Monrovia — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Thursday made a very rare comment on homosexuality, saying that it was a matter of choice, and that it was not illegal to be a homosexual in Liberia.
“Liberia has no law that restricts the rights of individuals to their own choices.
Only when it is a threat to national security do we have a law that has restrictions. The freedom of choice is extended to all Liberians” – President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf meets Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Roberts International Airport early on Thursday
No law legalizes or bans homosexuality in Liberia; however, it is still seen as a taboo in Liberia.
Though homosexuals enjoy relative peaceful coexistence, they do so in seclusion, with efforts being made to disgrace them or even kill them in some quarters.
“Liberia has no law that restricts the rights of individuals to their own choices,” she said in response to a Canadian journalist who asked what was her government doing to protect members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT).
“Only when it is a threat to national security do we have a law that has restrictions,” she added.
“The freedom of choice is extended to all Liberians.”
President Sirleaf’s comment sound different from her previous stance on gay right. She’s on record for saying during a press conference in 2012.
“We like ourselves just the way we are.”
“We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve.”
The visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was understandable that the rights of the LGBT community were met with different receptions, hailing President Sirleaf for protecting the rights of all Liberians.
“The fact is countries have different paces of evolution in terms of recognizing and enshrining those rights (human rights and rights of the homosexual community), but we can see that there has been tremendous progress in many different areas,” Prime Minister Trudeau said.
“I know that President Sirleaf has taken very strong and clear leadership on the issue of female genital mutilation. That is extremely important when you want to talk about women and girls full right and full opportunity to succeed.”
H said he understood that “culture can be a challenge in pushing but doing the right thing is something that people shouldn’t shy from.”
Prime Minister Trudeau announced a US$10 million investment in West Africa, with US$1 million towards Liberia’s presidential and representative elections in 2017 through UNDP and US$1.5 million towards the UN Global Acceleration Instrument on Women, Peace and Security, and Humanitarian Action.
“Canada continues to be a substantive partner to development here in Liberia and we look forward to continuing to engage with that in the future,” he said.
President Sirleaf said the visit by Trudeau was sign that the Liberian-Canadian friendship was being strengthened following the Liberian civil war.
She said Liberia “has continued over the years to receive support from Canada through other means, through the multilateral agencies, was one of the countries that supported the three most affected countries in our Ebola difficulties.”
She added that both nations share common value on certain things that enable them to collaborate through international bodies such as the United Nations.
“We also enjoy the support through multilateral agencies supported by Canada such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank,” she said.
Elections and Women’s Rights
Canada and Liberia have a very strong relationship, one that is made stronger by our shared belief that when women and girls are full participants in the social, economic and political lives of our two countries we will all succeed. The women played in bringing the civil war to an end and helping Liberia rebuild is an inspiration to the rest of the world.
Prime Minister Trudeau said it women participated more in the democratic governance of countries.
Minister Trudeau and President Sirleaf had a closed door discussion at her temporary offices at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which the Canadian head of government announced that both he and President Sirleaf had reaffirmed their commitment with forging ahead of their bilateral goals of advancing global peace and security, and advance women’s rights.
First, Canada will increase support to the Global Acceleration Instrument for Women, Peace and Security, and Humanitarian Action, which works to expand the role that women are already playing in building and leading peace processes.
“Second, we are trying to do more to support Liberia during next year’s elections through the United Nations Development Programme’s Trust Fund.”
“We are hopeful that this support will include a special emphasis on encouraging greater participation of women, both as voters and candidates.
“Third, Canada will boost its support for the UN Women’s effort to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women in the region.”
“I am particularly, interested that more men and boys in can be encouraged to speak out in supporting the women and their families and their communities and help bring about an end to violence… ,” he added.
Prime Minister Trudeau added that the UNDP had the expertise to management the US$1 million for the Liberian elections and making sure that the elections are a success.
As part of his visit, Prime Minister Trudeau visited the Slip Way Community School and met with students as part of a program organized by the group Right to Play that is also being funded by Canada the local nongovernmental organization We Care Foundation.
“Education is something that is close to my heart both as a father and a former teacher.”
He said the visit to Liberia made him feel proud to be a feminist and reminded him of the power of “people who care about each come together to make a real difference in their communities and in their countries.”
Industry and Resources
Prime Minister Trudeau said Canada was willing to share its experience with Liberia in the extractive industry, helping the country create jobs, keeping environmental standards and protecting labor rights.
“That is the new model that we have to be very thoughtful about as we look at developing natural resources,” he said.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said it was already in the plan of the government to diversify the economic by investing more into agriculture and the investment in the service and other sectors aligned to the extractives.
We’ll like to see as many Canadian investors come out , discuss with us the potential for investments in those areas that are in harmony to their policies and their own experience,” President Sirleaf said.
“The potential is there; private sector is the key.”
Prime Minister Trudeau said Canada was very pleased to support the three worst affected countries during the Ebola crisis in 2014 and 2015 whose aftermath he affirmed is still lingering in the three countries today.
He said Canada’s international and local will to address global health crisis was unwavering, referencing Canada’s hosting of an international health conference, where the Global Fund collected US$13 billion dollars to combat malaria, HIV/AIDs and tuberculosis and end the three diseases by 2030.
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