Ethiopia: Homosexuality Debate as Capital Hosts AIDS Conference

An upcoming conference on AIDS and sexually transmitted infections in Africa has sparked controversy after religious leaders and government officials in Ethiopia held a meeting on Tuesday 29 November, 2011, over whether or not to ban gay rights activists gathering on the fringes of the international meeting. The meeting came after religious leaders canceled a news conference called to denounce the planned conference of gay rights activists.

The 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa will be held in the capital Addis Ababa this coming Sunday, where more than 200 activists, experts and UN officials are expected to participate.

Following the attempt by the religious community to ban the conference, Ethiopian netizens turned to Facebook to discuss homosexuality in their country. Homosexuality in Ethiopia is a crime and is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.

ICASA 2011: Own, Scale-Up and Sustain. Image source: ICASA 2011 site.

ICASA 2011: Own, Scale-Up and Sustain. Image source: ICASA 2011 site.

According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97% of Ethiopian residents said that homosexuality should be rejected by society, which was the second-highest percentage rejecting homosexuality among the 44 countries surveyed, exceeded only by Mali with 98%.

However, some Ethiopians netizens on Facebook start to have a different perspective on homosexuality.

Hallelujah calls for a civilized public debate about the issue:

Sooner or later we need to have a civilized public debate about the issue. We shouldn't hate or discriminate,but rather be bold,articulate and critical enough to express our disapproval of the practice of Homosexuality from a spiritual,moral,social,health and nature and survival perspectives.

Below is a comment thread that followed Hallelujah's message on his wall.

Lilly Kidane thinks that we need to be compassionate about the issue:

We need to address it and try to be compassionate about it as well, we have created God in our image and what ever we dont like and we dont understand and we judge we say God doesnt like it either, but God should be, in my opinion, beyond all this small stuff of who is sleeping with whom. We all need to find what makes us happy and be greatful for it

She adds:

how boring would it be if the whole world be the same. It takes all kinds of people to fill up the world

Bisrat Teshome says emotional reactions to homosexuality are unacceptable:

As to me, i don't consider homosexuality as a problem by itself. It is preference of people. People are rational and have the right and full knowledge to choose what is good for themselves (of course under the umbrella of the legal system of the country). These types of emotional and discriminatory reactions from religions are unacceptable.

Osman Mohammedsiraj says that the debate should be on how to protect Ethiopians from “the spread of the epidemic”:

Gay and lesbian rights are among issues that are not worth discussing in Ethiopia, since it is forgone conclusion that everyone across all religious affiliation disapproves them. But the discussion should rather be how to protect our people from spread of the epidemic

Nuhamin Getachew believes homosexuality has no place in Ethiopia:

i am thanking God for those of us who still believe it is an utterly unnatural act. Also,i CAN NOT believe i am reading approvals for it from ETHIOPIANS?? Guys please,let us keep the dignified country our proud forefathers handed to us and not confuse civilization and plain immorality!!

Markos asks:

I think we are missing the ONLY point here….Since when people treated so awfully like this for THINGS they practice on themselves?

Mesfin Tekle says that Africa needs to deal with the issue:

This issue is very complex but sooner or later our country and the continent of Africa will have to deal with it. This is not a curable disease like polio that you can prevent with a vaccination.

Bob Herold asks:

Something to think about. What if one of your children who you have LOVED, nutured, and provided for came to you and said, ” I am gay”. Could you just turn your back on them. Does this make them a terrible person. As a matter of fact does this change them in any way other than what they do in the PRIVACY of there on home. Hmmm.

Selam Araya sees homosexuality as a sign of a confused generation:

I was trying to read the comments and debates above. and just wondered “what would be the response of the past generation to this issue.” I would guess completely against homosexuality” even better, how about the next generation. I would guess completely pro to it. we are the confused generation!

Sewinet Belete posted the following protest message in Amharic on Facebook:

A message of protest against the conference

Agenda of the Meeting at Jupiter hotel revealed.

For the World HIV conference which will be held at millennium hall, the main point of the agenda is “To stop the spread of HIV AIDS and homosexuality as a solution” … another objective of this meeting is to influence the Ethiopia government to make a supportive law to accept this extremely bad practice which leads to corrupt families and the country.

To do this, they are trying spend a lot of money and plead support of the international organizations.

Well respected, rich and educated people in Ethiopia are actively participating in this as if this is the peak of their knowledge and wisdom.

And anyone who believes in the existence of God …. anyone who knows how to live in a society should object/protest this bad practice which spoiled Europe and the Western world.

The debates continues on Facebook, which more than 90% of Internet users in Ethiopia have access to.


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  • Chuchu

    Well, i am christian and homosexuality may not seem normal but can be normal as long as doesn’t cause harm to others and i think we need to respect the liberty of these minorities.

  • Daniel tesema

    am Really sad to hear from the City of Addis Ababa the world became animals they don’t know how trear there life homo sexulity is meregeme siga new it is big sign please Ethiopians don let allow them to bring the westen desise we have to stragel to stop this stupid idea from our holly land opf Ethiopia
    God keep and bless Ethiopia

  • Ewnetu

    what makes me surpprised here is, reading some Ethiopians supporting this animalism. Oh God, please protect our country as always!

  • samuel

    If you want freedom give others freedom.

    I’m from Ethiopia and defiantly not gay, but this earth is known to be cruel and cold when it comes to being different. And this time as awaken person, I will stand with people who loves and accept others for theirs different.
    If you disagree with me I understand you, I use to be like you. You will get over it, hopefully soon. If you get a chance to love anyone you meet—neighbor, co-worker, grocery cashier etc.. just for being who they are or look it is like heaven while in earth.

    Fikir fikir fikir wodaga.

  • dawit

    One thing i hate about as ethiopians is we want to think and act like westerns, their defination of civilization may include rights for homos, pls dont try to bring it here, they are a social virus. Unless we act to stop them soon our fate will be like soddom and gomorrh

  • mesfin

    Hello dear ones,I wish you all health and prosperity.
    You people please come to your correct and just mind. Think for a moment being alone. Do not be decieved.
    No religion supports homosexuality – christianity or Islam. Even if we let alone religion, do you think that this practice sound OK at least for the common sense? Isn’t it sex correct b/n the male and the female, as given naturally and as our body biology proves- regardless of the devil’s definitioin? Don’t you think this is a cronic desease?
    Definitely it is. Please in the name of liberity ( as chuchu said above- by the way chuchu, do you think that christ likes this thing as you aproved it?) and in the name human right please do not spoil our mother land like the west and their friends. Cancell the meeting, do not take our being poor as a reason to disiminate your poison. please save our children and the future generation. Be aware that there are people homosexuals that post their comment here. You so called millionaires with your money go with you money. Invest your money on the youth if you love your country. Creat new jobs for the jobless and the poor and benefit your self. Ban ban ban for ever!!!

  • sisay

    24 Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;

    25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

  • Yonas

    Well, I don’t know how but homosexuality is stated as an illegal act in Ethiopia, PERIOD. Once it is stated as law, it is not a question of whether it is right or wrong or religiously acceptable or anything. It would rather be about respecting/following the country’s law.

    Some laws happen to be stated wrongly in the past and there is a legal procedure in overwriting them. Those who are concerned, in this case Gays and Lesbians, would form a movement, raise their voice to the people and eventually make their case to the parliament. Then the parliament would vote on it and if it gets 2/3 of the vote, then they can overwrite the law. In countries like Ethiopia, with more than 95% of disapproval rate on homosexuality, I don’t see how it is going to make to that stage.

    But in the mean time, they have all the right to make meetings or peaceful demonstrations to stand for what they believe is right. Similarly, those who are against can make a counter act/demonstration to push the movement back. That is normal and that is how it should be. What is wrong is to try to over pass one’s constitutional right (say freedom of assembly) just for having a different stand. For example, the Ethiopian religious leaders were about to ask a ban on the meeting that was going to be held in the capital. Their reason is pretty lame. They said it is against their religeous believe and they want it to be banned. How is it any different from any other gathering by a different religeous group. Does their religeous believe allow for other people to follow some other religion other than the one they believe in?? Why didn’t they ask to ban those gatherings? How is this any different??

    Anyways my point is, this is relativelly simpler issue when compared to all the other differences we have to work on. If we have to work together in building a well structured leadership in our country, then we have to practice and learn how to handle differences. This one can be a perfect ground for practicing that. Remembering just one thing is actually concidered as the greatest leap towards working together. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS AND RESPECT OTHERS’ RIGHTS TOO!!!

  • These are irresponsible and irrational people who always run after their sensual desire. They lost their mind and their eyes are blinded to the extent that they could not even see their character and morals are getting perverted. They no more exist as a sane human being.

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