Liberia crackdown on LGBTI activists could signal long-term threat to rights

Elva Agbeyegbe, a prominent lesbian and founder of the Ghanaian LGBTQ group Unique, is among those facing charges of being part of an illegal society and being part of a criminal gang. So, what happened to Liberian based individuals who also identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI)?

After the 2017 crackdown, Liberian blogger Wehisha Browne claimed that activists who stood up for their LGBTI sisters and brothers were being targeted. “The HIV-positive Ghanaian non-governmental organization, the Chautauqua Network, which claims to represent all of Ghana’s queer community, continues to make promises to help Liberia’s LGBTQ community,” Browne wrote. “Every day, we are being sent messages offering us meetings or access to conferences held by various NGOs around the world.” Browne cited the case of Jamauer Bangura, a Liberian activist who was imprisoned in April 2018 after she testified in court that she had been thrown out of her church. “Like Ms. Bangura, Liberian NGOs that defend the rights of LGBTQ Africans could have helped people like Ms. Bangura but refuse to,” Browne wrote.

According to Daniel Opoku, a political science professor at the University of Liberia and a strong advocate for the rights of LGBTQ Liberians, those supposedly charitable organizations have in fact become targets for the government. “The LGBT movement wants its rights without being legal,” he says. “The government wants that. It’s all very clear.” But while many say these NGOs should not be called out for government backing, Opoku worries that their role in the fight for LGBTQ rights could lead to a reaction.

“The free speech and the media laws have resulted in [LGBT groups being] censored,” he says. He believes that the crackdown on Liberian activists is just one of many acts of harassment that has been used to silence those who stand for LGBTQ rights. “Here you have lesbian activists — they don’t have the courage to say what they want to say, and the same thing applies to men in the case of someone else who may be homosexual,” he says. “So, the right atmosphere and conditions exist for discrimination.”

Read the full story at UN Dispatch.


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