Ethiopia: Anti-gay forces seek action against anti-HIV agency

Rainbow Ethiopia logo
Rainbow Ethiopia logo

Ethiopia’s one gay-friendly anti-AIDS agency,  Rainbow-Ethiopia HIV and Social Support Services, promotes public health, social justice and human rights in the country.

In particular, it serves LGBT people as its clients, seeking health, social justice and human rights for them. That has angered powerful anti-gay forces in Ethiopia, as the affiliated Rainbow-Ethiopia HIV and Media Initiative (REHMI) reports:

Anti-gay civil societies, religious groups and local government officials accused Rainbow-Ethiopia [of spreading homosexuality] and urged the government to take strong and restrictive legal measures against foreign agents like Rainbow-Ethiopia.

Last week, local Addis Ababa city government officials, religious leaders, United for Life Ethiopia (the leading homophobic Evangelical organization) and several youth associations accused Rainbow-Ethiopia as a foreign agent [spreading] homosexuality at an alarming rate in the country, and they jointly urged the federal government to take strong legal measures against foreign agents like Rainbow-Ethiopia HIV and Social Support Services “to stop the spread of homosexuality and save the next generation from the western imported epidemic of homosexuality.”

A Rainbow-Ethiopia official replied, “Homosexuality is not something that is being exported or promoted. These homophobes are just trying to give a bad image to Rainbow-Ethiopia. We are working to promote the sexual health and rights of men who have sex with men, social justice and human rights of LGBTI people in Ethiopia.”

Rainbow-Ethiopian is the only organization working in Ethiopia against HIV / AIDS among LGBT people.

The anti-Rainbow-Ethiopia appeal came at an Aug. 7 conference organized by Kirkos Sub-City Department of Culture and Tourism, Kirkos Sub City Youth Association and United for Life Ethiopia. It was  attended by more than 2,000 people, including government officials, religious leaders, civil society representatives, prominent public figures, and community leaders.

Seyoum Antonios (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Seyoum Antonios (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Among the leaders there was Dr. Seyoum Antonios, the head of United For Life Ethiopia, who wants Ethiopia to impose the death penalty for homosexuality.  He is known for the speech he gave last January at an African youth conference in Nigeria, which was supported by Campus Crusade for Christ. In that speech, he decried LGBT people and Western advocates of gay rights, saying, “Africa will become a graveyard for homosexuality!”

Antonios recently said in a radio interview, “Local LGBTI advocacy groups like Rainbow-Ethiopia  and the growing of sex tourism in the country are the major factors for importing and spreading homosexuality in the country.”

The attacks against Rainbow-Ethiopia are part of a pattern of anti-homosexuality initiatives. Those also include the June 30 release of the anti-gay documentary “Sodomy in ‎Ethiopia, the Satanic Work of 666,” in Addis Ababa.

The premiere of the documentary, produced by the religious group Father TK Association, was attended by hundreds of religious leaders of many denominations, artists, athletes, and other prominent guests.

People at the Aug. 7 conference announced that they will establish a national civil society coalition to coordinate their  anti-homosexuality campaign and to urge the government to pass a tough anti-gay bill like the one in Nigeria.

A representative from the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality (EICAH)  said that passage of the death penalty for gay people “looks promising.”

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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