Friday, May 17, 2013

LGBTI Rights are Human Rights

This week, Global Rights and our local partners in Sierra Leone, Dignity Association and Pride Equality, crossed a milestone. Together, we released the first ever published report on the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in Sierra Leone, Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Access to Health Care and Violence/Bias: A Sierra Leone Case Study

Report Cover
We celebrated this achievement with a special launch event on Thursday in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  It was very rewarding to see the unified support from the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Coalition for Civil society for Health Rights and Accountability, the Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (SLANGO), and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone.

The Honorable Michael S. Owen, Ambassador of the United States to Sierra Leone, and Paula Schriefer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, highlighted the report’s significance both for Sierra Leone and for the greater African context in their opening remarks.

Ambassador Owen mentioned that it is “inspiring to a lot of people and this [the report] will do a lot to improve the situation of LGBTI people in Sierra Leone.”

Ambassador Owen with Global Rights' Partner, George Freeman
The report is the compilation of two research projects initiated in 2012 as part of our project to strengthen Sierra Leonean LGBTI civil society organizations' monitoring and documentation of human rights violations. In addition to presenting the problem of discrimination against the LGBTI community, the report also offers concrete recommendations to the government, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, local police and the international community to better protect the rights of the Sierra Leonean LGBTI community.

We have provided activists in Sierra Leone with an essential tool for increased advocacy work on policy and laws to influence critical structural and behavioral changes in the country— something that is essential for the fulfillment of human rights. 

As Ms. Shallac Sony Davies from SLANGO said during the launch, “we don’t want the government or other stakeholders to look at the report as a tool to accuse them for wrongdoings, but, to look at it as an eye opener on the issue of violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, a topic that has never been formally addressed.”

I hope this report encourages other LGBTI communities – in Africa and beyond – to hold their governments accountable for upholding international human rights norms and standards so that all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to their inherent human rights.


Global Rights would like to thank the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) for making this work possible.

Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

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