Ethiopia appears to be rejecting efforts to ramp up pressure against the gay and lesbian community in the country.
Associated Press reported on Wednesday that a planned anti-gay rally has been cancelled and that the government confirmed that a proposed new anti-gay law will not be enacted.
The rally, set to tale place on April 26, was being organised by the government-affiliated Addis Ababa Youth Forum and an Ethiopian Orthodox Church religious group, the Weyiniye Abune Tekelehaimanot Association.
There were also reports that homosexuality – which is already illegal – would be made a non-pardonable offence; equating it with corruption, human-trafficking, smuggling, rape and terrorism.
Government spokesman Redwan Hussein told AP that homosexuality “is not a serious crime. Plus, it is not as widespread as some people suggest. It is already a crime and a certain amount of punishment is prescribed for it. The government thinks the current jail term in enough.”
Male and female same-sex sex is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
There were fears that the country was planning to follow in the footsteps of Uganda and Nigeria which earlier this year enacted harsh anti-gay legislation.
Dereje Negash, head of the religious group planning the anti-gay rally, said the event had been cancelled by the government.
Despite the cancellation and alleged threats from the gay community, he said that he was determined to continue his campaign against homosexuality.
“I will continue to pursue my struggle against the gay community. I believe I have been given a task by God to do this. I will do this even if it means life or death,” Dereje said.
Last week, he claimed that “children are being raped by gay people in this country.”