THE PRESIDENT OF Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has defended the criminalisation of homosexual acts in the country, saying that certain “traditional values” should be preserved.
During a joint interview with Tony Blair, who was acting in his role as the founder of the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), Sirleaf told the Guardian: “We like ourselves just the way we are.”
“Voluntary sodomy” is classed as a misdemeanour in Liberia and is currently punishable by up to one year in prison. However, new proposals to impose stronger punishments have recently been put forward.
One proposal would make a person guilty of a second-degree felony – and would carry a prison sentence of up to five years - if they “seduce, encourage or promote” a 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”.
Another bill would make gay marriage a crime – and those found to be in violation of the law would face up to 10 years in jail.
During his time as the UK’s Prime Minister, Blair championed the rights of gay people. However, he refused to comment on Sirleaf’s remarks, saying: “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.”
He added that the priorities of the AGI were power, roads and jobs delivery.