|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
LGBT activists in Sierra Leone report that a gay, bisexual and transgender party in the capital, Freetown, was attacked by homophobes 9 July - and the party-goers arrested.
George Reginald Freeman, West Africa Regional Coordinator, WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com said:
"The party was interactive, full of fun and laughter. We were on the transgender fashion parade when we heard noise outside. So we went outside to find out what went wrong. When we went out we were told that two gay men were caught having sex in an unfinished house in the bush. The two gay men who left the party to have sex outside ran back into the party which led to homophobic and trans-phobic attack."
"The community people started pelting stones and bottles at the party house. We all ran into the party house and closed the gate and administered first aid treatment to the injured victims. The situation became worst that we called the police for protection who later on came. When the police came to the scene the community people told them that we were having a gay initiation party and they started using homophobic and trans-phobic statements such as “gay people should be killed as they do not deserve the right to live as they are evil and demonic people”."
"The police ordered us to open the gate, hoping that they will protect us; when we opened the gate the police men started assaulting and aggressively arresting and throw us gay, bisexual and trans young people into the police truck. During the process some gay, bisexual and transgender people escaped."
"The community people harassed and beat us and took all our personal belongings such as (phones, clothes, money, cameras, chains, necklaces and other jewelries). The police men arrested and detained eight young gay men at the Kissy Police station, Eastern Part of Freetown until the next day for them to give statements."
Freeman and Hudson Tucker of Dignity Association, another LGBTI organizations in Sierra Leone, went to the Kissy Police station the next day to bail and release the men. They were told that the men were detained on charges of immorality, fornication, adultery, public nuisance and 'indecent act against the order of nature'.
Freeman condemned the "discrimination and hate crimes against LGBTI people".
"We cannot stop being LGBTQ people to please other people. The way we choose to express our sexual orientation, gender identity and expression; the way we choose to look and conduct ourselves; the people we choose to love and be with, these are our rights. Self expression, freedom of association, dignity and safety, peaceful gathering and demonstration these are our rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Yogyarkarta Principles and the Constitution of Sierra Leone. We claim these rights as citizens of Sierra Leone. We demand that our rights should be respected and recognized in the society."
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."