LGBT Issues – The recent Nobel Peace Prize winner and current president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has asserted her support for a law that prohibits homosexuality. She made comments defending the legislation in a joint interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was visiting the country in his role as founder of the African Governance Initiative (AGI).
The law in Liberia criminalises “voluntary sodomy” with a penalty of up to one year in prison. New proposals advocate much tougher punishment for an individual who “seduces, encourages or promotes another person of the same gender to engage in sexual activities” or “purposefully engages in acts that arouse or tend to arouse another person of the same gender to have sexual intercourse.”
Many will be surprised at Sirleaf’s remarks in support of legalised homophobia, having stated that “we like ourselves just the way we are” and “we’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve.” Sirleaf received the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her work on women’s rights; her attitude on the rights of homosexuals demonstrates that her progressive views do not extend to promoting the rights of all groups and minorities.
The past few months have witnessed a trend of increasingly hard-line rhetoric emerging from Africa on gay rights. The announcement that US aid policy would be tied to the promotion of gay rights has had the somewhat paradoxical effect of increasing anti-gay sentiments in a number of African states; this is a pattern that Human Rights Watch has noted with concern. With homosexuality criminalised in 37 African countries, there are substantial obstacles to be overcome in the pursuit of equality. Let’s hope that the international community steps up to support Africa’s courageous activists.
Read more at the Guardian.