Fannyann Eddy (1974-2004)

In 2002, Fannyann Eddy founded the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association (SLLGA) in her native country, which was torn by many years of civil war. The organization offers social and psychological support and defends the rights of lesbians and gays vis-à-vis authorities and government. Fannyann Eddy lived openly and self-confidently as a lesbian woman in a society that is hostile to homosexuality and in which lesbians and gays live in fear and invisibility. She was a person of extraordinary courage and integrity who – quite literally – gave her life to defending human rights.

Her courage and commitment soon made her a well-known figure throughout Africa and beyond. As a member of the committee of the All Africa Rights Initiative (AARI) and the totalAfrican Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), her work extended far beyond the borders of Sierra Leone.

In April 2004, Fannyann Eddy addressed the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. In her moving testimony, she lamented that in Sierra Leone, violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people still goes unpunished by the authorities: "We live in constant fear," she said. She spoke of the fear that "our families will disown us", "the fear within our communities", and that there is nowhere else to go. "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."

Yet at the UN Commission on Human Rights, Fannyann Eddy's appeal went unheard. A resolution sponsored by Brazil calling for guarantees to protect the human rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people did not secure sufficient backing and was deferred.

A few months after her testimony in Geneva, Fannyann Eddy herself fell victim to hate and violence. On 29 September 2004, she was found murdered in the SLLGA office. She has been gang-raped, her face mutilated, and her neck broken. Fannyann Eddy leaves her partner Esther and a nine-year-old son.