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Ethiopia next African state to legally banish homosexuality

AUTODIDACT 17 | 4/17/2014, 1:27 p.m.

On March 25, Ethiopia became the most recent African state, after Nigeria and Uganda, to pass anti-gay legislation that imposes long-term imprisonment for anyone caught indulging in same-sex activity in the country. Other African nations are said to soon follow, including Kenya.

The bill places homosexuality, which is already illegal in Ethiopia, on a list of “unpardonable” criminal offenses under the country’s amnesty law. It puts homosexual acts in the same category as human trafficking, rape and terrorism. It follows the enactment of similarly harsh anti-gay legislative measures recently passed in Nigeria and Uganda.

“In Ethiopia, the [anti-gay] law was voted on by parliament in 2004 and implemented in 2005. Ethiopia has now simply said that those convicted cannot be pardoned … but in the last 10 years, we haven’t heard the EU criticize Ethiopia on the issue—it even increased its aid—so my question is, why now?” commented Faten Aggard-Clerx, the Africa program manager at the European Center for Development Policy Management.

“Homosexuality, while it’s part of your culture, is in most of our countries–if not all–abominable,” added another parliamentarian.

Anti-gay campaigns across the continent have been common lately, where 38 of its 54 states have homosexuality banned on the books. In 2009, a law was passed in Ethiopia that banned LGBT people from adopting children. Heavy fine and prison sentences of three to five years have been implemented for people engaging in same-sex activity, with even heavier fines levied against transgender offenders.

In response to the self-determining act to rid the motherland of what many African leaders deem to be “Western culture,” European leaders have called for the withdrawal of economic aid.

“Imprisoning gays and lesbians for their sexuality is a disgrace that should disqualify offending countries from EU aid,” suggested the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, during a joint summit with MPs from the Pan-African Parliament on March 31. “This represented an unacceptable violation of the basic rights of individuals.”

“This highlighted the need to redirect aid to civil society and other organizations that fight against exclusion and discrimination based on sexual preference,” he continued. “Appropriate measures should be taken against countries who continue to criminalize homosexuality or pass even more repressive laws.”

Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have ceased providing millions of dollars in aid to Uganda following their stern stance against same-sex activities, which imposes life-terms of incarceration. The EU is holding a series of meetings with Kampala, which “will be of great importance in determining how relations develop between the EU and Uganda in the months ahead,” officials say.

EU Foreign Policy spokesman Michael Mann told EurActiv: “The EU will reiterate its firm condemnation of the anti-homosexuality law and of all forms of discriminatory legislation.”