News

    Liberian Homosexual Rights Effort Faces Violence, Criminalization

    Liberian gay rights advocate Archie Ponpon says, despite threats, he hopes to continue fight for homosexual rights

    Map of Liberia
    Map of Liberia
    Ricci Shryock

    As Archie Ponpon fights for gay rights in Liberia, he sometimes faces violent hurdles.

    First his mother’s house was burned to the ground.  Then, after speaking out for gay rights on public radio last week in the capital, Monrovia, a violent mob confronted him as he left the station and police had to intervene to save the activist from potential harm.

    Ponpon is head of the Movement for the Defense of Gays and Lesbians in Liberia.  He and his group have sparked public debate across the country as they visit universities to garner support from students for their movement to allow domestic partnerships for gays.

    Though Ponpon said most lawmakers strongly oppose the idea of gay marriage, his group is approaching those in the government who might be sympathetic to their cause.

    “We are going to find the very friendly ones to see as to whether we can make a fair proposition to them.  So, this is where we are right now with the issues of who we engage.  I already have the draft built of the amendment of the civil domestic partnership that includes transgender persons, gays, lesbians, in terms of civil law marriage, what would be discussed as a civil partnership.”

    He said he and his group see 2012 as a year to make progress for gay rights in Liberia, but they know it will be hard.

    “Many attacks keep coming our way.  We’re living to see the next year as a combat.  We’re not going to back up, and I’m not afraid of death.”

    Ponpon added the Liberian government has prevented his group from formally registering their organization within the government system, but he has written to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the hope she will help his group.

    Sirleaf has not yet responded to his letter and, despite public pressure, she has yet to formally announce her position on the issue of gay rights and gay marriage in Liberia.

    The president’s office said Sirleaf will soon declare whether she supports a new bill proposed by ex-first lady-turned-Senator Jewel Taylor.  The bill would make homosexuality a first-degree felony and a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison.

    Parliament member Edward Karfiah is one lawmaker who supports Taylor’s proposed amendment and said he remains firmly against legalizing civil unions for gay couples.

    “For me, to think that you would you would say you are going to marry a man, if you go back to the Bible, you are going to understand it was because of homosexuals’ behavior that the cities of Sodom and Gomorra were destroyed by God.  If we are Christian indeed, then we should not be condoning such practices.  If it would require my vote, then, of course, as the speaker said, I will throw it in the ocean.”

    Public reaction id mixed.  Liberian Mary Flomo said she would interrupt any gay marriage ceremony she encountered.

    “I accuse it totally.  I accuse it because that does not belong in the country… I will stone them.”

    But, Leroy Wilson said attitudes like that prevent the gay population from getting much-needed healthcare.  He added cultural excuses are not a good enough reason to restrict gays from marrying.

    “Most people talk about [it as] against our African culture.  There are a lot of things that a lot of people do, a lot of society members do, that are against our African culture.  You don’t see that.  You don’t see fornication.  You don’t see adultery.  You don’t see a lot of things.  Those are all against our African culture.  If it gets to be legalized, fine.  That’s a plus.”

    Current laws in Liberia forbid gay marriage and voluntary sodomy is punishable by up to a year in prison.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora