Sierra Leone

Human Rights Watch Country Profiles: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The following country profiles are derived in part from sections of the Human Rights Watch 2019 World Report that relate to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Focus on key populations in national HIV strategic plans in the African region

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines key populations as populations who are at higher risk for HIV irrespective of the epidemic type or local context and who face social and legal challenges that increase their vulnerability.

Acceptance of LGBT people and rights has increased around the world

New Global Acceptance Index ranks 141 countries on LGBT acceptance and legal protections and provides a link between inclusion and GDP per capita. 

African human rights body urges renewed efforts on human rights in response to HIV

On 27 January, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) launched a groundbreaking report, HIV, the law and human rights in the African human rights system: key challenges and opportunities for rights-based responses.

Big step forward for human rights as Commonwealth officially accredits first LGBTI organisation

The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) welcomes the decision by the Commonwealth to approve the Network for accreditation as a Commonwealth organisation.


Niger: Resolution 376 on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, meeting at its 60th Ordinary Session held from 8 to 22 May 2017 in Niamey, Niger.

Sierra Leone: To be gay and African should not be a crime

George Reginald Freeman: In my home country of Sierra Leone, homosexuality is punishable by a minimum of 10 years in jail. My first punishment was when I was 12 and came out. I confided in my uncle. Instead of the acceptance, he beat me up and called me names: “shob am na kaka hole,” which loosely translates to “ass-fucker.” His screaming and yelling brought neighbors out of their homes. They yelled at me while my uncle went to get the police, who arrested me.

Sierra Leone is my homeland, yet I lived in constant fear of the police and officials who arrested and detained me numerous times because I am gay. Yet there are longstanding traditions of homosexuality in African history. The Mende tribe in Sierra Leone has the “sande bwake,” which means male cross-dresser. The word “mabole” means a woman who plays the role of a man and at times dresses like men, while eschewing “women’s” activities.

Even the masquerades allow cross-dressing during festivals and cultural performances. Most women who are not able to give birth are allowed to marry their fellow women for child-bearing. These women are not considered the wife to a husband, but the wife to a wife. Homosexuality is not “un-African.” We are the cradle of human life, and nothing human is alien to us. Read More

The State of LGBT Equality in Africa

Months after Uganda's Constitutional Court overturned its Anti-Homosexuality Act, which prescribed life in prison for many instances of gay sex, nearly identical legislation returned — this time in the Gambia.