Sirleaf defends gay stance amid controversy

2012-03-23 14:20

Monrovia - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Laureate, on Friday defended her country's stand on gay rights after controversy following an interview she gave to a British newspaper.

Sirleaf came under fire after the Guardian published a video interview in which she is asked about decriminalising homosexuality and replies: "We like ourselves the way we are."

Looking uncomfortable at the line of questioning, Sirleaf goes on to say she would not sign any law whatsoever relating to homosexuality.

"We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve," she says.

Liberia's main economic partner the United States said in December it would consider gay rights when handing out aid, which infuriated deeply traditional African countries, many of whom consider homosexuality "un-African".

"I think if there were major pieces of legislation that discriminated against any group, we would have to take that into account in our relationship, and it would be a cause for concern," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday in response to the video.

In a letter to the Guardian seen by AFP on Friday, the Liberian government said there were no anti-gay laws "and as such the president could not be defending a law on homosexuality".

Voluntary sodomy is a criminal offence in the west African country and can result in up to three years imprisonment, according to a lawyer consulted by AFP.

However this year two new laws were introduced by lawmakers in a bid to toughen the punishment, including one which would make it a first-degree felony.

"What the president is on record as saying is that any law brought before her regarding homosexuality will be vetoed. This statement also applies to an initial attempt by two members of the Liberian legislature to introduce tougher laws targeting homosexuality," the letter said.

It added that the government believed current legislation was sufficient.

"The reality is that the status quo in Liberia has been one of tolerance and no one has ever been prosecuted under that law.

"The president also thinks that with the unprecedented freedom of speech and expression Liberia enjoys today, our budding democracy will be strong enough to accommodate new ideas and debate both their value and Liberia's laws with openness, respect and independence."

  • nokubongajoy.krwentela1 - 2012-03-23 15:00

    I am in Liberia right now, been here 5 weeks now, and honestly, they have WAY bigger issues to tackle other than whether or not Homosexuality should be a criminal offence. this country is too small and poverty stricken to be concentrating in such a 'small'issues.

      Africa21stcentury - 2012-03-23 16:50

      There are NO bigger issues, than the protection and respect of minorities !!!!!!!

      Fred - 2012-03-23 22:49

      It's not either-or. It is definitely good the country's leader taken this stance. It's good and true.

  • zaatheist - 2012-03-23 15:11

    If you consider homosexuality "un-African" then it will go away. PAH!

  • phathuchicos - 2012-03-23 16:32

    Longlive Sirleaf longlive...thats for going on the opposite direction that other useless african countries are busy taking...I Liberia one day becomes the swizterland(on human right records) of darkened west Africa.

      Fred - 2012-03-23 22:48

      Couldn't agree with you more Azanian!

  • Nick - 2012-03-23 18:14

    African countries are infuriated because the USA will not give aid to countries that don't adhere to human rights. So they want the USA to feed their people while they jail and kill their people? TIA

  • bashin.monyela - 2012-03-23 19:16

    Give people the rights they deserve, but at the same time it shouldn't mean i'm homophobic when i don't support homosexuality.

  • eheesen - 2012-03-23 20:48

    Sodomy is disgusting. End of the story!

      rico.zaaiman - 2012-06-19 21:27

      Because God told you so?

  • cowbwouy - 2012-03-23 22:27

    The US and her friends have always been bullies and hypocrites their help depends on whether you do what they command.If someone has an opinion different to them they call them violating rights and so forth. Remember: there was a time they called Mandela , Gandhi, Martin Luther King ..... terrorists!! Keep your values and we will keep ours

      Fred - 2012-03-23 22:47

      That's just your personal belief, a faulty one at that

      jf.lambert2 - 2012-03-24 03:53

      good, let the US and Europe keep their value and you can keep yours. But then let the US and Europe keep their 'aid' money as well, and stop begging for it!

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