Ethiopia gay meet creates buzz on Facebook

December 3rd, 2011 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Facebook Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Dec 3 (IANS) A controversial gay conference, which began here in the Ethiopian capital despite an uproar from the public and religious leaders, has generated a lot of buzz on social networking platforms like Facebook.

The two-day 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Africa (ICASA) began at the UN Conference Centre Friday.

Ever since the news of the gay conference became public, Ethiopians have been discussing the issue mainly on digital platforms like Facebook.
Most of the statements on the social networking websites reflect public loath based on religious and cultural values.

About 200 gays as well as UN and US officials were expected to attend the conference, where organisers said the discussion would focus on issues related to men having sex with men (MSM).

Organised by the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), the meeting, dubbed “Claim, Scale-up and Sustain”, will seek to increase attention on MSM and HIV-related issues in Africa, according to the News from Africa website.

A 2007 Global Attitudes survey on the subject revealed that 97 percent of Ethiopians believed homosexuality should be rejected by society, which was the second highest among the 44 countries surveyed, exceeded only by Mali with 98 percent.

On Nov 29, religious leaders called a press conference to denounce the gay meet that led to a dispute with government authorities.

A meeting between Health Minister Tewodros Adanom and religious leaders from the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, the Ethiopian Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical churches ended in a dispute on how to, and whether or not to, ban the gay conference.

Speakers at the conference would reportedly include UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe, US Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby, and the current chairperson of the Committee for the Protection of the rights of people living with HIV, Reine Alapini-Gansou.

The speakers would discuss health and human rights issues faced by gays, including the issue of criminalisation of same sex practices.

Ethiopia’s criminal law strictly prohibits any form of homosexuality on the ground that it is against the country’s cultural norms.

“Homosexual or same sex marriage and unethical activities in the country are considered criminal and the person who engages in such activity would be sentenced to three to 10 years’ imprisonment,” the law states.

(Groum Abate can be contacted at groumabate@gmail.com)

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