Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Breaking Barriers in Sierra Leone

This morning I spoke with Hudson Tucker, who is spearheading our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex (LGBTI) work in Sierra Leone.  He was excited to let me know about the success we had this past week. 

Last Thursday and Friday (November 17-18), Global Rights held its first of six LGBTI workshops with 24 activists from five human rights organization, including Global Rights’ local partners, Dignity Association and Why Can’t We Get Married. 

The workshop focused on the basic definitions of LGBTI rights and an overview of Sierra Leonean laws and policies impacting the LGBTI community, as well as the UN Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity 

Ambassador Owen with the workshop participants

We had fantastic support from the U.S. Embassy in Freetown and U.S. Ambassador Michael S. Owen.  Ambassador Owen opened the workshop and spoke with civil society leaders on the importance of equal rights for all Sierra Leoneans. 

We agree with Ambassador Owen that “Sierra Leone [can be] a leader in human rights, and an example for the African continent.” However, we strongly urge Sierra Leone to improve its LGBTI record.

During Sierra Leone’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council, fellow Member States raised concerns about Sierra Leone’s legal provisions targeting sexual orientation and consenting adult sexual activity.  The following three recommendations were made to Sierra Leone to:

  • Bring its legislation into conformity with its commitment to equality and non-discrimination for all by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • Repeal all provisions which may be applied to criminalize sexual activity between consenting adults; and,
  • Repeal all provisions criminalizing sexual activity between consenting adults.

Despite Minister of Justice Frank Kargbo’s commitment to “protecting all Sierra Leoneans regardless of sexual orientation,” the government of Sierra Leone
formally rejected the UPR recommendations. 

In response, George Freeman, Coordinator of Why Can’t We Get Married, made a statement urging “the government of Sierra Leone to adopt the recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council to decriminalize homosexuality. Decriminalizing homosexuality is key to attaining full human rights for the LGBTI community.”

LGBTI activists like George need our support more than ever.  I believe that Global Rights’ work with LGBTI activists will continue to provide the needed tools to effectively advocate and campaign for change in their country. 

What do you think?  How can we further support the LGBTI community in Sierra Leone?


Posted by
Susan M. Farnsworth

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