, the country's former solicitor general.

In addition to the current law, which says "voluntary sodomy" is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in prison, there are two proposed legislations that could give gay Liberians an even harsher punishment.

One of the anti-gay laws, which was created by the ex-wife of the former president Charles Taylor, could make same-sex marriage a crime and could sentence gay Liberians up to 10 years in jail.

"[Homosexuality] is a criminal offence. It is un-African," Jewel Howard Taylor told the Guardian. "It is a problem in our society. We consider deviant sexual behaviour criminal behaviour. We are just trying to strengthen our local laws. This is not an attempt to bash homosexuals."

Rep. Clarence Massaquoi introduced the other bill and says that "same-sex sexual practices" are punishable up to five years in prison, the Associated Press reported.

Liberia is one of the many countries in Africa that strongly persecutes its LGBT community. In February, Uganda's parliament reintroduced a bill that would give the death penalty to gays who are caught having consensual sex. The country's government, however, does not support the proposed bill. Last week a Ugandan gay rights group sued American anti-gay activist Scott Lively for promoting the law.

"That's about as ridiculous as it gets. I've never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue. There's actually no grounds for litigation on this," Lively said.

Cameroon, a country in west Central Africa that is bordered by Nigeria and Chad, has also received criticism for its treatment of gays. A 2010 report from the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHR) explained the dangers the country's LGBT community face.

"Beyond arrest, gay, lesbian, and bisexual Cameroonians are at higher risk for other problems," IGLHRC's site said. "Police and prison officers routinely abuse detainees they suspect of same-sex sexual relationships. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people may be more vulnerable to violent attacks inside and outside the home, as they often avoid reporting a crime for fear of being arrested, in turn, for homosexuality. Lesbian women can lose custody of their children and be ostracized by their families."


  • , 2012-03-20 17:31:39

    Since she won her Nobel Peace Prize for Woman’s Rights, how can she keep that Honor now that she is openly showing hate for Equal rights for all. Look she is Black. Remember when she didn’t have rights? Take back that medal and put her in prison for what she is doing. People just hate for no good reason. Matter not if Dems or GOP.. All the same. Hate is hate against any human person or life.. Shame on her... Shame on her!!!

  • , 2012-03-21 11:33:49

    So because i am black i shouldn’t have an opinion to what is wrong or right on social issues? She gave a political answer reflecting the views of the vast majority of her constituents. Anything other than that would be political suicide, like Gongloe said.

  • , 2012-03-21 11:44:14

    Yes I do think she should give back the Nobel Peace Prize.. She was honnord for her fight for woman and I am most proud fo that. Just went someone is that tolerant of unjusted I feel she should give justic to all. Not just put people in jail for being gay or not asking for equal rights for all people. I am not gay and no I am not black. I these are just my feeling.. She is a good, good woman but with her power she seems like a went to her head a little and should re-thing a decison of jailing gay people. So they can be raped, and raped in jail. You seem like a nice person Anonymous but would you want to see that happend to anyone.. Rape? That is what happends in jails alll over the world for gay, straights alike. I looked at all sides. I would hate to see her lose her power as President. She is good but ont this issue I don’t feel she gave a care to hurting other people and that is just what we’re speaking of. Not her constituents.. Life is what we’re speaking of.. Thanks for you nice comment.. It was very nice of you. I just think we all need to live together and stop so much hating in this world here in American or around the world. Have a warm and wonderful day to you..

  • , 2012-03-21 18:01:34

    I believe the question about gay and lesbian activities in Liberia can be settled by a referandum. If the supporters of the gay and lesbian movement in Liberia really care about and respect the Liberian people, I plead with them to encourage the Liberian government to obtain the opinion of the nation via a referendum rather than the news media. Let me ask this question though,"Where were these human or civil right groups when Liberia was being destroyed and about a quarter of a million of her people were being massacred in the Liberian Civil War?" Did they care about the Liberian gay and lesbian then? Shouldn’t our humanity dictates to us that we must always care for the least among us not just those who fancy our selfish aspiration and at convenient time? Of all persons, Madame Sirleaf, knows what it means to be discriminated against. So, when she takes a stand on issues like this, she does not do that lightly. She represents and lead a nation that is impoverished and rising from the ashes of a devastating civil war. The last thing on her mine at this moment is to dstablize a nation that is yet very fragile. Liberians are still struggling to find food, job, shelter, health care and peace within; so in your search for the rights of gays and lesbians in Liberia, please consider the children of the downtrodens of my beloved nation. And for nations who are anticipating on punishing Liberia for the stand that Madame Sirleaf is taking for her nation, please do not subcumb to the political winds of our days. As you contemplate on your path along this "Moral/Right" journey, I pray that we will meet at "fountain of wisdom". Peace and Love,

  • , 2012-04-24 19:34:55

    "We like ourselves just the way we are. We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve," she told the newspaper. So wasn’t her struggle for women’s rights "against the traditional values" of her society at that time? And didn’t the men then "like it just the way it was"? If so then why was her struggle different from that of the LGBT?

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