Controversy in Ethiopia over LGBT rights

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A heavily criticized article about a gay man speaking of his experience regarding Ethiopia becoming a better place for gay people was published on Bikyanews.com last Friday and has sparked a great deal of conversation, including anti-LGBT sentiments in the East African country.

Among the virulent comments on the article were those comparing gay people to “dogs” and “pigs.”  One member wrote that gay people “deserve to die” and another member wrote that Ethiopia is a country where “we don’t tolerate such kind of stupid people because we want to keep our culture beautiful.”

According to a recent poll by Pew Global Attitudes Project, Eastern Africa remains one of the most anti-gay regions in the world. The poll found that “97 percent of Ethiopians believe that homosexuality is a way of life that should not be accepted.”

The US State Department found in a Human Rights Report that in Ethiopia “The majority of self-identified gay and lesbian members, the majority of whom are male, requested assistance in changing their behavior to avoid discrimination. Many gay men report anxiety, confusion, identity crises, depression, self-ostracism, religious conflict, and suicide attempts.”

In 2008, the Patriarch of the Tewahedo Orthodox Ethiopian Church said that “This is something very strange in Ethiopia, the land of the Bible that condemns this very strongly. For people to act in this manner they have to be dumb, stupid like animals. We strongly condemn this behavior. They [homosexuals]have to be disciplined and their acts discriminated, they have to be given a lesson.”

Under the Ethiopian criminal code, all forms of homosexual relationships are illegal and may result in punishments of at least one year to “extreme cases” of 15 years in prison.

429Magazine

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