Liberia's Senate to consider anti-gay bill

Published: February 23, 2012

There are fears that this attack will be reminiscent of the 2009 Mtwapa anti-gay riots that targetted suspected gays and led to destruction of property and evictions.

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberia’s Senate will consider a bill Thursday to strengthen the nation’s existing anti-gay laws, a senator said, as another West African nation, Cameroon, announced the arrest of 10 women suspected of being lesbians.

Cameroon Radio Television reported Thursday that the 10 women are being detained in Ambam, some 190 miles (300 kilometers) south of the capital of Yaounde, until they go to trial.

Consensual same-gender sex is considered criminal in Cameroon and punishable by a jail sentence from six months to five years and a fine. Gay rights defender and founder of the Association for the Defense of Homosexuals, Alice Nkom, says detainees in Cameroon are frequently tortured in police stations to force them confess.

Meanwhile, Liberia’s former first lady, Senator Jewel Taylor, submitted a bill last week that would prohibit same-sex marriage and make homosexuality a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

"We are only strengthening the existing law," she said. "Some media are reporting that I said anyone found guilty of involvement in same sex should face the death penalty, I did not say so, I am calling for a law that will make it a first degree felony," she told the Associated Press.

The current law considers gay relationships a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to a year in prison.

"We are looking at it critically" and will put it before the entire Senate "during our next sitting on Thursday," Senator Joseph Nagbe, chair of the Judicial Committee, told The Associated Press.

If passed by the Senate, the strengthened bill would then go the House and then the president.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, has said she will not sign any such bill into law.

"Liberia is a member of the global community and therefore cannot kick against the rights of others to do what they choose to do," said Archie Ponpon, chairman of the newly-formed gay rights advocacy group the Movement for the Defense of Gays and Lesbians in Liberia.

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