Last Updated 2 December 2021

Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is located on the West African coast, most of the country is covered by dense tropical forests. Liberia was the only colony founded by the United States of America, and the Liberian flag is influenced by this inheritance. A military coup in 1980 led the country into a long phase of war and instability. It was only in 2003 that a peace agreement was signed.

At around 5.1 million, Liberia’s population consists primarily of Christians, with 85.6% identifying as Christian. Islam is the next largest religious group at 12.2% of the population. 1.5% of the population claim no religion, 0.6% of the population hold indigenous religious beliefs, and less than 1% of the population are members of other religious groups.1

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

The Constitution2 guarantees all inhabitants freedom of thought, conscience and religion as well as freedom of expression and the right to knowledge (Articles 14 and 15). The government generally respects these rights in practice. President Weah appointed the first Muslim religious advisor to the President in March of 2019.3 This advisor serves along with two Christian advisors, and informs and advises the President of topics relevant to the Muslim community.4 This advisor announced in 2019 that an agreement had been reached by the government that official programs would include a Christian prayer and a Muslim prayer.5

The government persuaded public businesses and markets to remain closed Sundays and on Christmas. Only few Muslim-owned shops are permitted to operate Sundays with limited opening hours.6

In 2015 a proposal to make Christianity the official state religion was introduced, then eventually shelved by President Sirleaf.7

Education and children’s rights

Education in Liberia was seriously affected and damaged by both Liberian Civil Wars between 1989 and 2003. According to the education database most of the primary schools are operated by churches or Christian missionaries. General public schools offer religious education, but do not require it.8 The state subsidizes private schools where most of them are affiliated with Christian or Muslim organizations.9

In the spring of 2021, a six year old girl was expelled from her school after being labelled a witch, and was told by the school that she would only be allowed back in once she was found by a church or pastor to be “free from witchcraft practices.”10 Momolu Dorley, President of Humanists Liberia, suggests that accusations of witchcraft are a common issue in Liberia, and called on the Liberian government to take a stand against such accusations.11

Sexual violence occurs at schools in the form of sexual violation, sexual coercion, and transactional sex.12 UNICEF Liberia states that ‘sex for grades and ‘sex for school fees’ is an ordinary practice in Liberia.13

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not currently criminalized in Liberia. President Sirleaf signed the Domestic Violence bill in 2018 which banned the practice of FGM on girls younger than 18, but this ban expired in early 2019.14 According to Marie Goreth Nizigam, the UN Women country representative from Liberia, half of the female population between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to FGM.15

The Inheritance Law of 2003 bans females under 16 from marriage.16 Yet according to UNICEF, 40% of girls are married in childhood.17

Family, community and society

According to Human Rights Watch,18

“In post-war Liberia, family and the church play an especially important role in social welfare, communal life, socialization, and shaping social attitudes and moral ethics. “

LGBTI+ rights

Sexual minorities are publicly discriminated against in Liberia. In 2012 Liberian lawmakers introduced new laws against homosexuals.19 Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,20 the Nobel Peace Prize laureate from 2012, defended the anti-gay laws and emphasised the persistence of colonial laws and traditional values.21

In the same year, an anti-gay group distributed fliers with a list of gay rights supporters. One of the activists had threatened to “get them [LGBTI+ individuals] one by one”.22

Same-sex sexual behavior was criminalized in Liberia under the Penal Law of 1978.23 According to a 2020 country report on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Rights in Liberia created by the UNHR Office of the High Commissioner, public opinion of LBGTI+ individuals is largely negative, making Liberia a ‘hostile climate’ for these individuals.24

“Tradition and religion strongly influence beliefs, practices, values and norms and as a result many Liberians hold negative and pejorative views of LGBT people.”25

Reports indicate that religious and community leaders, political figures, and media outlets have all contributed to the discrimination experienced by the LGBTI+ community.26 Religious leaders and politicians have reportedly sought to label homosexual activity as “un-African” and anti-thetical to “traditional values”, and are known to promote harmful practices such as so-called “Conversion therapy”.27;

Women’s Rights

Most Liberian women and girls have limited access to sexual and reproductive health resources.28 As of 2016, only a quarter of sexually active girls and young women of the ages 15 to 29 were using a ‘modern contraceptive method’.29

Sexual violence including rape has been an issue in Liberia since at least the 14 year civil war that ended in 2003, in which rape was a commonly used tactic of war.30 On 11 September 2020, President George Weah declared rape a national emergency.31 This came after a dramatic increase in rape cases recorded during the pandemic in which cases rose by 50%.32

Religion and Ebola

In December 2013, the Ebola virus spread from Guinea and reached Liberia in March 2014. Liberia has proven fertile ground for conspiracy theories related to the virus. A bishop of the Christ Incorporated Church, Edward Adjei blamed the outbreak of the virus on witchcraft.33 He proposed to solve the problem through exorcism.34

“The presidential building is our country’s gateway to Heaven, through which our leaders speak to God, but it has been desecrated. Now nobody speaks to God through the palace any more, so He has turned his back on our country. And when that happens, we lose protection against things like Ebola.”35

The Liberian Observer gave an account in July 2014 of a meeting of bishops who converged to discuss the Church’s response to the epidemic. They endorsed the following resolution:

“That God is angry with Liberia, and that Ebola is a plague. Liberians have to pray and seek God’s forgiveness over the corruption and immoral acts (such as homosexualism, etc.) that continue to penetrate our society. As Christians, we must repent and seek God’s forgiveness…”36;

Freedom of Expression, Advocacy of Humanist Values

Article 15A of Liberia’s Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, stating “Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by the government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution.”37

In June of 2019, a protest criticizing President Weah took place in Monrovia, the nation’s capital. That day, access to social media was impacted by the Liberian government.38 This included blocking sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Whatsapp.39 There have also been several attacks on private radio stations that expressed criticism of President Weah’s administration, including three between January 2019 and March 2019.40

As of April 2020, Humanists Liberia is a state-recognized organization.41


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