Ethiopian religious leaders gathered
Monday in the country's capital of Addis Ababa to press lawmakers to
constitutionally ban being gay, the Europe-based AFP news service
Representing several denominations,
including Ethiopian Christian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and
Protestant, nearly a dozen clerics said outlawing being gay was
insufficient. Current Ethiopian law forbids gay sex and prescribes a
six month jail sentence as punishment, but the constitution remains
silent on the issue.
In making their case, the religious
leaders called being gay “the pinnacle of immorality” and blamed
it for an increase in sexual attacks on boys and young men.
“This is something very strange in
Ethiopia, the land of the Bible that condemns this very strongly,”
said Abune Paolos, the head of Ethiopia's Christian Orthodox Church,
which dates back to the first century.
“For people to act in this manner
they have to be dumb, stupid like animals,” he told reporters. “We
strongly condemn this behavior. They [gays and lesbians] have to be
disciplined and their acts discriminated, they have to be given a
The most recent available data shows
Christians make up a majority (61.6%) of Ethiopia's population.
A United Nations resolution calling for
the universal decriminalization of being gay was introduced in the
General Assembly on December 18 and gathered 66 member signatures.
Backers said anti-gay laws are used to “harass civil society,
restrict free expression, discredit enemies, and destroy lives.”
“Sodomy laws add to the spread of
HIV/AIDS by criminalizing outreach to affected groups,” said Scott
Long, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights
program at Human Rights Watch.
a United Nations member, Ethiopian leaders rejected the resolution.
Monday's resolution called on Ethiopian
lawmakers to act forcefully against gays and lesbians in the country:
“We urge parliamentarians to ... endorse a ban on homosexuality in
the constitution,” the resolution read.
“Here we don't believe that it is [a
human rights issue] and we don't believe that is related to creation
– it has no biological base,” Sium Antonios, head of the NGO
United for Life Ethiopia, told the AFP.
“It is unacceptable, it is immoral.
Every single leader said in one voice that is the pinnacle of
immorality,” he said.
Being gay remains illegal in 80
countries throughout the world, according to the U.N. Nine countries
prescribe death as a punishment.