UN opposes Liberian bill increasing punishment for same-sex sex

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Prize-winner and president of Liberia. - PHOTO: www.nobelprize.org

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has taken a stand against a proposed measure in Liberia that would make consensual same-sex sex a second-degree felony.

Punishment under the proposal would result in a fine and prison for up to five years.

Currently – and also objectionable to human rights advocates – Liberia classifies consensual same-sex sex as a misdemeanor that can result in a year in jail.

An August statement from the UN said, “Legislation criminalizing homosexuality can have a seriously negative impact, not only on gay and lesbian people, but also on the most vulnerable populations, such as people living with HIV, sex workers, refugees and internally displaced populations, who might be in need of special attention but will not come forward due to the high risk of stigmatization, discrimination and possible violence.”

The anti-gay measure is before Liberia’s House of Representatives. The senate passed the bill earlier this year.

Liberia is led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

She promotes democracy, but she also defends the country's laws criminalizing homosexuality.

In March, during a taped exchange with Britain's Tony Blair, Sirleaf said in regards to Liberia's anti-gay laws, "We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve. We're going to keep to our traditional values."

Activists in Africa, Europe and North America have suggested that Sirleaf, if she supports the pending anti-homosexuality bill, should lose her 2011 peace prize, which she won for her "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work."