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.”