afrol News, 5 October - FannyAnn Eddy, Sierra Leone's most outstanding activist for the rights of sexual minorities, was brutally murdered in the offices of the organisation she founded last week. Human rights groups mourning her now demand firm action from Freetown authorities to "bring to justice those responsible."
Ms Eddy, aged 30, was found dead on the morning of 29 September. While she was working alone in the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association's offices the previous night, her assailant or assailants apparently broke in to the premises. She was raped repeatedly, stabbed and her neck was broken.
The lesbian activist had founded the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association in 2002. The group provided social and psychological support to a fearful and underground community. Ms Eddy herself, however, is described as "a visible and courageous figure," lobbying government ministers to address the health and human rights needs of men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women.
In April, Ms Eddy was part of a delegation of sexual-rights activists attending the annual session of the UN's Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. The Sierra Leonean activist here met with her 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 neighbours and others, she told the UN 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."
Ms Eddy and her organisation spent much time documenting harassment, beatings and arbitrary arrests of lesbian, gay and transgender people in Sierra Leone. Sexual minorities have no legal rights in the country and are considered a social taboo.
The New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today mourned the murder of Ms Eddy, saying the Sierra Leonean activist "broke the silence for us all." The commission added: "To all of us who knew her and shared the great privilege of her wit, sense of the absurd, steely determination, intelligence, and unwillingness to let bureaucracy and lies stand in the way of justice, our loss is incomprehensibly great."
Also the US-based group Human Rights Watch today stated its outrage over Ms Eddy's brutal murder, demanding that the authorities in Sierra Leone "must investigate this crime fairly and fully." Further the Freetown government needed to "send a message to a frightened lesbian and gay community that violence against them will not go unpunished," Scott Long of the group said.
Also Human Rights Watch - which together with IGLHRC had sponsored Ms Eddy's attendance at the UN Commission - was full of praise for the Sierra Leonean activist. "FannyAnn Eddy was a person of extraordinary bravery and integrity, who literally put her life on the line for human rights," said Mr Long. "Now, she has been murdered in the offices of the organisation she founded, and there is grave concern that she herself has become a victim of hatred," he added.
Ms Eddy leaves behind a 10-year-old son. The South African gay rights organisation Behind the Mask has already started collecting donations to support Ms Eddy's son and the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association.
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