Friday, July 20, 2012

Liberian Senate move to criminalize gays

By ralph geeplay

If there is one thing that draws unanimous consensus in the West African state of Liberia, it is that gays in the country will have no place in the society to live their lives peacefully, never mind that the country is still war wary, with many citizens still traumatize after almost two decades of conflict. The religious community too have not help things, it also despise gays furiously. More so,  the Liberian presidency has issued statements that have not bore well for gays. And so, the Liberian Senate on Tuesday this week went to work and  amended the Domestic Relations Law by voting for an anti-gay legislation, which it hope,  the presidency will sign. Of all the pressing national issues in Liberia,  is this the one that gets them...?

It is unfortunate these developments, my people. Leading the chorus to denied gays their rights to choice in the senate is Charles Taylor’s estranged wife, Jewel Howard Taylor. Liberian politics is so divisive today, that finding any issue on which Liberian politicians agree upon would be looking for needle in a hay sack, but on gay issues the heads are nodding across the board, across the board. 

With comments coming from Sirleaf in her meeting with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair when the both met in Monrovia a fortnight ago, she was bold when she denounced gays, “we like the way we are, we’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve."  Those remarks were made before the international press, especially the Guardian newspaper of Britain. Sirleaf's statements raised the bar, in what has been an unusual and a pervasive anti gay sentiment in post war Liberia.

Those comments coming from the Nobel Peace Laureate, resonated around the world. Despite winning the prestigious Nobel, and touted as an inspiration to millions of women,  African women specifically (some of whom are lesbians and are suffering persecutions because of their sexual choice), the president's statement did not help matters. TIME Magazine as if in protest excluded the president from its 100 most influential individuals in the world, in the same year she won the Noble Peace Prize and re-election, "it wasn't hard to imagine why she wasn't on the list," say an observer, but could that have been the reason?

In a post war country where violence against women and children are prevalent, especially rape, and where  security conditions overall remains a daunting challenge for the citizenry, couple with the need to look at reconciliation seriously that has been fractured because of years of fighting, poor education facilities that leave high school students failing massively year in and out during  waec exams etc, how is't that Liberian gays and their need for choice, is the major national agenda that must occupy the precious time of law and policy makers?

Instead of criminalizing gays in the country, why not the Liberian Senate criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM)? It poses a an even greater risk to society and young underage girls. Liberian teen age girls who are taken to the  traditional Sande schools, when they are still not consenting adults suffer humiliation and cruel punishment wished on them by their parents, often times uneducated! And that is the issue, "consenting adults!" For it is hard to imagine any educated consenting adult, female or otherwise who would want to have a vital part of their sex organ taken away voluntarily, knowing the implications the practice would have on their health, wellness and the happiness of their individual lives.

Montserrado's Superintendent Grace Kpaan,  who has been one of the advocates to see the practice abolish said recently, “I believe it is evil, because there are times that little children even die in the bushes; seven, eight and nine year olds.” This also prompted the Honorable Liberian Senate and House to demand she apologize yet again for deriding Liberian culture, as if Liberian culture can be legislated. According to the Monrovia based Daily Observer, Rep Moses Kollie and Senator Gbazongar Findley demanded her apology, for a “statement that insults one of West Africa’s oldest traditions.” It is regretable that govt. officials would endorse FGM, but yet oppose same sex unions. It is discriminatory and intends to penalize a section of the population because of their beliefs. Gays and lesbians are consenting adults, They have a right to choice.

Writing in the HuffingtonPost in March of this year, Stephanie Horton and Cary Alan Johnson said “Currently, under Liberian penal law, "voluntary sodomy" is a first-degree misdemeanor. While African nations such as the Republic of South Africa, Mauritius, and Mozambique have either repealed or read down similar, outdated, colonial sodomy laws, some in Liberia would move backward and increase criminalization and penalties.”

Gays in Liberia are being chased out of public places and ridicule brought upon them by an unsuspecting public as if they are criminals. Horton and Johnson said in their article this year,  “How can we make Liberia a safer, more inclusive society for all Liberians? With the unexpected rise of criminalization, hate speech and hate crimes, there is a pressing need for all who believe in basic human rights to unite in a single voice and address these issues."

Johnson Sirleaf must be true to her words and MUST NOT signed any bill emanating from the Liberian Assembly that seeks to criminalize the issue of same sex marriage, or otherwise companionship between people who simply love each other because of their sexual orientation, they are Liberians too. Liberia has way too many problems that need attention, gays and lesbians issues are none of them...

Pic: Senate President Findley


Sifani said...

Thank you Mr. Geeplay for your humane, human rights-centered provocative take.

For the voiceless & terrified,

geeplay said...

Thank you Stephanie, and thanks for your warm compliments!

Atu Gaba said...

Ignorance and religiosity are powerful aligning forces used to deny rights to certain populations and foster an adherence to archaic backward cultural practices which wreck havoc on the lives of some.

The Liberian senate should spend its time trying to bring jobs, electricity, medical care and quality education to the thousands of Liberians imprisoned by staggering poverty. A progressive nation promotes inclusiveness...being gay is not a choice for many and for these men and women to be criminalized because of sexual orientation is hypocritical and falsely judgemental. What about the scores of young girls who are victimized by older men in Liberian and vice versa? The annals of Liberian culture overflows with accounts of such decadence and as far as I know no laws prohibit such exploitation. In summary sorry to say but the Liberian senate is filled with a bunch of kporfugars masquerading as leaders. I guess in the land of the blind...a one eye man is certainly king.