By Gboko Stewart, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monrovia-Fashion model, Tarus P. Cole, has riled social media over comments that most Liberian men are gay.
“I can say—I’m not afraid to say it—99 percent of Liberian men—they are gay,” he said, though he did not provide the reliance for his statement.
In a live Facebook interview with the government-owned Liberian News Agency (LINA), Cole, 24, said many Liberian men are closeted due to social pressure.
“And they’re hiding under the closet because society is going to look at them differently.”
The video has been taken down following a barrage of homophobic comments and threats. But Cole, CEO of Lamotar Modeling Agency, said in a brief interview with journalRAGE, following the airing of the video, he is tired with the façade and the bullying.
“I was just tired of living my life for people and I do believe it was the best way,” he said.
The video has ignited a firestorm on Facebook and Twitter and has been taken down by LINA. Some have come in defense of the model while others have openly and subtly threatened him.
Mohammed Bamba Jr., the administrative assistant to the Mayor of the City of Monrovia, stated radical moves should be employed against the LGBT community. “I think it’s time we found an Anti-LGBT Movement in Liberia,” he posted on Twitter.
Identifying as gay is not illegal in the country. However, it could spur violence on a person who does so. The current law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults.
LGBTI persons continue to record instances of assaults, harassment, and hate speech by community members, according to the 2019 U.S. State Department report on Liberia.
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) activists reported LGBTI persons faced difficulty in obtaining redress for crimes committed against them, including at police stations because those accused of criminal acts used the victim’s LGBTI status in defense of their crime,” the report stated.
Atty. Mmonbeydo N. Harrell, a Liberian lawyer and human rights activist, says Cole’s statement is back by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the country is a signatory to.
“Anyone may make a statement and if anyone feels strongly about the statement being made, he/she has the right to equally make his/her statement to refute the previous statement,” she said.
“Article 19 of the ICCPR and the UHDR recognizes the right to freedom of expression. Our laws (Title 26, 1LCLR, Chapter 19, Section19.1a-c) protects the right of privacy of persons living in this Republic. What one does or does not do in his bedroom/private place is not anyone’s concern.”
Cole says he has received threats from many places since the interview. “I’m so stressed.”