Liberia has been cautioned over moves to further criminalize homosexuality in the West African nation by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
‘Legislation criminalizing homosexuality can have a seriously negative impact, not only on gay and lesbian people, but also on the most vulnerable populations, such as people living with HIV, sex workers, refugees and internally displaced populations, who might be in need of special attention but will not come forward due to the high risk of stigmatization, discrimination and possible violence,’ OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told a news conference in Geneva.
“We are also concerned about the atmosphere of intimidation and violence against gay and lesbian activists, as well as reports of attacks against them.
‘Such harassment illustrates the difficult, discriminatory environment in which gay rights activists are operating.’
Sex between men is already a criminal offense in Liberia, however new legislation seeks to impose harsher penalties and make entering into a same-sex marriage an actual crime.
One of the bills has already passed the Liberian Senate and now sits with its House of Representatives.
Shamdasani warned the Liberian Government that outlawing acts between consenting adults violated their rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is on the record as opposing same-sex marriage but told the Guardian newspaper in March she opposed the toughening of penalties for sodomy in the country’s criminal code.
However she has recently come under fire from colleagues for not being anti-gay enough so it remains to be seen what action she will take on the bill.