President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

A petition has been launched to recall the President of Liberia’s Nobel Peace prize if she signs a new law banning same-sex marriage in her country.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President in 2005 and took office in January 2006, becoming the first elected female head of state in Africa.

In 2011, Sirleaf was awarded the Peace Prize, jointly with two other women, “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.

Now she is embroiled in a furore over efforts by her country’s parliament to further criminalise homosexuality. This week, the Liberian Senate unanimously passed a bill to ban same-sex marriage in the country.

For it to become law Sirleaf would need to sign it. In March she said that she would veto any law that attempted to change the legal status of homosexuality, either by legalising it or further criminalising it, but activists fear she may cave in to pressure to approve the bill.

South African lawyer and activist Coenie Kukkuk has created an online petition addressed to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee and the Prime Minister of Norway calling for Sirleaf to be stripped of her Nobel award if she does not veto the bill.

“This petition is to hold her to [her] promise and if she does not veto the Bill and signs it, that her Nobel Peace Prize of 2011 be revoked and that she has to repay the prize money,” reads the petition, adding “She has to live up to her country’s mantra of ‘The Love Of Liberty Brought Us Here’. Liberia of all places should know what Liberty means – and that it includes LGBTI people.”

While homosexuality is not specifically barred in Liberia, consensual sodomy between adults is illegal and carries penalties of up to three years in prison.

Another bill is making its way through the legislature that aims to specifically bar sex between members of the same sex.

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