Author: Rehim Baharu Elala
Intern, Ethiopian Community Development Council
LGBT data in Ethiopia
Ethiopia revised its Criminal Code in 2004 and criminalised homosexual or indecent acts both between men and women, with those convicted facing terms of imprisonment. Same-sex acts will be punished with imprisonment of not less than a year, or in ‘grave’ cases, rigorous imprisonment of up to 15 years. The justifications for criminalising the acts are mostly associated with the strict societal norms and religion.
There is no study or research conducted to know the exact number of LGBTQ people in Ethiopia. I interviewed two members of the LGBTQ in Ethiopia who are working in legal and health professions when I was writing a Seminar Paper for my LGBTQ Health Law and Policy class. My informants told me that the estimate data shows that there are around 50,000-60,000 people who identify themselves as LGBTQ in the capital Addis Ababa alone. They also stated that the major source of the anti-gay sentiment originates from the religious authorities. This is because homosexuals are always portrayed in a dangerous manner by the religious institutions as child abusers and destroyers of Ethiopian values. An Ethiopian law professor states the influence of religious groups in the following words:
“There is complete silence around LGBT experiences because there is no forum for stories about the violence meted out by the state and family members on a day-to-day basis… My biggest fear is that these religious organisations are monopolising the conversation and perpetuating a fear that is becoming impossible to combat.”
Author: Daniel Marari
LLM, International Human Rights Law, Lund University, Sweden
Although the Tanzanian Constitution (1977) guarantees the right to equality and prohibits discrimination based on gender and sex, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people still face deeply rooted hostility, prejudice and widespread discrimination in the Tanzanian society. Threats of criminal penalty, social exclusion, harassment and violence make it particularly unsafe for one to come out as an LGBT person.
At present, certain homosexual acts between consenting adult males are criminalized under the Penal Code (Chapter 16 of the laws). Under section 154 of the Penal Code, committing or attempting to commit “unnatural offences” are crimes punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and twenty years’ imprisonment, respectively. “Unnatural offence” is defined as (1) sexual intercourse with any person “against the order of nature” as well as (2) consensual sexual intercourse between a man and man or woman “against the order of nature”. The words “against the order of nature” are not statutorily defined. Also, under section 157 of the Penal Code, it is an offence punishable with a maximum of five years imprisonment for any male person, whether in public or private, to commit an act of gross indecency with another male person. By section 3 of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, “gross indecency” is defined as “any sexual act that is more than ordinary but falls short of actual intercourse and may include masturbation and indecent physical contact or indecent behavior without any physical contact”. Consent is no defense to any of these offences and no distinction regarding age is made in the text of the law. As the consequence of the existence of these laws criminalizing private consensual homosexual acts, LGBT people in Tanzania live in psychological stress and unceasing fear of prosecution and imprisonment.
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