Although gay sex is already outlawed in Ethiopia, the rally set for April 26 comes as the parliament considers making homosexual acts ineligible for presidential pardons. New legislation in Uganda and Nigeria this year has increased penalties for homosexual acts in those two countries, sending many gays underground or out of the country.
The government-affiliated Addis Ababa Youth Forum and a religious group associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church told a news conference that an increasing rate of homosexual acts in the country has reached an alarming rate.
“Children are being raped by gay people in this country. Just yesterday we have met a woman whose boy was raped by two other men. All in all, gay acts are against health, the law, religion and our culture, so we should break the silence and create awareness about it,” said Dereje Negash, chairman of the church group, the Weyiniye Abune Tekelehaimanot Association.
The bill was sponsored by the Ministry of Justice and could be put to a vote this month. In Ethiopia, same-sex acts are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A 25-year jail term is given to anyone convicted of infecting another person with HIV during same-sex acts.
Though the organizers said that there is no specific reason for the timing of the planned demonstration, a prominent blogger and gay activist said that gay-bashing rhetoric is likely to increase in the run-up to elections for parliament next year. Ezana Solomon said the anti-gay movement is trying to invade personal privacy under the banner of child protection.
“I refuse to be labeled a rapist, molester or an abuser since I have never committed those things ever. I think the logical or right thing to do is when I have committed those crimes, I should put to justice. This campaign is not justifiable under any circumstance,” Ezana said.
“If someone thinks my being gay is a sin, in my opinion the only thing you are allowed or should be allowed to do is to pray for me and your boundary ends there,” Ezana said.
The demonstration organizers said the protest will be held under the theme “Keeping alien culture and homosexuality at bay.” They said they hope to see thousands of residents and some senior government officials come to the protest.
“Gay practices are not our culture so we wanted the society to be aware of the danger and protect itself,” said Tsegaye Gebretsadik, chairman of the Addis Ababa Youth Forum.
Ethiopia Christian group to stage anti-gay demo
Addis Ababa (AFP) – An Ethiopian religious group on Thursday announced plans to stage an anti-gay rally this month to protest what it called “rising incidents” of homosexuality in the conservative Horn of Africa nation.
The initiative comes after Uganda and Nigeria recently passed tough anti-gay laws, although Ethiopian authorities said they were “indifferent” to the demonstration.
“The country has seen an increase in gay-related activities and this has reached an alarming stage,” said Dereje Negash, the head of a Christian Association, Woyniye Abune Teklehaimanot.
The demonstration is set to take place in the Ethiopian capital on April 26, the first mass rally against homosexual rights in the country. It is jointly organised with the Addis Ababa Youth Forum, a civil society organisation, and has been given the green light by city authorities.
The Ethiopian government, however, insisted that any group had the right to freedom of expression and that it was not for or against the rally.
Homosexuality is already illegal in the country like in most of Africa’s 54 nations, and punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
“We are indifferent, we just see it as the right to have a demonstration, otherwise we don’t support or oppose,” Information Minister Redwan Hussein told AFP.
Ethiopia is a deeply religious society, with over 60 percent of the population practising Orthodox Christianity, according to official figures.