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Ethiopia Proposes to Make Gay Sex a Non-Pardonable Offence

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Lawmakers in Ethiopia are expected to pass into law a bill that would make same-sex acts a non-pardonable offense.

Other anti-gay actions and measures in Ethiopia are inducing a climate of fear and panic among the country's LGBT community.

Ethiopia's Council of Ministers endorsed the bill last week with parliament expected, according to local activists, to vote it into law as early as next week.

The bill aims to curb the president's power to pardon prisoners who committed certain "crimes," including those imprisoned for homosexuality acts. Other offenses included in the list are corruption, human-trafficking, smuggling, rape and terrorism.

Ethiopia's Minister of State Getachew Bedane urged a quick vote.

26 year-old Bereket, an Ethiopian gay rights blogger commented on the move: "The decision to include homosexuality in this bill is simply pure ignorance on the part of the government.

"The rest of the world is decriminalizing homosexuality not because it wants to or it is the fashionable thing to do, but because it is now being realized that sexual orientation is a basic human right too.

"It's deeply troubling to see Ethiopia opting out of this global consciousness."

Ethiopian authorities have, however, signaled that more anti LGBT measures and "gay-bashing rhetoric" are on the way, in preparation to "the run up to the election next year," reported Daniel Berhane of the Horn Affairs blog.

According to the Ethiopian Reporter, the Addis Ababa Youth Forum, a group linked to the ruling party in Ethiopia, in collaboration with Weyneye Abune Teklehaimanot, an Ethiopian Orthodox Church association, is planning a mass anti-gay demonstration in the capital against what they called the "sodomite violence that is being committed against minors."

The group is awaiting a final permission from the Addis Ababa City Administration and is expected to go ahead with the planned rally within the next few weeks.

The mass demonstration is reportedly backed by government institutions such as "the Addis Ababa City Culture and Tourism Bureau, Addis Ababa Labor and Social Affairs Bureau, Women, Youth and Children Affairs Bureau and the Addis Ababa Police Commission," according to the Chairman of Addis Ababa Youth Forum.

Ahead of the rally, Weyneye Abune Teklehaimanot has recently produced a video alleging same-sex acts are linked to the advent of the anti-Christ and "the end of the world".

In addition, Addis Ababa municipality officers are planning to provide anti-LGBT seminars to youth across the capital to provide "awareness" on "the dangers posed to children by homosexuality."

The linkage of LGBT issues to pedophilia has been recently stepped up in Ethiopia's press that frequently publishes interviews with Evangelical anti-gay preacher, Dr. Antonious Seyoum.

In Ethiopia, same-sex acts are illegal and punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

In addition, under its anti-terrorism law anyone who states what the government deems terrorism (which can include human rights criticism) can be imprisoned for 20 years, without a warrant.

Ethiopia's anti-advocacy law bars charities and nongovernmental organizations that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad from participating in activities that advance human rights and the promotion of equality.

Collectively, the laws create a dangerous environment for LGBT Ethiopians to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Ethiopia has already very harsh anti-LGBT laws, including a 25 year imprisonment for anyone infecting another person with HIV during same-sex acts.

"The situation, however, is getting worse as it seems the government is trying to its emulate Nigeria's and Uganda's anti-gay laws," said a spokesperson for the advocacy group Rainbow Ethiopia, who could not be identified for fear of his family's safety.

"LGBT people are already denied access to health services, even those funded directly by the US government.

"But the impact of such a law coupled with the strong anti-gay public sentiment that is being intentionally stirred up makes it likely that HIV infection rates will go further up.

"LGBT people are now terrified even to approach underground health services, and now live in a climate of fear and persecution."