News / Africa

Movement Begins for Homosexual Rights in Africa

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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)
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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.

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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.

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