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FannyAnn Eddy - photo by Lorena Espinoza
Fannyann Eddy

Testimony by Fannyann Eddy at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights
Item 14 60th Session
April 2004

Distinguished members of the Commission,

My name is Fannyann Eddy and I am representing MADRE. I am also a member of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association.

I would like to use this opportunity to bring to your attention the dangers vulnerable groups and individuals face not only in my beloved country, Sierra Leone, but throughout Africa.

My focus of interest is the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, which most African leaders do not like to address. In fact, many African leaders do not want to even acknowledge that we exist. Their denial has many disastrous results for our community.

We do exist. But because of the denial of our existence, we live in constant fear: fear of the police and officials with the power to arrest and detain us simply because of our sexual orientation. For instance, recently a young gay man was arrested in Freetown for being dressed as a woman. He was held in detention for a full week without any charge being brought. Though I personally was able to argue with the authorities to release him, most people like him would have been held indefinitely because there are very few of us who are able to speak up.

We live in fear that our families will disown us, as it is not unusual for lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender people to be forced out of their family homes when their identity becomes known. Many people who are forced from their homes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are young with nowhere else to go, and thus become homeless, have no food, and resort to sex work in order to survive.

We live in fear within our communities, where we face constant harassment and violence from neighbors and others. Their homophobic attacks go unpunished by authorities, further encouraging their discriminatory and violent treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

When African leaders use culture, tradition, religion and societal norms to deny our existence they send a message that tolerates discrimination, violence and overall indignity.

This denial has especially disastrous results in the context of HIV/AIDS. According to a recent research study published in December 2003 by the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association in collaboration with Health Way Sierra Leone, 90% of men who have sex with men also have sex with women, either their wives or girlfriends. Of that group, 85% said that they do not use condoms. Clearly the message of sexual education and transmission of HIV is not delivered to these men in Sierra Leone. It is clear that many men get married not because that is what their inner being desires, but because that is what society demands—because they live in a society which forces them to fear for their freedom or their lives because of their sexual orientation. The silence surrounding them—the refusal to acknowledge their existence or address their health care needs—endangers not only them but their wives and girlfriends.

Yet, despite all of the difficulties we face, I have faith that the acknowledgement by the Commission of the inherent dignity and respect due to lesbian, gay people can lead to greater respect for our human rights. As evidenced by the liberation struggle in South Africa, where the constitution bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, respect for human rights can transform society. It can lead people to understand that in the end, we are all human and all entitled to respect and dignity.

Silence creates vulnerability. You, members of the Commission on Human Rights, can break the silence. You can acknowledge that we exist, throughout Africa and on every continent, and that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are committed every day. You can help us combat those violations and achieve our full rights and freedoms, in every society, including my beloved Sierra Leone.

Translations of this statement:  French | Portuguese | Spanish

January 2005

Hate or Greed?
Arrest made in killing of Sierra Leone activist
By Bill Andriette

Nearly three months after the murder of Sierra Leone’s most prominent lesbian campaigner, and with a suspect in custody, police say the crime was motivated by avarice.

Fanny Ann Eddy, 30, founder of Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association, was strangled in the group’s Freetown offices during the night of September 29th [2004], while she was working alone. Taken from the office were such items as a computer, cell phone, and generator.

At the end of November, police declared that a suspect had been arrested in the border town of Kambia, while trying to escape to neighboring Guinea.

“Fanny Ann Eddy was killed at her Pademba Road office due to economic gain,” police spokesman Kruchev Kargbo was quoted as saying in the November 30th Concord, a Freetown newspaper.

Reports – on the BBC, CBS, and from Human Rights Watch – that Eddy had additionally been raped, stabbed, and had her neck broken are false, says the International Lesbian and Gay Association, based on results of Eddy’s post-mortem.

Eddy’s murder was horrible enough as it was, and it’s possible that her activism and the support she received from Western human rights groups were contributing factors-- either by ramping-up the viciousness of an ordinary burglary, or making SLLAGA’s offices appear a rich target.

Eddy was one of the rare publicly gay figures in sub-Saharan Africa outside of southern Africa. She founded SLLAGA in 2002, the year that Sierra Leone’s 11-year-old civil war ended.

In April 2004, Eddy travelled to Geneva to give testimony to the UN Commission on Human Rights. She spoke of gay Sierra Leoneans being thrown out of their homes and disowned by their families, harassed by police, and she argued that pressure on gay men to have heterosexual relations was abetting the spread of HIV.

“Many African leaders do not want to even acknowledge that we exist,” she said. “But because of the denial of our existence, we live in constant fear: fear of the police and officials with the power to arrest and detain us simply because of our sexual orientation.”

Sierra Leone’s police and courts have a reputation for corruption and are swamped with cases resulting from atrocities committed during the civil war. There’s no word when there may be a trial.

from Guide magazine

June 17, 2005

fannyann eddy’s alleged murderer in court
By Esau Mathope

Today in court to face murder charges in Freetown will be Mr. Sankoh, the man who brutally ended the life of one of Africa’s fearless gay and lesbian rights activist, Fannyann Eddy.

According to International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the trial has been confirmed by Mr. Sam Kangaju of the Legal and Justice Support Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions in Sierra Leone.

Sankoh, 19, has been charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder for violently killing Eddy in the offices of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association on the evening of November 19, 2004. At this stage it is unclear whether the conspiracy charge remains effectual.

According to unverified reports besides Sankoh, who was jailed at Pademba Road Prison in Freetown, no other suspects were held of questioned for the murder. “The nature of this crime and the fact that it was committed in the offices of an LGBT organization sent reverberations throughout Africa’s LGBT communities,” says Cary Johnson, Senior Specialist for Africa at IGLHRC.

from The Mask

July 18, 2005

lesbian activist’s killer escapes
By Beth Shapiro ( New York Bureau)

Freetown - The man being held in the murder of Sierra Leone lesbian activist, Fannyann Eddy, has reportedly escaped from police detention.

Reports indicate Emmanuel Sankoh, 19, was one of an undisclosed number of prisoners who escaped from court holding cells on Monday July 11.

Sankoh had been awaiting trial in the High Court of Freetown.

Eddy, the founder of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association, was found dead in the organization’s office in Freetown last October. She had been raped repeatedly, stabbed and her neck was broken.

Eddy was known across Africa. She founded the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association in 2002.

While LGBT citizens lived closeted and in constant fear Eddy was a visible and courageous figure, lobbying government ministers to address the health and human rights needs of gays and lesbians.

In April, 2004, she was part of a delegation of sexual-rights activists whom Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) helped attend the annual session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

Eddy met with her own government’s delegation, and testified to the Commission about lesbian and gay rights in what she called “my beloved Sierra Leone.”

“We face constant harassment and violence from neighbors and others,” she told the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

“Their homophobic attacks go unpunished by authorities, further encouraging their discriminatory and violent treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

Eddy and her organization documented harassment, beatings and arbitrary arrests of lesbian, gay and transgender people in Sierra Leone.

She left behind a 10-year-old son.

The country is emerging from a devastating 11-year civil war that ended in 2002. The war was characterized by egregious human rights abuses by all sides but especially by rebel forces, including widespread rape, murder, and torture.

Sankoh was arrested in January. It is not clear if the motive was homophobia as speculated by a number of international human rights groups, robbery or revenge. Sankoh was a former employee – a janitor whom she fired a week earlier.

“This is an extremely disheartening turn of events and a blow to our efforts to pursue justice and accountability for human rights atrocities committed against gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people,” Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said.

“We feel most terribly for Fannyann’s family and friends who have endured so much as a result of her murder.”

Ettelbrick said that within the last few months the IGLHRC had became increasingly concerned about consistent postponements of the legal proceedings against Sankoh.

Working with local human rights advocates, IGLHRC engaged the services of a leading human rights attorney to monitor the preliminary investigation that was examining prima facie evidence for the matter to be sent up to the High Court for trial.

It was the monitor who alerted IGLHRC of the defendant’s apparent escape.

Ettelbrick said that the IGLHRC has also been concerned that it appears that Sankoh did not act alone in the killing of Fannyann but no other suspects have been arrested.

“While we understand that the Sierra Leonean judicial and penal systems are being rebuilt after eight years of civil war,” said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC’s Senior Specialist for Africa, “there is no excuse for letting a potentially violent suspect, on trial for a brutal murder, escape from police custody.”

from The Mask

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