Liberians React to Ghana’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The recent approval of an anti-homosexuality bill by the Ghanaian Parliament has ignited significant discourse and evoked varied reactions from Liberians.

The legislation, which criminalizes LGBTQ+ activities with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment, has sparked concerns about human rights and discrimination within the region.

In response to Ghana’s legislative action, Liberia, a neighboring West African nation, finds itself at a crossroads with its own considerations and potential implications. While Liberia has yet to enact similar legislation, ongoing discussions surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and the broader African context suggest that the passage of such a bill in Ghana may influence Liberia’s stance and policy decisions.

A survey conducted by this publication explored how the passing of such a bill in Ghana might impact Liberia’s policy decisions in months or years.

Opinions gathered vary, with some expressing strong or somewhat dislike for having a law criminalizing same-sex unions, while others believe that such policy decisions are necessary to maintain a straight society where nobody can harm their children.

From details gathered, most of those who support Ghana’s decision argue that it is not about freedom of speech but rather about addressing the crime itself, which they term as a spiritual issue. Conversely, others clarify that advocating for the quarantine of LGBTQ+ individuals in Liberia would be both discriminatory and unethical.

“All individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have the same rights to freedom, dignity, and equal treatment under the law. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity goes against fundamental principles of human rights and equality,” said Prince S. Bonnah, a resident of Matadi. Monrovia.

Bonnah emphasized that the government must carefully weigh these factors as it determines its stance on LGBTQ+ rights and any potential legislative action in the near future. Instead of advocating for the quarantine of LGBTQ+ individuals, he underscores that it is essential to promote inclusivity, respect, and acceptance of diversity.

According to him, the Liberian society should work towards creating environments where all individuals feel safe, valued, and supported, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

From a journalistic perspective on Ghana’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Gboko Stewart, Editor-in-Chief of JournalRage, highlighted the implications of this legislation on press freedom, noting that the bill also targets the media by restricting coverage of LGBTQ+ issues.

Stewart emphasized the chilling effect on journalistic freedom, citing the risks involved in reporting on LGBTQ+ communities in Ghana. He noted the overwhelming support for the bill among the Ghanaian population, making it difficult for dissenting voices to be heard.

Reflecting on his experience covering LGBTQ+ issues in Liberia, Stewart expressed skepticism about the prospects of progress in the country. He highlighted the influence of radical conservatives who hinder advancements in LGBTQ+ rights, citing the existence of laws criminalizing same-sex activity.

Stewart also emphasizes the need for equal rights and protection for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He criticizes the discriminatory attitudes prevalent in Ghana and stresses the importance of upholding the rule of law and respecting human rights.

Regarding the influence of external actors on Ghanaian politics, he points to the role of radical religious groups and conservative individuals from the United States who have been successful in influencing policy decisions in Ghana and expressed concern about similar influence in Liberia.

Stewart, who had reported numerous stories on LGBTQ individuals for years in Liberia, underscored the complexity of the issues at hand, including misconceptions about sexual reproductive health and the involvement of foreign interests in African countries. He highlights the need for critical scrutiny of external funding sources and their potential impact on domestic policies.

He also laments challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in Ghana and the limitations imposed on journalists covering these issues, while urging Ghanaian authorities to reconsider the implications of the anti-homosexuality bill and uphold the rights and freedoms of all individuals in the country.

The issue of homosexuality remains divisive within Liberia, reflecting deeply rooted cultural, religious, and legal complexities.

Advocates for LGBTQ+ rights have emphasized the importance of inclusivity, non-discrimination, and upholding fundamental human rights principles. However, conservative voices in Liberia may perceive Ghana’s move as validation for stricter measures against LGBTQ+ individuals, citing cultural and religious values as justification.

Navigating a response to Ghana’s anti-homosexuality bill, Luther O. Jabbah, a resident of Matadi, indicated that implementing such a law in Liberia would be beneficial because the country was founded on Christian principles. As Christians, it is advisable to adhere to Christian values rather than practicing something outside of Christianity.

Additionally, James Sando, a local journalist, expressed support for implementing such a law in Liberia, citing the country’s secular nature and viewing homosexuality as a spiritual issue. He believes it is not about freedom of speech but rather about addressing the crime itself. Sando reasons that Ghana included this aspect in their legislation to instill fear and ultimately end the practice, emphasizing that it is not about freedom of speech.

Sando argues that if Liberia continues to prioritize human rights, the right thing will not be achieved. He suggests that Liberia should focus on addressing such practices as Ghana is doing, emphasizing the spiritual aspect and referencing the biblical destruction of an entire kingdom due to similar practices.

Despite acknowledging Liberia as a secular state, Sando believes that all religious people in Liberia oppose such practices.

He asserts that implementing such a law in Liberia would be beneficial, but it should be accompanied by appropriate policies. Sando believes that such a law would have a positive impact on the entire population.

However, history of criminalizing same-sex unions in Liberia dates back to April, when a report released by the UNOHCHR and UNDP, documented the widespread negative public attitudes, violent attacks, intimidation, and social exclusion of the LGBT community in Liberia.

In November 2019, similar situations unfolded when an HIV testing center was stormed, and a number of LGBT people were attacked. Approximately 10 people were injured and five hospitalized, including one being stabbed.

While violence against LGBTQ individuals is not strange to the Liberian society, efforts to ensure a safe city for all citizens here have not materialized.

In January 2018, a group harassed and assaulted five LGBT people, tearing off their clothes and stealing their money and belongings.

This took a drastic turn when, in November 2016, an NGO promoting LGBT rights was denied registration by the Liberia Business Registry for “activity which is not allowed in Liberia.” The registration request continued to be denied.

Additionally, in December 2013, a report by Human Rights Watch pointed to many instances of discrimination and violence against individuals who are perceived to be gay.

As the debate unfolds, Liberia’s response to Ghana’s anti-homosexuality bill not only reflects its own values and priorities but also contributes to broader conversations about human rights and equality across the African continent.

It’s essential to note that, unlike Ghana, Kenya proposed a Family Protection Bill in 2023 aiming to ban homosexuality, same-sex unions, and LGBTQ activities and campaigns. This bill highlighted that individuals engaging in non-consensual same-sex acts could face imprisonment for a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 50 years.

Furthermore, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has signed one of the world’s harshest anti-LGBTQ laws, including the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” despite Western condemnations and potential sanctions from aid donors.

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