21 March 2012

Liberia: President Says 'Tolerance is Status Quo' and Any Attempt to Outlaw Homosexuality 'Will Be Vetoed'


Monrovia — We express our deep concern with the article published by the Guardian under the caption “Nobel Peace Prize Winner defends law criminalizing homosexuality in Liberia”.

The article and the associated caption failed to portray the stated position of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with regards to the purported legislation on homosexuality.  The content of the article was misleading and an exploitation of a matter of great consequence.

There currently exists no law referencing homosexuality in Liberia, and as such the President could not be defending a law on homosexuality as was insinuated in your publication. What the President is on record as saying (including in the video that accompanied your article) is that any law brought before her regarding homosexuality will be vetoed. This statement also applies to an initial attempt by two members of the Liberian legislature to introduce tougher laws targeting homosexuality. It is therefore shocking to see your institution report that President Sirleaf is defending laws criminalizing homosexuality.

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.

It is my hope that this clarification will correct the inaccurate portrayal in the article.

Jerolinmek Matthew Piah is Press Secretary for Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

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