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Liberia considers 2 antigay measures

MONROVIA, Liberia - Two bills introduced into the legislature would make Liberia the latest African nation to punish homosexuality with possible imprisonment.

Liberian law currently does not explicitly address homosexuality. “Voluntary sodomy’’ is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, but there have been no recent convictions, according to the most recent US State Department Human Rights Report.

A bill introduced by Representative Clarence Massaquoi, which is currently being reviewed in committee, makes “same-sex sexual practices’’ a second-degree felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment. It also would apply to anyone who “seduces, encourages [or] promotes another person of the same gender to engage in sexual activities.’’

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“Homosexuality is not part of our existence as a people,’’ Massaquoi said in an interview at his legislative office. “We have never been like that.’’

It comes on the heels of a bill introduced early in February by Senator Jewel Taylor making same-sex marriage a first-degree felony, with sentences ranging up to 10 years in prison.

Members of the underground gay and lesbian community say that their security situation has worsened and that they have recently been subjected to regular threats and occasional violence.

“Liberia has made considerable progress in consolidating democracy over the last five years, but the proposed bill to increase penalties for consensual same-sex activity is a regrettable step backward,’’ said Corinne Dufka, Human Rights Watch’s senior West Africa researcher.