The appearance of an LGBT activist on radio in Sierra Leone has led to a nasty, threatening, homophobic backlash.
WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com West Africa Regional Director, George Reginald Freeman was invited for a radio discussion program on Tuesday November 8 2011, at Radio Democracy FM 98.1, Freetown, Sierra Leone at 7:30 a.m. on the program titled “Good Morning Sierra Leone” and was repeated on the same radio frequency at 9:00 p.m. on the program titled “We Tin Dae Bi” meaning “What is Happening?”. The interview was conducted by Ahmed Sesay.
During the interview, George Reginald Freeman threw light on the acceptance of the Nigeria same gender bill saying that, WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com as an organization has been a vital partner to the campaign in Nigeria as we took active part in the signing of the petition on the internet. As the conversation continued, George talked about mission, vision and objectives of WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com in Sierra Leone, which involves advocating for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) rights and access to healthcare facilities in relation to HIV and AIDS services.
Mr. Henry Sheku, Communication Officer of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL), was also invited onto the programme. He said that, “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”.
As the interview continued, the journalist asked what role Sierra Leone must play towards the Nigerian Same Gender Bill. George responded that Sierra Leone must be 100% supportive, because the LGBTI human rights are fundamental rights.
Towards the end of the radio program, people sent mostly discriminatory text messages; and very few supportive. For example:
“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”.
The positive text message was “people are allow to practice their sexuality as it is nobody’s business”.
After the radio program, Ephraim Bernard Wilson, Denzil Kargbo and George Reginald Freeman (WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com staff members) were kicked out of their family houses with harassment and homophobic statements by their family members. Bernard’s family said that homosexuality is not accepted in Christianity; Denzil’s friends said that because of moral values he needed to leave the house; and George’s family said that homosexuality is satanic and a taboo to African culture so he needed to leave.
After the program unknown individuals started to call us and left hatred comments and we were harassed and some even threatened us. 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.
We as members of WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com condemned discrimination and hate crimes against LGBTI people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The way we choose to express our sexual orientation and gender identity; 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, Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Yogyakarta Principles on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (YPSOGI) and all other international human rights instruments. We claim these rights as citizens of Sierra Leone.
WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com as an LGBTI organization strongly recommends to foundations, donors, Embassies, Aid Agencies and international organizations like Global Rights to send statements of solidarity and to request the Sierra Leonean government to respect the human rights of LGBTI people.
We demand that our rights should be respected and recognized in Sierra Leonean society.
Please, we would like you to send statements of solidarity and to request the Government of Sierra Leone to respect the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people.
Please send copy of your statements to:
Please send a copy of your statement of solidarity to WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us on the following details:
George Reginald Freeman, West Africa Regional Director WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com