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Liberia again weighs tightening anti-gay laws

Liberia legislators are considering proposals to tighten the country’s laws against same-sex intimacy.

Liberian Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, sponsor of bill to make same-sex intercourse a felony. (Ida Reeves photo courtesy of BushChicken.com)

Liberian Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, sponsor of a bill to make same-sex intercourse a felony. (Ida Reeves photo courtesy of BushChicken.The exact scope of the latest proposal was unclear in press coverage.

The bill would make same-sex marriage a crime, according to Liberia’s Daily Observer and Rex Wockner’s “Int’l LGBTQI news” report.

But a report in Liberia’s BushChicken.com describes the bill differently — as a proposal to make same-sex intercourse a felony. Under current Liberian law, it is a misdemeanor.

The Liberian legislature’s joint Committee on Judiciary and Gender, headed by Representatives J. Fonati Koffa and Julia F. Wiah, is reviewing the proposal.

Under Liberia’s current Penal Code, “deviate sexual intercourse” is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. In a confusing account published in the Daily Observer, the proposed punishment as a felony could be “imprisonment for life or for any term of not more than 10 years.”<

The BushChicken account also was confusing. It quoted Massaquoi as stating that “same-sex practices will now become a criminal offense,” after his bill was accepted by the House. They are already a criminal offense, though there are no reports of anyone being jailed for violating the current law.

Under current law, “deviate sexual intercourse” is defined as any anal or oral sex except that between a married couple or a couple “living together as man and wife though not legally married.”

Massaquoi, sponsor of the latest bill, said it is intended to preserve African culture. The Daily Observer noted:

However, the issue of same-sex marriage remains complex and controversial. It has raised human rights and constitutional law issues, as well as a lot of social, religious, moral and political questions.

In 2012, similar attempts to amend Liberia’s anti-gay laws failed.

At that time, some members of the Liberian house of representatives also pushed for a bill to reclassify the offense as a felony, while the Liberian senate voted for a plan to prohibit same-sex marriage.

The then president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said she would veto any bill whether to toughen or loosen the laws related to homosexuality.