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UN concerned over Liberia draft law criminalizing homosexuality

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Friday expressed concern [press briefing] about draft legislation that would criminalize homosexual behavior in Liberia [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The bill provides for fines and imprisonment for up to five years for "seduc[ing], encourag[ing], promot[ing] another person of the same gender to engage into sexual activities" in what would be considered a second degree felony. The proposed legislation has passed [JURIST report] the Liberian Senate [official website] and is currently before the House of Representatives. If the legislation becomes law many expect that further deterioration of the rights of gay and lesbian communities in Liberia. It was further reported that an amendment explicitly prohibiting same-sex marriage has also proposed. The OHCHR pointed out that the new draft legislation would also have negative effects on the most vulnerable groups, such as people with HIV, sex workers or refugees who may face discrimination and possible violence. The UN body stressed that Liberia has an obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [OHCHR materials], which prohibits enacting laws that criminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults thereby violating individuals' rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination.

Homosexuality and same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] are controversial issues in many African countries and around the world. In June Uganda [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] announced [JURIST report] that it will ban at least 38 non-governmental organizations that are accused of promoting gay rights and recruiting children to homosexuality. In February Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] had condemned [JURIST report] the shut down of an LGBT workshop by advocacy group Freedom and Roam, declaring it illegal and trying to arrest the leader. That same month Uganda had reintroduced [JURIST report] legislation that would make certain homosexual activities punishable by death. In contrast Malawi [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] President Joyce Banda in May announced a proposal [JURIST report] to decriminalize homosexual acts. In January UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] said [JURIST report] in a statement to the African Union Summit that Africa must honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] by ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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