(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is still intact in Sierra Leone. Section 61 criminalizes ‘buggery and bestiality with a penalty of life imprisonment.’ However, sex acts between women have not been criminalized.
The criminalization of homosexuality violates the 1991 Constitution, which ensures the human rights of its citizens, as long as they do not threaten public interest, in Article 15:
‘Whereas every person in Sierra Leone is entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, has the right, whatever his race, tribe, place of origin, political opinion, color, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest, to each and all of the following –
a.Life, liberty, security of person, the enjoyment of property, and the protection of law;
b.Freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association;
c.Respect for private and family life, and
d.Protection from deprivation of property without compensation;
The subsequent provisions of this Chapter shall have effect for the purpose of affording protection to the aforesaid rights and freedoms, subject to such limitations of that protection as are contained in those provisions, being limitations designed to ensure that the enjoyment of the said rights and freedoms by any individual does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others, or the public interest.’
No published cases have been found. Would be grateful if users of this website would be able to refer us to any that they know of which involved LGBTI cases from Sierra Leone.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE’S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
Homosexuality is taboo in Sierra Leone. The LGBTI community faces violence, harassment, and discrimination. They remain fearful and underground. Life for Men Who Have Sex With Men reports that those who are upper class are more accepted, while others are ridiculed and marginalized.
It is more likely that communities will discriminate against individuals rather than enforce the laws that criminalize homosexuality. Lesbians risk being the victims of ‘planned rapes’ as the community attempts to correct their sexual orientation. The LGBTI community also faces discrimination in employment, education, and housing. Homosexuals can lose their leases if their sexual orientation is discovered. As a result the LGBTI community tries to remain hidden (US Human Rights Report 2010). The secrecy surrounding sexual orientation results in a higher risk for contracting STIs and AIDS. It was reported by the Dignity Association that there was extremely limited knowledge about diseases within the LGBTI community, where only one third of gay men had basic knowledge about HIV/AIDS, and many were unaware of how to use a condom. Members of the LGBTI community who do know about disease transmission, often avoid STI testing for fear that the doctors will break their confidentiality.
Public promoters of LGBT rights in Sierra Leone are at an even higher risk of discrimination and violence. Fanny Ann Eddy founded the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association in 2002. She was brutally murdered in the organization’s offices in 2004. It was generally believed that she was killed due to her outspokenness about gay issues. Ms. Eddy spoke at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and lamented the latent homophobia in her country: ‘Homophobic attacks go unpunished by authorities, further encouraging their discriminatory and violent treatment of LGBT people.’ George Freeman is an activist who promoted LGBTI rights on a radio show and challenged the government to protect the LGBT community. In the aftermath of his remarks he was kicked out of his family house and has been homeless.
There has been outrage in Sierra Leone since the British and US governments have threatened to stop funding any country that continues to criminalize homosexuality. In response, anti-gay groups have promised bi-weekly protests against the attempts to force local governments to recognize LGBTI rights. 1,000 protesters gathered in Freetown in early January 2012 to protest the ‘alien’ and ‘immoral’ practices of homosexuals. The protest was organized by the Inveterate International Islamic Revitalists. The local and African churches have denounced homosexuality as an abomination. The government run Sierra News wrote in 2003, ‘[h]omosexuals should not be rewarded with leadership and their perverse lifestyles endorsed.’ Since that time, homophobic trends have only grown.
However, Dr. Barbara E. Harrell-Bond, who did fieldwork over the period 1967-1973 found in the rural areas people who she terms ‘transvestites’ were regarded as having spiritual powers and served in the upper echelons of the Bundu Society, a ‘secret’ society responsible for initiating girls into womanhood (personal communication). This suggest that the rural society of Sierra Leone may be more tolerant than the cities where the research for the reports cited above has been conducted.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
No NGOs have been found that specifically deal with the issues facing the LGBTI community.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
We have no specialist on LGBTI for Sierra Leone, but would welcome suggestions.
Researched by: Rhiannon Archer