Behind the Mask LGBT African website
Republic of Liberia
-head of state: President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
-state: multi party
-population: 3,042,004 (July 2006 est.)
-independence: from Britain in 1847
-languages: English 20% (official), some 20 ethnic group languages
-religion: indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%
-currency: Liberian dollar (LRD)A
Status of homosexuality: illegal
-age of consent: 16
-laws covering homosexual activity: Section 14.74, ‘Voluntary Sodomy’ of the Penal Law provides that a person who engages in deviate sexual intercourse under circumstances not stated in Section 14.72 or 14.73 has committed a first degree misdemeanour.
-Accordingly, Gays (homosexuals/lesbians) are individuals (males/females) who engage in deviate sexual intercourse with their sex mates or members of the opposite sex. Gay, being synonymous or close to Sodomy, is defined by the Penal Law of Liberia, as a deviate sexual activity and is therefore considered an offence under Liberian laws. (source: The Status of Gays in The Republic of Liberia/ILGA)
-background information and government attitudes: "From our study, the Liberian society frowns on or rejects such acts for the mere fact that such acts are immoral, unchristian, uncultural and unhealthy.
While it is true that there are Gays in Liberia, such people operate underground. They are believed to be residing in concession areas and cities. Members of the Gay society carry on their activities under the thick curtain of darkness, in secret, for fear that if it becomes public knowledge, they could be arrested, prosecuted, ostracized, ex-communicated and ridiculed by their non-gay friends, families and society at large." (source: The Status of Gays in The Republic of Liberia/ILGA)
4 Doctor practices what his faith preaches 9/09 (non-gay background story)
June 26, 2008
Homoglobia: Out in Africa-
If you thought you had it tough growing up, try being young and gay or lesbian in Liberia
By Jess Langley
If you thought you had it tough growing up, try being young and gay or lesbian in Liberia.
" I’m more nervous than a go-go dancer at a Madonna audition,” quips Samuel down the line in a mellow West African accent. “The dancing queens are fired up and we’re ready to go!”
It’s karaoke night in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, and I’m bumping down Tubman Boulevard in a rattly Land Cruiser. Dressed 1980s punk style, I’ve applied safety pins to my clothes, written ‘love’ on my knuckles, and wound a studded belt around my neck.
A Nigerian peacekeeper cocks his head at the next checkpoint. I lift my dark glasses to give him a smile, and he nods and waves me through, one finger on the trigger of his assault rifle.
“ You see, it works,” proclaims Emma, dressed in skater pants, her hair in tight braids. She flexes a wiry bicep covered in a blue biro tattoo of a Chinese dragon, painstakingly copied from a pirated DVD. “When you grow up, the bad men start to come behind you. And so it’s better to be a boy. They leave you be.”
Emma is 16 years old, or so the evidence suggests. She tells strangers she’s 13, and her small frame doesn’t betray her.
“ You do that,” I tell her. “You keep telling people you’re 13. It will stop people wanting to marry you.”
She gives a knowing nod and a smile. In a recent government survey, 92 per cent of Liberian women reported experiencing some form of sexual violence. Emma’s ambiguous gender is a force field.
I’ve spent a year in Monrovia, and we’ve formed a motley crew. In the driveway of my heavily fortified compound we laugh and break coconuts as brown-uniformed guards watch on. The coconuts bounce off the concrete driveway in unexpected directions like errant footballs. When one cracks, Samuel’s dark muscles ripple as he drives his fingers into the wedge to prise the green husk from the precious nut inside.
Samuel and Emma enter my compound on a daily basis. Emma lives with her grandma in a tarpaulin-roofed shack outside my gate. We do homework together. I’m a terrible educationalist and Emma seems dyslexic, but it’s a good excuse to feed her a hot meal.
The neighbours see Samuel come and go with Hans, my neighbour. As he walks the laneway of corrugated-iron dwellings to visit his older German lover, Samuel runs the gauntlet of sideways glances. Samuel tells Emma to be careful too, coming and going to my house. He doesn’t want her to attract the same whispering suspicions.
There are an estimated 1.5 million people in Monrovia. The average life expectancy is less than 45 and 23 per cent of babies born will not reach their fifth birthday. Reminders of a brutal civil war stagger down potholed streets in the forms of blind beggars and amputees.
Gay liberation exists only on hotjocks.com and hi5, delivered via a heart-breakingly slow modem.
We take a break from Whitney, Elton and ‘My Sharona’ in the karaoke lounge, and celebrate a queer New Year’s Eve over a bottle of whiskey in a backyard by a swamp. In a city with no running water and no mains electricity, we’re lucky to have a single naked bulb for light and a Nokia phone for music.
“ We don’t want to attract attention,” says another friend, Jojo, as he leans against the chest of his partner of five years.
Over the course of a year we’ve come to love each other; we’re a family. Emma’s grandma has a boyfriend now; he eats the fried fish and rice that she puts on the table each day, and Emma comes to me thinner than before, despite the foil-wrapped food parcels I send home with her each night.
Samuel’s older lover seems to be getting gruffer and more down-beat as the stress of his job takes hold.
“14 years in Africa. I must be crazy,” Hans mutters in a thick Bavarian accent, shaking his head like a condemned man.
I try to be a good role model in the time we have together. I tell Emma she never needs to marry; she never even needs to kiss a boy. I don’t kiss boys. I have my best friend Sally and we live together and might have a family one day.
Emma nods, tucking her hands into the pockets of her hoodie. I show her photos on the internet of drag kings, and a shot of me with a fake moustache.
Emma brings a doe-eyed teenage girl to my farewell party, and reaches up and whispers in my ear: “This is Bindu, my girlfriend.”
Samuel has tears in his eyes as I drop him at home for the last time. He gives me a string of plastic beads, still warm from his chest, and says, “Until I met you I never thought I could be happy to be gay.”
Jess Langley is a Melbourne-based writer and humanitarian worker.
The Liberian Journal
August 26, 2008
Tecumseh Roberts Was Killed Because He Was Gay…Prince Johnson At TRC
by James Kpargoi, Jr.
Monrovia – Popular musician Tecumseh Roberts was executed by Samuel Varnii, the deputy leader of the defunct INPFL, the head of the former warring faction Prince Johnson said. Mr. Johnson said Varnii shot Roberts (now deceased) in his (Johnson) presence because, according to him, he was involved in homosexuality. Mr. Johnson, now senior senator of Nimba County, said Mr. Roberts was engaged in the distribution of rice in his control territories on Bushrod Island during the heydays of the civil conflict until he was discovered to be a “gay.” Johnson said when Roberts was arrested he was in the company of a Caucasian man who was later released.
He has been testifying in continuation of the ongoing Institutional and Thematic Inquiry Hearings of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia where a mammoth crowd turned up Tuesday to witness the proceedings. Mr. Johnson said following the discovery of musician Roberts, a stream of blood flowed down his pants leading to the confirmation of suspicion by Gen. Varnii that the musician was a “homosexual.” “Gen. Varnii ordered Tecumseh Roberts to take off his trouser and when he (latter) took off his trouser, it was discovered that his butt [anal] was rotten. The man whole anus was rotten,” the senator told commissioners.
Following the discovery that he was a homosexual, Johnson said, Gen. Varnii shot and killed Mr. Roberts. Meanwhile, former People’s Redemption Council (PRC) junta member, Larry Borteh, then Youth and Sports Minister Fred Blay, and AFL officer Roosevelt Savice, were executed for conniving with beleaguered President Samuel K. Doe, Mr. Johnson told commissioners of the TRC. Johnson said both Blay and Savice were caught communicating with President Doe and executed. Borteh, he said was arrested for conniving with the embattled president, was tried by a rebel tribunal and executed.
Under the theme: “Understanding the Conflict Through its Principal Events and Actors,” the ongoing hearings will address the root causes of the conflict, including its military and political dimensions. The hearings are focused on events between 1979 and 2003 and the national and external actors that helped to shape those events. The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 peace agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation,” and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.
Liberia: Information on the Treatment of Homosexuals, Persons with Mental Illness, Liberians of American Descent, and Criminal Deportees in Liberia
1. What is the status and societal treatment of homosexuals in Liberia?
2. How are people with mental illness treated in Liberia?
3. How are Liberians of American descent who have lived for many years in the United States treated upon return to Liberia?
4. Does Liberia imprison criminal deportees who are returned to Liberia from the United States?
Liberia is still in the process of recovering from a brutal seven-year civil war that ended in 1996. One million Liberians remained refugees in 1999, and difficulties with repatriation from neighboring countries continued (HRW 1999); "15,000 to 20,000 children had directly participated in violent acts, were exposed to fighting, and were themselves brutally victimized" during the civil war (HRW 1999); 25,000 women were raped during the war (Johnson 28 July 1997); "torture, ill-treatment and other human rights violations continued to be carried out by the security forces" during the year 2000 (AI 2001); and there have been "five serious outbreaks of fighting since the 1997 elections" (HRW 2001). Under these conditions, the resources to provide support to individuals with psychological or other problems returning from the U.S. appear to be very limited. At the same time, other pressing priorities might limit the potential for Liberian authorities to target or discriminate against individuals returning from the U.S. who are not seen as a direct political threat.
The Status And Societal Treatment Of Homosexuals In Liberia
Homosexuality is illegal in Liberia. Liberian criminal law, Section 14.74 (1976 Revised Liberian Statutes) provides that a person guilty of "voluntary sodomy" has committed a first-degree misdemeanor. Voluntary sodomy is defined as engaging in "deviate sexual intercourse under circumstances not stated in Section 14.72 or 14.73" (which cover "involuntary sodomy," including cases of forced sexual relations, sex with a minor or a person of diminished capacity, or by duress or fraud). "Deviate sexual intercourse" between people of the same sex is thus an offense under Liberian laws (ILGA 1999; Behind the Mask Oct. 1997).
A study of the status of homosexuals in Liberia, carried out by a Liberian human rights organization, found:
"Liberian society frowns on or rejects [homosexual] acts for the mere fact that such acts are immoral, unchristian, uncultural and unhealthy . . . While it is true that there are Gays in Liberia, such people operate underground. They are believed to be residing in concession areas and cities. Members of the Gay society carry on their activities under the thick curtain of darkness, in secret, for fear that if it becomes public knowledge, they could be arrested, prosecuted, ostracized, ex-communicated and ridiculed by their non-gay friends, families and society at large" (Behind the Mask Oct. 1997).
The study notes that,
"For the first time in the history of Liberia, the issue of Gay-life was publicly raised at the ILA [Interim Legislative Assembly] where a presidential nominee was rejected by members of that Assembly because the nominee was allegedly considered to be a renowned Gay" (Behind the Mask Oct. 1997).
A representative of the National Endowment for Democracy confirmed the atmosphere of discrimination that exists toward homosexuals in Liberia, and their need to remain ‘underground’ to avoid potential acts of violence toward them (NED 28 Aug. 2001).
Treatment Of Persons With Mental Illness In Liberia
According to the U.S. State Department’s human rights report for Liberia for year 2000:
"As a result of the civil war, a large number of persons have permanent disabilities, in addition to those disabled by accident or illness. It is illegal to discriminate against the disabled; however, in practice they do not enjoy equal access to public buildings. No laws mandate accessibility to public buildings or services. Disabled persons face discrimination particularly in rural areas. Deformed babies often are abandoned" (U.S. DOS Feb. 2001).
According to the National Endowment for Democracy’s representative for Liberia, a person with a serious mental illness would have little opportunity for treatment in Liberia on account of the destruction of health care infrastructure during the country’s recent civil war and the number of injured people requiring treatment. An individual’s best hope for care and support would be through the family network, if such existed, but little aid could be expected from the state or from non- governmental organizations due to lack of resources and other priorities (NED 28 Aug. 2001). A person with a serious mental illness would not likely be targeted or persecuted simply on account of the illness, but if a lack of resources and support pushed the individual toward crime, e.g., stealing, little sympathy could be expected in a climate where ‘street justice’ is common toward those caught committing crimes (NED 28 Aug. 2001).
Treatment Upon Return To Liberia Of Liberians Of American Descent Who Have Lived For Many Years In The U.S.
The current president of Liberia, Charles G. Taylor, who came to power in elections in 1997, is of part Americo-Liberian descent. At this time, there does not appear to be a policy of discrimination toward Liberians of American descent who make up 5 percent of the population and played a dominant role in Liberian politics up to 1980 (U.S. DOS Feb. 2001; DOS Feb. 2000). However, the president is quite unpopular, according to the NED representative, and hostility toward Taylor could be directed against those identified with his policies or with his ethnic background. However, no specific examples of this form of discrimination were given (NED 28 Aug. 2001).
According to a Liberian Embassy official in Washington, Liberians returning to the country from the United States are normally welcomed with open arms, as a ‘source of inspiration’ and possible gifts. So, the fact of having lived in the U.S. for a long period is not viewed as negative (Embassy of Liberia 27 Aug. 2001). However, the NED representative noted that a person returning from the U.S. empty- handed, having failed to take advantage of the great opportunities offered, might be a possible target of scorn and derision (NED 28 Aug. 2001).
Treatment Upon Return To Liberia Of Liberian Nationals Who Are Criminal Deportees Returned From The U.S.
According to an official at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C., if a Liberian is deported to Liberia after serving a sentence for a crime in the United States that individual is a free citizen and will not be detained or imprisoned by Liberian authorities upon return (Embassy of Liberia 27 Aug. 2001).
This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.
Amnesty International (AI). Annual Report 2001, "Liberia" (London: Amnesty International, 2001). [Internet] URL: http://www.web.amnesty.org/web/ar2001.nsf/webafrcountries/LIBERIA?OpenDocument (Accessed 16 August 2001).
Behind the Mask (A website on gay and lesbian affairs in (southern) Africa). October 1997. The Status Of Gays In The Republic Of Lideria (A study carried out by Legal Aid Incorporated, a Liberian human rights institution). [Internet] URL: http://www.mask.org.za/sections/AfricaPerCountry/liberia.html (Accessed 16 August 2001).
Embassy of Liberia. 27 August 2001. Telephone interview with Embassy official.
Human Rights Watch (HRW). World Report 2001, "Liberia" (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2001). [Internet] URL: http://www.hrw.org/wr2k1/africa/liberia.html (Accessed 28 August 2001).
Human Rights Watch (HRW). World Report 1999, "Liberia" (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999). [Internet] URL: http://www.hrw.org/worldreport99/africa/liberia.html (Accessed 28 August 2001).
International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). 1999. World Legal Survey, "Liberia." [Internet] URL: http://www.ilga.org/Information/legal_survey/africa/liberia.htm (Accessed 16 August 2001).
Johnson, Attes. 28 July 1997. Inter Press Service, World News, "Liberia-Human Rights: Picking up the Pieces after the War." [Internet] URL: http://www.oneworld.org/ips2/jul/liberia.html (Accessed 16 August 2001).
National Endowment for Democracy (NED), (Washington, DC). 28 August 2001. Telephone interview with representative for Liberia.
United States Department of State (U.S. DOS), Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. February 2001. Country Reports On Human Rights Practices For 2000, "Liberia." [Internet] URL: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/af/index.cfm?docid=845 (Accessed 16 August 2001).
United States Department of State (U.S. DOS), Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. February 2000. Country Reports On Human Rights Practices For 1999, "Liberia." [Internet] URL: http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/liberia.html (Accessed 16 August 2001).
September 21, 2009 – The Los Angeles Times
Doctor practices what his faith preaches
Cedars-Sinai cardiologist Dr. Lawrence Czer makes regular trips to Africa with his Christian church to help the needy by providing free medical care.
by Carla Hall
On his medical missions to Africa, Dr. Lawrence Czer has dealt with poverty, lack of electricity, bad accommodations — and military checkpoints. In Sierra Leone, Czer and his team were sometimes stopped by rifle-toting soldiers who simply wouldn’t let them through.
"They’ll just have you stand there and you’ll see other people going through," Czer said. The medical team refused to give the soldiers any money. All they could do was try to cajole them. "Or shame them," the doctor said. "We tell them, ‘Listen, we’re giving free medical care to your people. Now, what are you doing holding us up from doing that?’ " It worked. For more than a decade, Czer, an otherwise genteel, soft-spoken cardiologist, has been a key part of the medical teams organized and sent by his church, the Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica, to some of the poorest, most war-ravaged countries in Africa. The trips, which began with a mission to Gambia in 1998, are now made at least twice a year.
The heart is the doctor’s specialty. Czer, pronounced like "Caesar," is medical director of the heart transplant program at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. But in Africa, he functions more like an overburdened general practitioner, seeing up to 100 people a day with maladies that include broken bones, malaria, parasites, serious burns and high blood pressure. Czer was raised Catholic in the San Fernando Valley and educated by nuns and brothers. As an adult he joined the Protestant evangelical Lighthouse Church, an outpost of the Foursquare denomination. He and his wife were drawn to the church’s search for a "practical Christianity," he said. And that is what motivates him to make the trips to Africa.
"We don’t stay in great hotels. We’re with the people. We don’t exclude anybody. We see the poorest of the poor. We lay hands on people. We touch people. We tell them we love them," he said. "We think that’s what, probably, Jesus would do if he were walking the earth at this point."
In addition to Gambia and Sierra Leone, the church’s medical expeditions have traveled to Burundi, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The fall mission next month — which Czer will probably not be on — travels back to Gambia. The church’s bigger spring trip is often to Sierra Leone, where medical team members have set up their temporary clinics in several towns. Beyond medical services, the church has provided expertise and raised funds to build schools, churches and water projects.
The medical teams make it a point to revisit communities. "We like to know the people, establish relationships, get to know the country," said Czer, 58, sitting in his small office at Cedars. His desk is stacked with papers. Nearby is a framed photo of his seven children, all wearing airy white. His older children, as well as his wife, Kari, a kindergarten teacher, have at times accompanied him on his trips.
"Lawrence is the most understated guy you will ever meet," said Robert Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician, fellow Lighthouse Church member and medical coordinator of the Africa visits. Czer is the counterpart, for adult patients, to Hamilton and other pediatricians on the trips, where often half those served are children. "He’s so good at African medicine," Hamilton said. "He provides a tremendous ballast for the trips."
The church missions focus on places where medical help is most needed. Hamilton called the needs of post-war Sierra Leone "mind boggling." "When you go to Africa, you kind of grow up in some ways: ‘Oh, this is what the world is like,’ " said Hamilton, 56. But they also specifically choose places where there are Christian churches to help the teams set up, explain the lay of the land and advise on potential dangers.
Many of the people in the countries they visit are Muslims or followers of traditional African religions. That stops the medical missionaries neither from treating them nor from teaching them about Christianity — though not necessarily simultaneously. "What we’re trying to do is demonstrate Christianity," said Czer. "We’re not actively proselytizing. Our job is to bring dignity — and let the local pastor do the rest."
Rob Scribner, the pastor of Czer’s church, generally does not go along on the medical missions but makes trips at other times, during which he preaches to all comers. When he asks people if they want to be prayed for, they often readily agree, no matter their religion, he says. "They have so little, they have nothing. They’re thinking ‘Am I going to eat?’ We’ve been sending rice for years to our churches so we could feed people," Scribner said.
Hamilton estimates that each mission costs about $35,000 in medications. The participants, who volunteer their time, generally pay for their own airfare and lodging. The church picks up the cost of medicines and supplies, holding fundraisers to help. A recently opened thrift store (at 1727 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica) provides some funds as well. As a young couple, Czer and his wife, Kari, who was raised Greek Orthodox, "were seeking a better way to see what God was saying," he said. He tried her religion but "I just could not understand the liturgy," he said.
Now married 30 years, the couple found in the Lighthouse Church more emphasis on reading the Bible and less on the "ritual and the big buildings" of their previous churches, Czer said. He misses some of those rituals. But Czer said of the Lighthouse Church, "For what we were going through at the time, it really addressed our needs." They joined the church more than 20 years ago.
"I wouldn’t be doing this, probably, if it weren’t for reading the Bible and trying to understand what God wants us to do," Czer said of his medical forays to Africa. "I wouldn’t have that depth of understanding."