17 May 2018

Liberian 'Gay Community' Seeks Equality

Today, Thursday, May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, a single most important date for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) communities as they mobilize worldwide to draw the world's attention to their plight and demand equal justice wherever they may be.

Hence, observing the day in Monrovia, the LGBT community in Liberia is calling on the government, opinion leaders, policymakers and development partners to help end violence that is constantly meted out against them.

Speaking to newsmen yesterday in Monrovia, members of the LGBT community said they are Liberians as everyone else is and, as such, they should be given equal treatment, protection and should not be discriminated against.

Adding his voice to the LGBT appeal was Mr. Evans Adofo, Program Officer of Stop AIDS In Liberia (SAIL), who said "We are aware that the African traditions exist, but also need to realize that they are African and their rights do not need to be violated. Again, Liberia has a discriminatory law, but the international community is saying don't arrest or discriminate against them."

According to him, SAIL is not looking at it from people behaviors, but from the rights aspect, which indicates that, despite what personality and gender traits, everyone should be entitled to their human rights.

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia represents an annual landmark to draw the attention of decision-makers, the media, the public, opinion leaders and local authorities to the alarming situation faced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people and all those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms.

Rico, a transgender who spoke to newsmen said they are faced with discrimination and stigma in Liberia, but hoped that Liberians will come to respect their rights. "Only one person in my family discriminates against me, who is my brother and he continues to spread my sexual identity, which is wrong. He always calls me gay and tells other people."

Another transgender who preferred anonymity said "I'm denied justice, discriminated against and stigmatized as well. Getting healthcare services continues to be a serious challenge. People need to respect others' rights. We cannot continue to live in a society where others' rights will continue to be violated. This is how I want to live and people need to live as free as others."

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (May 17) is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal, with 1600 events reported from 1280 organizations in 2014.

However, Pastor St. Solomon Joah of the Refuge Baptist Church located on 21st Street disagrees with the call for equality for LGBT members in Liberia.

"I'm prepared to take anyone to court who will publicly announce that he is gay. It means that you want to violate the Constitution of Liberia. I will not allow anyone or group of people to destroy our country," Pastor Joah said.

Pastor Joah, who is also expected to be part of the public engagement today, said it was unfortunate for people in Liberia in particular and Africa in general to imitate lifestyle habits of people living in other developed countries.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has reaffirmed its commitment to combat all forms of discrimination and hate crimes, on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics, and to continue to actively promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.

In a release issued yesterday in Monrovia, EU said "Inside and outside the European Union, LGBT persons are too often targets of violence and hate crime. They are still the frequent subject of discrimination and maltreatment on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics."

According to EU, in many countries, having a partner of the same sex remains a crime and said people are arrested, imprisoned, and in some cases executed, just because of the relationship they are in.

"The year 2018 is an important year for human rights, as we mark the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its first article reads, 'all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.' LGBT persons are no exception, and the EU will, therefore, continue to fight for 'equal rights for all', regardless of sexual orientation," the release said.

The EU supports LGBT communities through a combination of political and human rights dialogues, awareness-raising activities, financial assistance and specific policy tools such as the "European Commission's List of actions to advance LGBT equality" and the EU Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBT persons.

The European Union said it will continue to address discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and show the European Union's commitment to advance LGBT equality in the European Union and beyond.

Alvin Worzi

Liberia

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