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Nobel peace prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defends law criminalizing homosexuality (VIDEO)

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defended a law criminalizing homosexuality.

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Nobel peace prize winner and Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, defended her country's laws which criminalize homosexuality in an interview on March 19, 2012. Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who was with her, did not comment. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

During a joint interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defended a law that criminalizes homosexual acts, according to the Guardian.

Sirleaf said, "We like ourselves just the way we are," defending the laws proposed in her country.

Under the current legislation, "voluntary sodomy" could mean up to a year in prison, according to The Telegraph. However, two new laws have been proposed that would punish making sexual advances towards a person of the same sex with up to five years imprisonment and make gay marriage punishable with up to ten years in prison.

When asked about the proposed laws, Sirleaf implied that she would not want to decriminalize homosexuality, stating, "We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve," according to the Guardian.

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Blair, who was on a visit to Liberia on behalf of the Africa Convernance Initiative, refused to comment, stating that his current concerns were about "power, roads, jobs, delivery." He awkwardly dodged the question on whether good governance and human rights went hand-in-hand, saying, "I'm not giving you an answer on it."

The Huffington Post noted that Blair's reluctance to engage the issue was surprising given his record on gay rights while in office. During his time as the UK's prime minister, Blair introduced civil partnerships, lowered the age of consent for gay people and also advised the Vatican to re-evaluate its views on homosexuality.

The Telegraph noted that homosexuality is especially contentious on the African continent, with 37 countries outlawing it. African presidents have reacted angrily to suggestions that aid from the US and UK might in the future depend on the countries' treatments of homosexuals, and efforts by the Anglican church to embrace same-sex partnerships have caused rights between Western and African bishops.

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Here is the interview clip, courtesy of the Guardian:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120319/nobel-peace-prize-winner-ellen-johnson-sirleaf-defends-law-crimi