Lawmakers in Liberia have introduced a bill that could make homosexuality punishable by the death penalty, reports say.
The bill, introduced by former Liberian first lady Jewel Haward Taylor who is now a senator, would also amend the country’s laws to specifically prohibit same-sex marriage.
“No two persons of the same sex shall have sexual relations. A violation of this prohibition will be considered a first degree felony,” reads the proposed amendment to marriage laws.
First degree punishment can range from 10 years to life imprisonment to the death sentence, on the discretion of the judge.
Voluntary sodomy is already a criminal offence in the west African country and can result in up to three years imprisonment, according to a lawyer consulted by AFP.
George Tengbeh, a senator supporting the bill, said he hoped it would put an end to months of acrimonious public debate on gay rights.
It aims “to prevent the parliament from talking about such an issue that is against our tradition and culture,” he told AFP.
As Warren Throckmorton notes, a similar bill was offered in Liberia’s lower legislative chamber last week.
Rep. Clarence K. Massaquoi (Lofa) introduced the draft bill on Tuesday, saying, Article 5 (b) of the 1986 constitution requires amongst others, the “protection of our cultural and traditional values”, which he said “should be preserved”.
He said the Act which will amend chapter 14 (d) of the New penal code in the country, will discourage the legalization of same sex practice by declaring it a “criminal offense.”
“I deem it expedient to introduce for your passage a bill entitle: An Act to amend the new penal code chapter 14 sub section d, and to add a new section 14.80…making same sex practices a criminal offense.
The bill, which if passed, prescribes punishment for anyone who engages in same sex practice “with or without the consent of the other partner,” has been sent to House’s committee room for “proper” perusal before enacting it into law.
The legislation appears to be a move to quell recent attempts by LGBT groups in the country to have their rights recognized, something which provoked the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Liberia, Alex Tyler, to tell reporters: “I will never support a gay bill because it is damaging to the survival of the country,” and that any bill introduced in the House aiming to protect gay and lesbian rights would be “thrown in the ‘Du or Montserrado River’.”
However, the severity of the law and that it goes so far as to include the death penalty can only serve to remind of Uganda’s recently reintroduced Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, the legislation that has become infamous for its still present death penalty clause.
Said to have been inspired, at least in part, by American Evanglelical groups exporting their particular brand of homophobia to the country, it was always feared that Uganda’s war on its LGBT population might cause a domino effect whereby other nations in the region would begin similar onslaughts. There is evidence to suggest this has already happened. For instance Cameroon, already having severely anti-gay laws on its books, has since moved to “toughen” its stance on criminalizing homosexuality.