Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
A recent conference in Ethiopia addressing HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Africa was hampered by anti-gay disruptions.
The December 3rd “Claim, Scale-up, and Sustain” event was planned as a “pre-conference” ahead of the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa that began the following day, also in Addis Ababa.
Around 80 MSM activists from across the continent, including countries such as Togo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Nigeria, gathered to engage on common issues.
The event was hosted by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), a network of African MSM/LGBT led organisations, and was set to take place at the Jupiter International Hotel.
It was, however, marred by a number of incidents that reflected the homophobic environment facing many LGBT and MSM activists in Africa.
According to Dawie Nel, director of the Pretoria-based LGBT health and well-being organisation OUT, who attended the pre-conference, the day before the event was set to begin “AMSHeR was notified that they could no longer proceed in the planned venue as ‘there was a rumour that it was about homosexuality’”.
He said that the hotel refused to refund the already paid monies, leaving orgnisers in a predicament to secure a new venue.
“AMSHeR delegates felt unsure about their own safety and had to secure new venues and make needed logistical changes within one day,” explained Nel.
While the pre-conference was moved into the United Nations compound, Nel said that threats against the delegates and the event continued.
“The interpreters’ booth was stormed and recordings of conversations confiscated. There was also a police presence outside the AMSHeR delegates’ hotel and protests by Christians outside of the venue,” he revealed.