Nobel Peace Prize winner and current president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, defended her country’s current anti-gay legislation Monday, telling a British reporter, “We're going to keep to our traditional values.”
In a tense interview with the Guardian alongside former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sirleaf promised that although she would not pass any harsher laws punishing homosexuality, she has no plans to decriminalize anti-gay laws already on the books.
“I won’t sign any law that has to do with that area. None whatsoever. We like ourselves just the way we are,” Sirleaf said.
When pushed further to answer whether she would support the repeal of Liberia’s current anti-sodomy law, which punishes “voluntary sodomy” with up to one year in prison, Sirleaf remarked, “We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve. We're going to keep to our traditional values."
Liberia is the latest African nation to consider new legislation which would directly punish homosexuality with criminal sentences. Two bills were introduced into Liberia’s legislature earlier this year making both same-sex marriage and same-sex sexual activity punishable by lengthy prison terms.
The debate over legally punishing homosexuality has heated up considerably since the start of the year when the Movement for the Defence of Gays and Lesbians in Liberia (Modegal) began organizing its efforts to bring public awareness to the situation.
In the interview with Sirleaf, Blair shied away from commenting on the issue stating, "One of the advantages of doing what I do now is that I can choose the issues I get into and the issues that I don't.”
Blair accompanied Sirleaf in his capacity as founder of the African Governance Intiative, an organization working to help strengthen African governments’ capacity to provide improved infrastructure and employment opportunities.
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(Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters)