Image copyright Africa Check
Two women have told the Human Rights Commission of Ethiopia that they were arrested for being gay.
“They interrogated us saying homosexuality is a disease,” one victim says. “It’s one of the first things they asked us.”
The other victim says, “One of the things I remember them asking was if they were looking at my body while I was naked or touching my face.”
Ethiopia is known for the heavy-handed and often brutal way police arrest and detain suspected LGBTI people.
What Human Rights Watch found
Ethiopia does have a history of arrests and persecution of LGBTI people.
In 2013, Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented nearly 200 “violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” against LGBTI people in the country. Many were detained, subject to torture, forced to flee the country or both.
“Anyone accused of homosexuality – whether a man, woman, or transgender individual – is often publicly humiliated by being denounced as a ‘deviant’; beatings and in some cases forced anal examinations of anal fluids are often used to determine sexual orientation and most frequently are performed by a traditional doctor with high-powered instruments including a machete or a power drill,” HRW says.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, told MPs in Ethiopia that there were “many LGBTI people… detained on an arbitrary basis, sometimes with torture and sometimes as part of the penal code”.
The Government has asked all international organisations not to talk about sexual orientation or gender identity in Ethiopia.
“There is something that must really concern all human rights defenders,” UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, David Kaye, said in a statement this month.
He called on the Ethiopian government to “speak to the phenomenon of discrimination and violence against the LGBTI community in the most candid way”.
Judicial sources also told HRW they had seen evidence of police investigating deaths of men who had been accused of being gay or were sexually active with men.
“It can be clearly seen that every single death that is reported in the news is actually attributable to members of the LGBTI community,” one official said.
What HRW finds
Ethiopia’s government says the 2016 Human Rights Act provides protection for LGBTI people.
In June last year, the Federal Criminal Court handed down the first conviction for homosexuality in the country since it criminalised the offence in 2001.
Simegnew Bekele, 25, who was being tried in a civilian court, was fined 5,000 birr (£327) after he was found guilty of “waging war against God and using obscene language” while posting on Facebook.
It is claimed he failed to stop the activities of others, because of his “immoral sexual behaviour”, according to the indictment filed in court.