After a major international outcry following British newspaper the Guardian’s article under the title ‘Nobel Peace Prize Winner defends law criminalizing homosexuality in Liberia.’ President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has now put out a statement to clarify her position, and to express her anger over the misleading and exploitative content of the article.
In the statement released by the President’s press secretary, Jerolinmek Matthew Piah it is stated that:
“The President and her Government believe that the current law regarding sexual practices sufficiently addresses the concerns of the majority of Liberians and guarantees respect for traditional values. The reality is that the status quo in Liberia has been one of tolerance and no one has ever been prosecuted under that law. The President also thinks that with the unprecedented freedom of speech and expression Liberia enjoys today, our budding democracy will be strong enough to accommodate new ideas and debate both their value and Liberia’s laws with openness, respect and independence.” (behindthemask.org.za)
This statement does come as a relief, but if this law that does exist which criminalizes same-sex practices (most likely, as is the case in most other African countries, a law implemented by colonial powers/colonially influenced laws) has indeed never been used to persecute anyone, why is it still there? Shouldn’t the far longer standing African traditions of tolerance and mutual understanding of each others humanity be promoted instead? Non-heteronormative traditions and practices have long, and proud histories all over Africa, it is not something new that needs to be discussed. We do indeed like ourselves just the way we are, President Sirleaf!