The Ethiopian government has always been in essence, a religiously backed government. With 62.8 of the population being of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith, The country’s community is fairly conservative. This in itself isn’t wrong, but it does inadvertently cause damage to Ethiopian human rights, especially concerning LGBTQ+ communities. This majority in the country gives religious organizations a lot of power in the area, especially concerning the ability to sway opinion, in turn impacting lawmakers decisions of controversial topics. For example, in 2014, religious leader Patriarch Abune Mathias posted on Facebook that “homosexuality is not natural and we in Ethiopia must not accept this ungodly behaviour.” and urged Ethiopian political leaders to add harsher laws against LGBTQ+ acts and individuals.
Also in 2014, the Council of Ministers proposed a bill that would bar LQBTQ+ individuals to accesses basic human rights. The bill, which was rejected in March of 2014, put homosexuality on a list of offences labels “Un-Pardonable”, alongside crimes such as terrorism. These requests, if they were to be passed, would have been added to Ethiopia’s already extensive list of anti-LGBTQ+ laws. These laws give a minimum of 25 years in prison to anyone who was found out to identify as homosexual and a ban of non-government organizations and international organizations that were Pro LGBTQ+. This means that there are no health centres that focus on LGBTQ+ specific health and that there is limited Aids and HIV education accessible to the public, though Dr.Kesetebirhan Admasu, the Ethiopian Minister of Health, says that “any person can access any type of services regardless of their sexual orientation.’, to which many LGBTQ+ individuals in Ethiopia say is a sick joke.
Despite all of the obstacles, there is still an underground lgbtq+ community in Ethiopia. This group thrives on the internet, and with the safety that private Facebook groups provide, they can share their experiences, questions, funny videos, and most importantly, information about having safe sex. This can be seen with a group called “the facebookers”, a group of 20-something gay Ethiopian men who have formed a small, intimate group where they share their struggles and express themselves. This means that the men have two accounts, one “straight account” for family and old friends, and their “gay account”, fit with eccentric names and their connection to their private groups. Movies are also important to groups like the Facebookers. Beki, a man that’s part of the Facebook group, says that the movie boat trip, a comedy about two straight men getting trapped on a gay cruise, changed his life.
Flims like these are typically considered offensive in western culture, but to groups like the Facebookers, its representation like no other. There is one fear that looms over many of the men’s heads. Outing, the act of exposing someones sexual orientation without their consent, is a constant concern for the group. This came true for a few men when a documentary named No Silence – About the 666 Satanic Act of Homosexuality in Ethiopia, made headlines. The movie itself wasn’t explicit and did not live up to its outrageous title, the most “satanic” and “egregious” moments being just a few men in women’s clothing going to a bar, but the men who were filmed partying by an undercover cameraman had to go into hiding to avoid prosecution.