News / Africa

Movement Begins for Homosexual Rights in Africa

x
Opposition to homosexuality remains strong in most of Africa. Many people have been beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation.  But an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) group in Sierra Leone is pushing for more awareness and protection of LGBT rights.

Life for George Freeman has not been easy.

He says he always had feelings for men but it took him years to admit he was gay, even to himself,  because homosexuality in the West African nation of Sierra Leone is illegal.

During Freeman's teenage years people made fun of him because he never had a girlfriend and they suspected he was gay.

"It was really horrible for me, I suffered a lot of violence in school, bullying from other heterosexual kids," Freeman said.

When he got the nerve to tell his family he was gay he said they could not accept his lifestyle and he spent several years on the street as a teenager.

He did not officially come out in public until 2007 on a local radio station and says when he did it was a relief .

"When I was on the radio and came out a gay person, it encouraged other people to come out and go for HIV/counseling and testing services," Freeman said.

After he revealed his sexual orientation he also started a West African chapter of the organization Why Can't We Get Married.com.  Freeman says the organization originally started in Australia but is currently not operating there.

His chapter also advocates for LGBT rights in other African countries.  Early next year, Uganda is expected to vote on an anti-homosexuality bill.  This would impose stricter punishment for those caught in homosexual activities.  Freeman says his organization has signed an online petition to support the Ugandan LGBT community's struggle to fight the measure.

Freeman says Why Can't We Get Married.com is making headway in Sierra Leone and slowly changing attitudes.

George Freeman (glasses) and co-worker Bernard Wilson at their Freetown office. (VOA - N. deVries)George Freeman (glasses) and co-worker Bernard Wilson at their Freetown office. (VOA - N. deVries)
x
George Freeman (glasses) and co-worker Bernard Wilson at their Freetown office. (VOA - N. deVries)
George Freeman (glasses) and co-worker Bernard Wilson at their Freetown office. (VOA - N. deVries)
His co-worker and friend Bernard Wilson says he was homophobic.  It was a long time before Wilson knew Freeman was gay.  He says it was hard to accept at first but he eventually decided to learn more about it by working for Freeman's organization.

"It's not something of the devil, it's something, he (Freeman) actually opened my eyes that some people are born with it," Wilson said.

The two friends are now working on an awareness campaign.

They have created workshops focusing on education about LGBT issues and they are training people across the country.

Freeman says his staff is also monitoring and documenting alleged human rights violations of LGBT people in Sierra Leone.

The main goal is to come out with a human rights report based on LGBT issues that will be presented to the government, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, the African Commission of Human and Peoples Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council sometime next year.

Freeman says people are still afraid to speak out for fear of being arrested, but testimonies are slowly starting to come out.

"There's a lot of torture, in terms of psychological  torture, through their testimonies we hear high rates of discrimination from the health care system, from education system and society as a whole," Freeman said.

If people do start officially reporting LGBT violations, Sierra Leone is obligated under international law to protect its victims.

Henry Mustapha Sheku is the senior human rights officer for public information with the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone.

He says they have not received any official complaints from LGBT people yet but would work to defend them if they did.

"If you are someone of a different sexual orientation you have a right to life, to health, to freedom of expression, speech and the like, therefore no one has the right to take your life because of your sexual social orientation, you will be protected," Sheku said.

Back at George Freeman's office, he says he will continue his campaign work and hopes to see his country, one day, follow in the footsteps of South Africa.  It is the only country in Africa that has legalized same sex marriages.

He says he has no regrets on coming out and hopes he can continue to inspire others.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: illumine1911
December 26, 2012 11:26 AM
1. Homosexuality is an aberration of natural sexuality. There is no use denying that biological fact, however hard we may try to pretend and cloak it with political respectability. Homosexual groups have promoted false information claiming that homosexual behaviour is noted in other mammalian species. These reports were found to have data falsely contrived by people from within such lobby groups. Human beings are the only mammals that exhibit homosexual behaviour. It is a consequence of the interference of childhood and adolescent psychosocial development done by homosexual adults preying on vulnerable children. It is patently untrue to claim that there is a genetic basis to homosexual behaviour, and/ or that it is part of normal human development.

2.Psychological treatment to overcome homosexual inclinations is effective, but unfortunately in this politically correct society that we have to live in today, medical journals and mental health journals are afraid of giving publicity to this fact for fear of attack from homosexual groups who would threaten litigation under the clause of discrimination.

In Response

by: Anth from: Sydney
December 30, 2012 7:49 AM
Assertions aren't facts. And your assertions are demonstrably false. Provide valid scientific references or, better still, stop posting rubbish like this that contributes to the hatred of and deaths of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who just happen to be different from you (or so you imply). When my parents were kids, left handers were punished for who they were. We've moved on on that madness; we'll move on from this insanity as well.


by: Johnny Saa Noh from: Sydney, Australia
December 25, 2012 7:42 PM
Gay activity in Africa should not at any time be encouraged in any African country because it is ungodly and it violates that familial bond of marriage that hold people together. Those who practise should be hunted down, especially in my country Sierra Leone, a country known for its adherence to God's sacrament of marriage and family.

In Response

by: Anth from: Sydney
December 30, 2012 7:49 AM
"Ungodly"? Why do you insist on imposing your personal beliefs onto unrelated citizens? Isn't that a bit arrogant? And your sex and relationship needs are ok, but not those of others? "Isn't that a bit selfish? "Gay activity... violates the familial bond of marriage". I'm guessing you're not a supporter of same-sex marriage, so I can't see the logic in your argument, just cultural assumptions. "Hunted down"?... Then what? No need to answer that; I follow African news. So what about "God's sacred" commandment "Don't kill"? When will Africans realise hatred of sexual diversity is just an internalisation of colonial values; a vestige of long-ago Europe +neo-colonialist US evangelicals? If you're a genuine Christian, this will help: http://www.upworthy.com/every-biblical-argument-against-being-gay-debunked-biblically?c=go1 There are also support groups for those in other religions.

In Response

by: dpille from: usa
December 26, 2012 5:54 AM
Africans have the same rights as the rest of the world. The real sin is for a Gay man to marry a woman, depriving both of them the opportunity to find true love. Man has no right to say that when God makes a person Gay, he made that person wrong. The ONLY laws that truly came from God are the ten commandments, and those do NOT say anything against homosexuality. Allowing Homosexuals to be who they are does nothing to traditional marriage, unless maybe some men are worried that Gay couples will make their marriage look bad, since some men are uncaring clods.

In Response

by: Anonymous
December 26, 2012 2:56 AM
LGBT whatever your organisation calls itself. Restrict your campaigns to sierra leone. I am shocked that your country would allow you to go on national radio to discuss gay homosexuality. Wonder what this world is turning into. All religions "christianity, islam, etc frawn against homosexuality. Sierra Leone must crush this morally bankrupt revolution sweeping across the country as partly funded by the west. Africa must resist this campaign with all the force that it desires.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid