Mohamed S. Kamara of Sierra Leone, currently living outside the country, describes the difficulties of LGBT rights advocacy in his homeland:
In Sierra Leone, few are brave enough to advocate for gay rights, which would expose them to persecutions, threats, attacks, provocations and ridicule.
My work and activities with different local and international organisations had raised my awareness about people’s rights, especially gay rights.
But I only volunteered to fight for gay rights after the son of my elder brother was not only beaten but also lost an eye just because he was gay.
Following that ugly incident, I informed Abu Bakarr Renner, the national coordinator for the Kiwanis organization in Freetown, Sierra Leone. We decided to organise a gay awareness campaign, which was launched in December 2011. This campaign was to last for six months.
We never knew that we would come under heavy attack for advocating for gay rights. We were constantly abused, spat on, and sometimes assaulted by people who thought we were filthy, not normal, and immoral. We LGBT activists in Sierra Leone had to go into hiding to save ourselves from homophobic physical and verbal attacks.
I became emboldened in the fight for gay rights in October 2011, when David Cameron, the British prime minister, issued a statement at a world summit to tell African leaders they should support gay rights or risk losing funds from the UK government. I realised that advocacy for gay rights has reached international proportions. I intensified my gay rights activities but came under more pressure from people who hate gays.
I now realise why many people and groups that start to advocate for gay rights quickly abandon their programs and activities. There is no protection for people or groups that are sympathetic to gay issues in Sierra Leone. Going to the police to report incidents related to gay right activism is a waste of time because the police do not treat such matters seriously. Politicians also look the other way when confronted with issues of gay rights. Journalists have been beaten and attacked for writing favorably about gay issues.
Conclusively, gay practice and positive gay-related discussions are a taboo in Sierra Leone. As a friend of mine once told me, the simplest way to put oneself outside the protection of the law in Sierra Leone is to support gay issues.
Mohamed S. Kamara became involved with youth and development after the end of the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991–2002). He has worked as assistant to the secretary–general of the Susan’s Bay Area Development Association, executive member of Kiwanis International Freetown and the International Youth Council – Sierra Leone. He is currently an LGBT activist and a public relations coordinator for Kiwanis.
Sierra Leonean law provides for up to a life sentence for male-male intercourse, according to the latest worldwide report on anti-gay laws by ILGA (International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association).
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