The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) in collaboration with the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INCHR)and the Liberia Initiative for the Promotion of Rights, Identity, Diversity and Equality (LIPRIDE), have launched a report aimed at flagging human rights issues to contribute to the reduction of violence, discrimination, inequalities and exclusion experienced by people of diverse Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGIR).
The objective of the launch is to officially present the validated and finalized SOGIR report, including findings and recommendations on key human rights challenges experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Liberia. Liberia is a country with a cultural orientation that eschews same-sex marriage. Its Constitution does not also condone the idea of same-sex marriage and other LGBT activities. No one, however, is allowed to trample on the right of any resident residing in the country.
The report noted that there are discriminatory laws in force in Liberia, including Section 14.74 of the Penal Law of 1978 that criminalizes consensual same-sex relations. According to the rights institutions, these legal provisions also have a wider social effect by creating a permissive environment for discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and violence against people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.
Additionally, the report noted that people face discrimination in employment, health, housing, education, and access to essential services based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
It, however, notes that there is a threat of arbitrary arrest and detention faced by LGBT people and that many complainants have faced antagonism and intimidation from law enforcement officials when trying to report attacks.
Even though there is no instance mentioned of any attack on gay and lesbians to cite the report highlighted the negative political and public perceptions, as well as incitement to hatred or violence towards the LGBT community, including in media coverage.
“This is why many LGBT people in Liberia are living in isolation and fear of being shunned by family and community members,” the report indicates.
The report welcomes the fact that the National Human Rights Action Plan and the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Planmaker reference people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, but calls for stronger legal and policy measures to protect individuals from violence and discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The report makes a number of recommendations for Liberia to implement its international and regional human rights obligations, including to review the penal code and repeal Section 14.74; to protect persons from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; to ensure prompt and effective investigations and provide adequate remedy and protection for victims and witnesses of homophobic and transphobic violence and ill-treatment; to ensure people are not arrested based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and to prioritize training for law enforcement officials, the judiciary and health care personnel on human rights of persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.
Other recommendations of the report include the sensitization of traditional leaders, district commissioners, Government employees, law enforcement officials, the judiciary, the media, and others concerning the adverse effects of homophobic and transphobic discrimination, violence, and exclusion. It also highlighted that human rights defenders should be allowed to do their work on these issues without fear of threats, harassment or restrictions.
The report findings and recommendations are intended to strengthen the evidence and enhance the capacity of the Government, the INCHR, CSOs, and other stakeholders to address the plight of persons with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, and increase awareness of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination. The launch of the SOGIR report was held with representatives of relevant Government Ministries, Agencies and Commissions, the international community, and members of the LGBT-community in attendance.