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Support Brave Sierra Leone LGBTI Activists

Support Brave Sierra Leone LGBTI Activists

The appearance of an LGBT activist on radio in Sierra Leone has led to a nasty, threatening, homophobic backlash.

On Tuesday November 8,  Sierra Leone gay activist George Freeman appeared on Radio Democracy on “Good Morning Sierra Leone.” He talked about the Nigeria anti-same-sex marriage bill and the work of local advocates for LGBT rights and equal access to healthcare facilities in relation to HIV and AIDS services.

Henry Sheku, Communication Officer of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL), also appeared. Like his counterpart in neighboring Ghana, Sheku said:

“The Commission is not working on LGBTI human rights, because the law of Sierra Leone does not give the Commission mandate to advocate and support LGBTI human rights.”

The show received a number of negative text messages, including:

“Homosexuality is a taboo in the African society, anyone practicing or advocating for LGBTI rights must be publicly stoned to death.”

“You should not have granted this gay man an interview, what a shame! This organization must be banned and not allowed to operate in Sierra Leonean society.”

But some were positive, such as “people are allow to practice their sexuality as it is nobody’s business.”

But after the show, three of Freeman’s activist colleagues were kicked out of their homes and suffered harassment and homophobic statements by their family members. Hate calls also followed along with harassment and threats.

Says Freeman:

“At the moment, we are currently staying at the office behind closed doors with no moral and financial support from other organizations, friends and family members. This is what happens to LGBTI activists and people when they come out of the closet and express their opinion on LGBTI rights in Sierra Leone.”

Sierra Leone activists are calling on the government and especially the ‘Human Rights’ Commission to be reminded that self expression, freedom of association, dignity and safety, peaceful gathering and demonstration are all rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and all other international human rights instruments which the government of Sierra Leone is signed up to.

It is requesting foundations, donors, Embassies, Aid Agencies and international organizations to send statements of solidarity and to ask the Sierra Leone government to respect the human rights of LGBTI people.

Male same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Sierra Leone with punishment including the possibility of life imprisonment.

According to the US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report, the law is not enforced “due to the secrecy surrounding homosexual conduct and the tendency for communities to discriminate against individuals rather than to enforce legal codes.”

LGBT groups “had to remain underground and hidden for fear of discrimination or violence against their members.”

“There were unofficial reports of beatings by police and others, particularly targeting men dressed as women, but formal complaints were not filed due to fear of reprisal. Lesbian girls and women were also victims of ‘planned rapes’ that were initiated by family members in an effort to change their sexual orientation.”

Related stories:
Seychelles to Decriminalize Homosexuality, Other Countries Say No

Nigeria Pushes on with Draconian Anti-Gay Bill

Cameroon Men Arrested ‘Because They Appear to Be Gay’

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Picture by George Freeman of appearance on Good Morning Sierra Leone

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24 comments

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8:58PM PST on Nov 27, 2011

One wonders how exactly these dopey Cameroon, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria legislators would want to intersexed persons treated. Someone whose body is quite literally neither male nor female should do what? Shrivel up and die?

Interesting, though, that the petitions do not acknowledge Intersexed persons because they force the signer to adopt a male- or female-gendered salutation.

7:37PM PST on Nov 27, 2011

This doesn't surprise me. Africa is very ambivalent about any sexual orientation that isn't 'straight'. I had a conversation via facebook with a Malian friend. He had 'liked' one of my posts on facebook. It was about the young trans woman who was beaten in McDonalds. He hadn't read the whole post, just the title. When I thanked him and explained what it was about, he responded with quotes from the bible about how homosexuality is a sin, etc. I thanked him, told him he was a good man, and we would just have to disagree about this one issue. I still love him like a brother, he is just being true to his upbringing. I hope one day Africa can undergo what America is experiencing now. I feel so bad for those brave LGBTI individuals who risk their lives for freedom. I will sign any petition in their support.

11:20PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

Also Steve R, what in the hell are you doing to really help America besides sit on your selfish ass and do nothing but bitch in these forums? Are you so self-centered, so selfish that you get jealous when someone else is recognized for their achievements instead of YOU?!?

11:17PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

Steve R said: "So that his "rights" can be legislated and forced on people that don't really mind him being gay, as long as he quietly goes about his business???
Really.... don't we have more important and pressing issues on this planet?"

REALLY Steve R...can't you "multi-task" and care about other issues than your SELFISH self? Also you dweeb, people who remain "quiet" is just like that famous story of people doing nothing while someone was being murdered! Everyone heard it, a few saw it, but they all chose to do NOTHING!

LGBT persons are still being bullied, they're still being murdered, they're still committing suicide. Open your eyes Steve and try not to be so ignorant!

11:24AM PST on Nov 19, 2011

he is a brave man, the people in his country are so savage and brutal, they claim to be religeous but murder,torture and kill gay people, so how can they be religeous , the truth their not, just hypocrites like so many on this earth, yet aids is spread by hetrosexuals not using condoms and having sex outside of marriage over there, but i guess thats ok, even though sex outside of marriage is a sin, it just shows what sort of people george is up against, if they refuse to see their own faults, their not going to axccept differences in others

9:58AM PST on Nov 19, 2011

thanks

1:38PM PST on Nov 18, 2011

Thanks for the opportunity to sign--godspeed, George Freeman!!

10:01AM PST on Nov 17, 2011

signed & noted.Thanks.

7:56AM PST on Nov 17, 2011

Signed . . .

2:59PM PST on Nov 16, 2011

Catt R.

I hope for that too, but that person has so much hatred in his heart.

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