On August 1, 2020, the “advocacy“ group, ስለ ኢትዮጵያ ዝም አንልም, held a press conference through its leader Dereje Negash (ዘወይንዬ). With a star-studded panel, Mr. Dereje began his spiel with the usual “recap” of Ethiopian history. He then went on to make a list of requirements from the Ethiopian government. Among the demands laid out in this press conference were:
a 25-year sentence for sex between same-sex individuals and making the “offenders” ineligible for clemency or parole,
for “Transgenderism, Bisexuality, sex toys, masturbation, and oral sex to become criminal offenses.”
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but oh, what the heck—WE TOLD YOU SO!!! Many of us in the LGBTQ community have been sounding the alarm for years now. The goal of this group does not end with homosexuality. Most Ethiopians allied themselves with this group thinking all they stood for was to guard the nation against homosexuality. As wrong as that is, this was a tactical slip on your part. You failed to see the long-term goal of the man you so sheepishly followed. It was always a slippery slope: the notion of the government legislating about our most intimate affairs was bound to end with outright totalitarian goals. By empowering the religious far-right over public life, you emboldened them to demand more.
History has a great sense of humor; many who called us ቡሽቲ have now been labeled ቡሽቲ themselves. If you “rub one out” once in a while, or you enjoy occasionally going down on someone(or vice versa), you are one of us now!! Welcome, my newfound friends! Welcome to a world where your sexual desires get you a lovely nickname, ቡሽቲ. Welcome to a world where the state seeks to sentence you to prison with murderers and rapists for having consensual sex! Welcome to the house of ቡሽቲ (no benefits attached)
There has always been a severe deficit of empathy between the larger Ethiopian society and the LGBTQ community. The culture of tolerance and inclusion that we Ethiopians pride ourselves on, has never extended to the LGBTQ community. For years, most Ethiopians considered gay rights to be a non-issue, while it has been an all-consuming issue for those of us who cannot return to Ethiopia because we receive death threats like Shabbat blessings. Yet our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
It’s now time to pay the piper. The same people hailed as heroes for vociferously preaching hate against us are soon coming for you. Maybe is considered to be one of us that will bridge that gap of empathy— if you couldn’t feel our pain— maybe you can feel your own. Perhaps now, when the sex stasi comes knocking at your door, you can see why extending the state’s jurisdiction into our bedrooms was a horrible idea.
It’s a sad statement about our society that straight people have to be directly affected for a debate to start on just how much the state should meddle in our sex lives. I have a radical idea: how about we keep “big brother” out of our bedrooms? How about sex remains a private affair between willing participants? Maybe consenting adults should be allowed to love and make love without needing a parliamentary decree? Who is with me?
Haddis is an Ethiopian-born writer, resident blogger at House of Guramayle, now residing in the United States. His work mainly focuses on the social and political issues affecting the LGBTQ community in Ethiopia.
Bahiru Shewaye (he/him)
19 August 2021
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