Anti-homosexual protesters hit Sierra Leone streets
Freetown was the scene of a big anti-gay rights protest on Friday organised to “ward-off" the possibility of recognising same sex marriages in the country.
Close to 1,000 protesters thronged the streets at the east end of Freetown attracting scores of onlookers on the process who cheered them on.
The post Friday prayer demonstration was organised by the Inveterate International Islamic Revitalists, who said they were worried that persistent pronouncements from major powers could influence the country`s politicians to recognise “alien” and “immoral” practices in the country.
The organisers say the protests will be a bi-weekly affair.
Sheikh Marrah, one of the leaders of the protesters, referred to a recent statement by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who said US would use aide to encourage the respect of the rights of gays and lesbians.
That followed an earlier statement by UK`s prime minister, David Cameron, who said the people of Britain wanted to see countries that receive UK aid adhering to “proper human rights”, including “how people treat gay and lesbian people.”
"What we know as human rights will conform with the laws of nature… woman to man so that we can grow in number,” Imam Marrah told the Africa Review in an interview.
The UK Prime Minister`s remarks drew more aggressive responses from a number of African countries who have been openly hostile to same sex marriage, including Ghana and Uganda.
In Sierra Leone, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications led the wave of condemnations that follow David Cameron`s statement. The minister in October that homosexuality was against the country`s culture.
The head of the Sierra Leone Methodist Church, Bishop Arnold Temple, was more forthright. He said Africa should not be seen as a continent in need to be influenced by the “demonic threat” of the British prime minister “as our values are totally different."
Organisers of last Friday`s protests say the march would be an ongoing one, and that they intend to stage one every Monday`s and Fridays until they cover the length and breadth of the country.
Shiekh Marra said they staged the protest because “we want government to understand well the repercussion of endorsing the practice of same sex marriage.”
Sierra Leone presently relies on a colonial time law to prosecute sex offenders, including homosexuals. But so far there has been no report of prosecution on homosexual charges.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Frank Kargbo, said recently that the government stood firm by the law.
There is a strong feeling of homophobia in Sierra Leone, cutting across all ages, ethnicities and religion. Opponents say the practice is a foreign import that has no place in African culture.
A female gay rights activist, Fanny Ann Eddi, was brutally raped before been murdered in her officer in Freetown in 2004.
But members of the only active pro-gay rights group in the country today, ‘Why Can`t We Get Married’, dismissed the assertion that homosexuality is foreign importation.
George Reginald Freeman, who is also the West Africa Regional Director for the group, said none of the religions (Islam and Christianity) which are being used to condemn homosexuality has any origin in African.
He expressed dismay at the attitude of the government towards the demand for respect of the rights of gay and lesbian people.
“People don`t want to know whether government legalises [gay right] or not. Marriages are happening every now and then,” he claimed in an interview.
“All we want is respect for the human rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation.”
Last month, US embassy officials in Freetown frowned at government`s indifference towards the issue of gays and lesbians.
The embassy particularly condemned the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission which failed to honour an invitation by the guy rights group which was launching a book on safe sex for gay and lesbian people.