There is good news and bad news from Liberia, which is emerging after two successive civil wars that left approximately 250,000 people dead. A small movement has organized around men who have sex with men (MSM), HIV/AIDS and gay rights in the West African nation.
First the bad news: As soon as tomorrow the Liberian senate could consider a proposal to strengthen the nation's existing anti-gay laws. The bill would make homosexuality a first degree felony and punishable by up to 10 years in prison, reports the South African Press Association and the AP. The bill was submitted by Sen. Jewel Taylor, former president Charles Taylor's ex-wife.
The current law considers gay relationships a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to a year in prison. If passed by the Senate, the strengthened bill would then go the House and then the president.
Charles Taylor is currently being tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on an 11-count indictment for war crimes. His wife is restricted from leaving the country.
Liberia is one of at least 38 of Africa's 54 nations that currently have laws penalizing same-sex relations or even sexuality. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. South Africa is also the only African nation to guarantee marriage equality.
Liberia has a historic relationship with the United States dating back almost 200 years. The nation was founded by freed American slaves in 1820, Washington is its closest trade partner and it uses the US dollar as its national currency.