There are reports that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will veto an anti-gay bill recently introduced into parliament, if it is passed.
By Melanie Nathan, 03/01/2012
The proposed legislation, which aims to increase the penalties for homosexuality to up to ten years in jail and to ban same-sex marriage in Liberia, was introduced by Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, who is the country’s former first lady, in a country where homosexuality and lesbian relations are already criminalized.
If passed by parliament, the bill would need to be signed into law by President Sirleaf, who was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Associated Press, however, Sirleaf “has said she will not sign any such bill into law”.
Former Liberian first lady Jewel Howard Taylor has introduced a bill making homosexuality liable to a death sentence, amid a raging debate over gay rights in the country.
The bill submitted by former president Charles Taylor’s ex-wife, now a senator, also seeks to amend laws to prohibit gay marriage.
“No two persons of the same sex shall have sexual relations. A violation of this prohibition will be considered a first degree felony,” reads the proposed amendment to marriage laws.
First degree punishment can range from 10 years to life imprisonment to the death sentence, on the discretion of the judge.
Voluntary sodomy is already a criminal offence in the west African country and can result in up to three years imprisonment, according to a lawyer consulted by AFP.
George Tengbeh, a senator supporting the bill, said he hoped it would put an end to months of acrimonious public debate on gay rights.
“Even though this idea is totally unaccepted to Liberians, it is a glaring fact that same sex marriages are happening in the world at large,” the Bong County Senator noted, adding that it is therefore incumbent upon the Senate as a guardians of the sacred heritage to insure that their generation leaves the nation in a better position than they found it.
Taylor has dismissed the controversy around the bill, saying: ”We are only strengthening the existing law.”
Her former husband, and the country’s former president, Charles Taylor, is being tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.