In Sierra Leone, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LBTI) people are subject to abject violence, discrimination, and stigma. Section 61 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 criminalises ‘buggery and bestiality with a penalty of life imprisonment’. However, consensual same-sex relationships between women are not explicitly criminalised. The Constitution of Sierra Leone and its laws do not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no explicit framework for the rights of transgender and intersex people.
Despite these legal discrepancies, in 2011, at the UN Human Rights Council in March, Sierra Leone supported a historic Joint Statement on Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity.
In September 2014 Sierra Leone abstained from voting when the Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The last submitted State party report was in 2011 and contained no information on LBTI constituencies.
In 2013, a review of the constitution was initiated, but LGBT organisations claimed that they were excluded from the review process.
The Rapporteur on Follow-up on Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) put out a follow up to the state party, in August 2016 and called upon it to finalise the constitutional review and raise awareness of the importance of incorporating the prohibition of sex-based discrimination and gender equality provisions in legal texts, to take a holistic approach to law reform that will ensure women’s de jure and de facto equality within the framework of the ongoing legislative and constitutional review processes, and to ensure full compliance with the CEDAW convention. This was again followed up on in April 2017.
The CEDAW Committee did not provide any SOGIESC-focused recommendations to Sierra Leone in 2014. The List of Issues did not include LBTI-inclusive questions.
The Committee provided the State party with some general recommendations that can also be applicable to the LBTI constituencies:
- (a) to implement a comprehensive national strategy to end gender-based violence for the next five years, which would include reviewing and amending the Domestic Violence Act and criminalising marital rape;
- (b) to strengthen redressal systems including the judiciary handling violence-related cases in a timely, gender-sensitive and non-discriminatory manner;
- (c) to ensure that medical treatment, psychosocial rehabilitation, and legal assistance are adequately provided to victims of gender-based violence; and systematically collect data on these cases;
- (d) to strengthen the capacity and resources of existing shelters for victims of trafficking and improve access to victim protection services, including counselling and legal services, for victims of trafficking, and take measures to protect vulnerable groups from trafficking;
- (e) to provide assistance, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for women and girls who are exploited in “prostitution” and provide information on the impact of economic empowerment programmes and poverty reduction programmes in increasing income-generating opportunities for women who wish to leave “prostitution”.