The controversial homosexual conference that sparked quite a controversy over the past week in Ethiopia has reportedly shifted its venue from its originally scheduled Jupiter Hotel in Addis to the UN Conference Center yesterday. Following the cancellation of a religious leaders’ press briefing condemning the conference last Tuesday, controversy has been raging in the capital Addis for days. The African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), the organizer of the conference, noted on its website yesterday day that the new venue has been shifted to the UN Conference Center from its previous location Jupiter Hotel. However, the management of Jupiter Hotel has denied that such event was all together planned to take place there following the announcement of the group in its website earlier in the week. Roman Tafeswork, General Manager of Jupiter Hotel, responded to The Reporter's inquiries regarding the AMSHeR meeting saying that no such meeting was scheduled to be held at Jupiter Hotel and that the rumors are defamatory in nature.
The meeting, whose theme is “Claim, scale-up, and sustain”, is a pre-conference to the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa (ICASA). According to the new schedule the conference will dwell on an array of agendas like health and human right issues facing homosexuals in Africa including the criminalization of consensual same-sex practice, new biomedical approach to HIV prevention and others.
At the cancellation of the press briefing it was reported that immediately prior to the cancellation a one-hour-long closed meeting was held, which was attended by the representatives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, the Ethiopian Catholic Church and Protestant denominations, as well as Minster of Health TewodrosAdhanom.
African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) is a well-known gay activist group in Africa. Its website lists event speakers as including the Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibe, the United States Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, among others.
The discussions are to focus on health and human rights issues facing gays.
These events have sparked unprecedented controversy in Addis Ababa and among the Ethiopian community at large including online forums and websites.
The Ethiopian Criminal Code criminalizes homosexuality.
By Asrat Seyoum and Haile Mulu