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Sierra Leone

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

As of August there was no information regarding any action by government authorities to investigate or punish public entities or private persons complicit in abuses against LGBTQI+ persons.

The law criminalizes same-sex sexual activity between men. There is no legal prohibition against sexual activity between women. The law was not enforced.

The law does not offer protection from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. LGBTQI+ civil society organizations alleged that because the law prohibits sexual activity between men, it limits LGBTQI+ persons from exercising their freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. The law, however, does not restrict the rights of persons to speak out on LGBTQI+ human rights. No hate crime law covers bias-motivated violence against LGBTQI+ persons.

A few organizations, including Dignity Association and the HRCSL, supported LGBTQI+ persons and engaged with activists, but maintained low profiles to protect their safety and identities. Although LGBTQI+ advocacy groups noted that police discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals had not disappeared, they reported that police were increasingly treating LGBTQI+ persons with understanding.

LGBTQI+ advocates reported the community faced challenges ranging from violence, stigma, discrimination, blackmailing, and public attack to denial of public services such as health care and justice. Advocates reported LGBTQI+ persons faced no discrimination in schools, although pupil-on-pupil discrimination was prevalent. The government reportedly registered a transgender rights organization in 2018.

It was difficult for LGBTQI+ individuals to receive health services; many chose not to seek medical testing or treatment due to fear their right to confidentiality would be ignored and their sexual identity would be compromised. Obtaining secure housing was also a problem for LGBTQI+ persons. Families frequently shunned their LGBTQI+ children, leading some to turn to commercial sex to survive. Adults risked having their leases terminated if their LGBTQI+ status became public. Women in the LGBTQI+ community reported social discrimination from male LGBTQI+ persons and the general population.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Community pressure and coercion to participate in traditional ceremonies and practices is prevalent in rural villages. In August the HRCSL reported chiefdom authorities in a village in Kenema District prevented a man and his family from entering their farm because they had not complied with traditional practices. As a Muslim, the man refused to pay for or participate in traditional rites to banish a spirit from the village. The HRCSL and other authorities worked to forestall further retaliatory actions by village leaders.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future