The Ethiopian government is backing away from its plans to hold a major anti-gay rally in the capital of Addis Ababa later this month.
They've also dropped a bill that would have made gay sex a non-pardonable offense -- not because they've had a change of heart, mind you, but because they say current law, which punishes consensual same-sex sexual activity by up to 15 years in prison, is harsh enough.
The Associated Press reports:
A planned anti-gay rally that would have made Ethiopia the latest African country to demonize gays has been cancelled, officials said Wednesday. In addition, plans by the legislature to add gay sex to a list of crimes not eligible for presidential pardons has been dropped, said Redwan Hussein, a government spokesman...
Gay Ethiopians still face severe penalties for living in the open. Same-sex acts are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A 25-year jail term is given to anyone convicted of infecting another person with HIV during same-sex acts.
But the government does not appear ready to further demonize homosexuals. Redwan said the anti-gay rally was on certain groups' agenda, but not the government's.
"It 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," said Redwan, who confirmed that gay crimes would not be added to the list of unpardonable crimes.
Interestingly, the spokesman for a religious group tied to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church -- one of the chief organizers of the rally -- claimed that the church requested the rally be cancelled due to alleged violent threats from the gay community. Of course, he offered nothing to substantiate his claims.