Ethiopia’s press & the online community in catch-22 about homosexuality, freedom of expression and beyond.

As usual Ethiopian government has been a disappointment for its suppressive handling of the matter and religious leaders did also get extensive censure for their methodical silence on the theme

It was reported that in early hours of Saturday few homophobic protestors who managed to locate the where about of gay rights activists gathering to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) conference centre were broken up and the alleged coordinators of the demonstration detained for few hours by police in Addis Ababa. Now, the unstated endorsement of the government to the gay rights activists gathering in Addis Ababa and the calm and methodical approach of the religious leaders to the matter has become a dominant theme.

Just before the commencement of the 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa; Ethiopian’s religious leaders’ tried to convened a meeting to denounce the preliminary meeting of gay rights activists gathering which was said to be organized and sponsored mainly by the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) but their effort was cancelled after a discussion with government officials. This precautious and secretive deal of government with religious leaders to cancel the press conference called for the admonition of the gay activist gathering in Addis brought them a grave condemnation from most of Ethiopia’s online community. Abel Wabella, a blogger, slammed the act of the religious leaders and pretenders ironically for their stance on the issue. In his Amharic article titled: “Are we (Ethiopians) not sodomists?” He confronted writers, the so called social commentators and the online community for their reticent approach of the recent wave of journalists’ accusation and detentions based on terrorism charges while they are bogusly noisy on occasions such as the topical gay right activists’ gatherings in Addis.

The fearful nature of the religious leaders to the subject is despicable as it has been clear that “they were not able to properly address the situation as they were stopped from giving any kind of press release” [sic] on the matter writes Mahlet Zesolomon in her blog.Tamerat Negera, one of the exiled journalists of Addis Neger in his exceptionally extended Facebook update on the issue has scorned them as:You have never been part of any non violent campaign for your freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. When those who non violently fight for your freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion campaign for these rights to be respected you never joined them. When these people who are nonviolently fighting for you were sent to jail you didn’t campaign for their release or even bother to visit them. When they were tortured you didn’t console them. When they are persecuted to exile you didn’t even care. When they are killed you were too afraid to attend their funeral. But when it is about the freedom of others to speak, assemble and practice their religion you are committed to violently deny them their rights. You have always been careful not to put yourself in any danger to protect and defend your own right but you are totally committed to put yourself in mortal danger to deny the rights of others. What the hell are you?

By the way during the official opening ceremony of 16th ICASA conference Mr Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, calls for the protection of minority among which Men who have sex with men(MSM) community remembers were mentioned in the presence of many members of religious leaders

With one or two bona fide critical and independent print media outlets remaining in the country of 85 million populations Feteh and Addis Admass wrote about the issue. –as usual it seems the later takes a frame that does not brazen out with the government. In contrast, The Reporter’s coverage of the issue tried to be wide-ranging with a negative side of homosexuality out weighing the negative ones; one can read the articles in the local press (for example here ).

Personally, I find falling in a tricky trap of denouncing or approving homosexuality in Ethiopia is ludicrous as we have much more serious and wider issues at our hand to discuss about such as freedom of expression. One particular quote worth mentioning to trivialize the hot issue of the media is Kiflu Hussein’s Facebook updates on the issue : Though, it’s difficult to embrace the universality & indivisibility of human rights including gay rights for many people who consider themselves liberal, thanks to the unknown reason, I have also accepted the rights of gays. So my problem doesn’t stem from Meles & Co. allowing a gay rights meeting in Ethiopia. Because I know that Meles uses any cheap trickery to ingratiate himself with the so-called international community, while deploying snipers to gun down even babies, he hosts a gay rights meeting. And the West that still discriminates using different facades such as discriminating against HIV positive people shed a crocodile tear for African gays with the worst bloody despot.

Global voices author Markos Lemma has also revised the context in which many Ethiopian online community is arguing on the matter

2 Comments

  1. In the absence of any conclusive scientific evidence for homosexuality as a true natural phenomena, legalizing homosexuality, as to me, is too hasty evasion of culture. yes, I agree that people should have the freedom of expressing and practicing their right. But, as many people working on human right areas tell us, certain rights are inherently contradictory to each other. One can, for instance take the case of the Danish cartoonist and the case of Islam. When sketching those cartoons, the Danish cartoonist was using his freedom of expression. He has the right to criticizing any entity and he used it and blamed the founder Islam. Questioning, let alone criticizing , the founder of Islam is considered a heresy in Islam. According to the latter, the cartoonist must be punished; and as a result, its followers requested so.
    This means that , the two rights are conflicting to each other, inherently.
    The same can be said to the homosexuality case in Ethiopia. Practicing homosexuality could be the right for the individual to decide. But, there is another aspect that we need to consider. UN has already endorsed an article on respecting and keeping indigenous cultures. If Ethiopian culture prohibits homosexuality, as to me, the present Ethiopians have the right to ban it. So far the best of science is unable to prove its biological roots. Hence, I can dare to say that homosexuality is just Western culture. We can ban it, and, I think we should at least until the society transform itself to absorb it naturally.

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