The government of Ethiopia is opposed to homosexuality, but some conservative Ethiopian Christians claim that it isn’t outspoken enough against gay sex.
Under Ethiopian law, homosexual activity is punishable by imprisonment for one to 10 years, but there are no reports of any recent trials for same-sex intimacy.
Last month, the Associated Press reported:
Ethiopian church-affiliated group urges action against gays
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – A group affiliated with Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church is condemning what it calls the government’s silence on homosexuality in the country.
Speaking at a conference [Sept. 8] in Addis Ababa, the capital, Dereje Negash of the Orthodox Church group dedicated to an Ethiopian saint, said the government’s indifference on the issue is helping the LGBT movement in the East African country.
“We are witnessing foreign elements that are trying to spread homosexuality in Ethiopia using aid, politics and technology. To this end, they are spending millions of dollars,” Dereje said in his presentation to hundreds of people inside a conference hall. “People of same sexes are secretly marrying here in Ethiopia. This should stop, and stop now.”
He urged authorities to enact strong laws against same-sex relations. [Editor’s note: Ethiopia already has them; see below.]
An event planned in 2014 to publicly denounce the LGBT community in Ethiopia was cancelled at the last minute for unknown reasons. Organizers of that event told The Associated Press at the time they feared aid groups and the international community influenced government officials.
A local LGBT activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity told AP he fears for his safety, citing widespread misconceptions such as the belief that gays are rapists.
Ethiopia has a deeply religious society, with Christianity and Islam having many followers.
Under Ethiopian law, homosexual acts are punishable with jail terms of up to 15 years. [Editor’s note: According to ILGA, the maximum sentence is 10 years.]
ILGA’s 2019 report on “State-Sponsored Homophobia” described Ethiopia’s attitudes toward homosexuality:
According to Ethiopian human rights lawyer Abebe Hailu, no one has been charged or convicted under the new criminal provisions since they were introduced in 2004. This is because the criminal system is overloaded and there is little judicial appetite to prosecute homosexuality. Nevertheless, the difficult legal and social situation of LGBT people in Ethiopia has been described in accounts given by individuals who have fled the country. For instance, a 2013 news report interviewed two individuals who explained that homosexuality is common viewed as a “Western disease”. Another news report in 2014 interviewed several gay men who have been harassed and attacked in public.
A 2016 research report also featured interviews with LGBT individuals in the closet who dare not reveal their sexual identities due to fears of backlash and social ostracisation. There is no visible LGBT community, though there are some informal groups that have emerged online, particularly on social media.
In 2011, Christian, Catholic and Muslim religious leaders demanded the cancellation of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa organised by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) on the basis that it violated the country’s conservative culture. In fact, there is a strong religious counter-movement to SOGI human rights claims, and representatives from different religious groups and political parties gather annually to discuss prevalent issues, including the “gay problem”.
A researcher also described a “crusade against homosexuals” by various religious institutions in December 2008 that culminated in a resolution that referred to homosexuality as the “pinnacle of immorality” and urged Parliament to ban homosexuality in the Constitution, establish rehabilitation centres to “treat” homosexuals” and censor the internet to prevent exposure to “homosexuality and other unwanted cultures”.
In 2014, the Council of Ministers had considered putting homosexuality on a list of “non-pardonable” offences under the Pardon and Amnesty Law, but stopped short of doing so. The legislative proposal was purportedly a result of the government’s attempt to emulate the anti-gay laws in Nigeria and Uganda. Nevertheless, a government spokesperson explained that the government decided against such an amendment because the existing penalties for homosexuality was sufficient, since it is “not a serious crime.. [and] not as widespread as some people suggest”.
- Death threats force cancellation of Ethiopia trip (
- Religious leaders warn gay tourists: Ethiopia might kill you (June 2019, 76crimes.com)
- Anti-gay Ethiopia eases away from new crackdown (
- Archive of this blog’s articles about Ethiopia