Go to sources Freedom of religion The United States State Department 2008 International Religious Freedom Report on Ethiopia, published on 19 September 2008, stated:
“The country has an area of 472,000 square miles, and a population of 77 million. An estimated 40 to 45 percent of the population belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), which is predominant in the northern regions of Tigray and Amhara.
“Approximately 45 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, of which the overwhelming majority is Sufi. Islam is most prevalent in the eastern Somali and Afar regions, as well as in many parts of Oromiya.
“Christian evangelical and Pentecostal groups constitute an estimated 10 percent of the population. Established Protestant churches such as Mekane Yesus and the Kale Hiwot are strongest in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Regional State (SNNPR); western and central Oromiya; and in urban areas. In Gambella region, Mekane Yesus followers represent 60 percent of the population. The Evangelical Church Fellowship claims 23 denominations under its religious umbrella throughout the country.
“There are small numbers of Oriental Rite and Latin Rite Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, animists, and practitioners of traditional indigenous religions.
“The country has a small Falash Mura community. Falash Mura are being processed for immigration to Israel, and the number remaining is dwindling rapidly. The Israeli Government is expected to finalize immigration of the remaining Falash Mura in 2008.
“…the Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors.
“The Constitution requires the separation of state and religion; the Government generally respected this provision in practice.
“The Government requires registration of religious groups. Religious institutions and churches, like NGOs, must renew their registration with the Ministry of Justice every three years. The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) stated that this registration requirement reflects a lack of progress or improvement in the Government's treatment of ‘newer religions,’ specifically Protestant churches. Mekane Yesus, the Evangelical Fellowship, and the Catholic Church asserted that churches should be placed in a different status than NGOs. A different status would spare religious groups the rigorous scrutiny that the Government places on NGOs, and facilitate registration, importation of religious materials tax-free, ease in obtaining visas for religious workers, etc.
“Under the law, any religious organization that undertakes development activities must register its development wing separately as an NGO with the Ministry of Justice. To register, each religious organization must complete an application form and submit a copy of its bylaws, curriculum vitae of the organization's leader, and a copy of the leader's identity card. A group's failure to register results in denial of legal standing, which prevents it from opening a bank account or fully participating in any court proceeding.
“The Government officially recognizes both Christian and Muslim holidays and continues to mandate a 2-hour lunch break on Fridays to allow Muslims to go to a mosque for prayers. Official holidays include Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, Meskel, Eid al-Adha, the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, and Eid al-Fitr.
“…under the press law, it is a crime to incite one religion against another. The press law also allows defamation claims involving religious leaders to be prosecuted as criminal cases. The EHRCO reported that no journalists were detained or charged during the reporting period with inciting religious groups or with defamation of religious leaders.
“Religious groups, like private individuals or businesses, must apply to regional and local governments for land allocation. Religious groups are given use of government land for churches, schools, hospitals, and cemeteries free of charge; however, religious schools and hospitals, regardless of length of operation, are subject to government closure and land forfeiture at any time. An interfaith effort to promote revision of the law for religious organizations to obtain duty-free status continued.
“The Government interprets the constitutional provision for separation of religion and state to mean that religious instruction is not permitted in schools, whether public or private. Schools owned and operated by Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical, and Muslim groups were not allowed to teach religion as a course of study. The Government Education Bureau complained that the morals courses most private schools teach as part of their curriculum are not free of religious influence. Churches are permitted to have Sunday schools, the Qur'an is taught at mosques, and public schools permit the formation of clubs, including those of a religious nature.
“The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice; however, on occasion local authorities infringed on this right. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report. However, two local administrators were implicated for incitement in a religious clash between Christians and Muslims in the county.
“The Government banned the formation of political parties based on religion. There were no religious political parties in the country.” [2d] Return to Contents
Go to sources
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons
The United States State Department 2008 Human Rights Report on Ethiopia stated:
“Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Instances of homosexual activity involving coercion or involving a minor (age 13 to 16) are punishable by three months' to five years' imprisonment. Where children under 13 years of age are involved, the law provides for imprisonment of five to 25 years. While society did not widely accept homosexuality, there were no reports of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals; however, the lack of reporting may be due to fears of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization.
“The AIDS Resource Center in Addis Ababa reported that the majority of self-identified gay and lesbian callers -75 percent of whom were male - requested assistance in changing their behavior to avoid discrimination. Many gay men reported anxiety, confusion, identity crises, depression, self-ostracizing, religious conflict, and suicide attempts.
“In December  nearly a dozen religious figures adopted a resolution against homosexuality, urging lawmakers to endorse a ban on homosexual activity in the constitution. The group also encouraged the government to place strict controls on the distribution of pornographic materials.” [2a] (section 5) Information contained in the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults report, published in May 2009, also reported that same-sex physical relations are illegal. The ILGA report stated that Article 629 of the Criminal Code of Ethiopia states that homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by imprisonment. 
A Behind the Mask (African gay rights NGO) report, dated 27 January 2009, stated:
“Ethiopian religious leaders have called on the country’s government to amend the constitution and ban homosexuality, a law which was never mentioned in the constitution of that country before.
“In a meeting held in December 2008 in Addis Ababa, where heads of various congregations including the Roman Catholic, Ethiopian Orthodox and Protestant churches met, a resolution was made that seeks to end homosexuality which was branded as ‘the pinnacle of immorality.’
“According [to] Sonic Casuist of ETHIOGLBTI, a gay rights group in Ethiopia, homosexuality is still perceived as taboo and nonexistent in that country and many homosexuals are still in the closet.
“…Abune Paolos of Ethopia’s Orthodox Church, the second most influential church in Ethiopia with 40 percent of the population being its devoted followers, told reporters that homosexuals are ‘stupid’ and should not be tolerated.
“…while homosexuality is illegal under the country’s penal code it is not mentioned in the constitution.
“ ‘The Ethiopian constitution bans any discrimination based on gender or any other reasons. However the penal code states that homosexuality is illegal’, Casuist pointed out.
“She further highlighted that even though homosexuality is illegal in the country the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community congregates at secluded places.
“ ‘For those of us who live here we make and build our communities. We get together and we have places to go in the evenings however nothing is out in the open, it’s a hidden community’, Casuist said.
“ETHIOGLBTI is a group that aims to increase public awareness and understanding of LGBTI issues in Ethiopia.” 
Return to Contents
Go to sources
The United States State Department 2008 Human Rights Report on Ethiopia stated:
“The constitution (Article 35) provides women the same rights and protections as men. Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) such as female genital cutting, abduction, and rape have been explicitly criminalized. Enforcement of these laws lags. To address this, the government established a National Commission for Children's and Women's Affairs in 2005, as part of the EHRC, to investigate alleged human rights violations against women and children.
“Women and girls experience gender-based violence daily, but it is underreported due to shame, fear, or a victim's ignorance of legal protections. The National Committee for Traditional Practices in Ethiopia identified 120 HTPs. The 2005 Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey found that more than 74 percent of women and girls were subjected to FGM, although this was declining. In the context of gender-based violence, significant gender gaps in the justice system remained due to poor documentation, inadequate investigation, and lack of special handling of cases involving women and children.
“The law criminalizes rape, calling for five to 20 years of imprisonment depending on the severity of the case. The law does not include spousal rape. The government did not fully enforce the law, partially due to widespread underreporting. The Addis Ababa 2006 annual police report listed 736 rape cases out of an estimated population of five million persons. Statistics on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished were not available at year's end.
“Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. The 2005 Health Survey found that 81 percent of women believed a husband had a right to beat his wife. A 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) study found that in two rural districts, Meskan and Mareko, 71 percent of women were subject to physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner during their lifetime. While women had recourse to the police and the courts, societal norms and limited infrastructure prevented many women from seeking legal redress, particularly in rural areas. The government prosecuted offenders on a limited scale.
“Limited access to family planning services, high fertility, low reproductive health and emergency obstetric services, and poor nutritional status and infections all contributed to high maternal mortality ratio (673/100,000 mothers), according to the 2005 Health Survey. Maternal health care services did not reach the majority of women; skilled birth attendants aided only 10 percent of births. The national average for antenatal care (ANC) is 28 percent.
“…sexual harassment was widespread. The penal code prescribes 18 to 24 months' imprisonment; however, harassment-related laws were not enforced.
“…discrimination against women was most acute in rural areas, where 85 percent of the population was located. The law contains discriminatory regulations, such as the recognition of the husband as the legal head of the family and the sole guardian of children over five years old. Authorities did not consider domestic violence a serious justification for granting a divorce. There was limited legal recognition of common law marriage. Irrespective of the number of years the marriage existed, the number of children raised, and joint property, the law entitled women to only three months' financial support if a common law relationship ended. A husband had no obligation to provide financial assistance to his family and, as a result, women and children sometimes faced abandonment. Even with recent stronger formal laws, most rural residents continued to apply customary law in economic and social relationships.
“All land belongs to the government. Although women could obtain government leases to land, and the government had an explicit policy to provide equal access for women to land, rural communities rarely enforced this policy. In nearly all regions women did not have access to land, except through marriage. The law states that any property owned before marriage belongs to the spouse that previously owned it, while any property gained during marriage belongs to the husband upon divorce. In practice, when a husband died, other family members often took the land from his widow. In pastoralist areas where poverty is higher, women do not own property without a male guardian, which increases their marginalization and vulnerability. A widow must marry her brother-in-law or have an adult son in order to keep her deceased husband's land.
“In urban areas, women had fewer employment opportunities than men, and the jobs available did not provide equal pay for equal work. Women's access to gainful employment, credit, and owning and/or managing a business was limited by their low level of education and training, traditional attitudes, and limited access to information.” [2a] (section 5)
According to womenkind.org (undated):
“With one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and the worst rates of school enrolment for girls of any country in Africa, it is Ethiopia’s women who suffer disproportionately. Poverty, illiteracy and lack of access to basic health care combine with strongly patriarchal social attitudes which maintain women’s low social status and perpetuate Traditional Harmful Practices such as Female Genital Mutilation and early marriage.
“Over 70% of the country’s children between the ages of 8-15 are working. Of these, the majority are young girls who are significantly discriminated against in their access to even basic levels of education. The result for Ethiopia’s women is a literacy rate of 35% compared to over 50% for men. Lack of education condemns many Ethiopian women to a lifetime of poverty and exclusion. While recent Sustainable Development Poverty Reduction Plans demand a greater economic contribution from Ethiopia’s women, World Bank statistics show that only 40% of women work in the formal employment sector. Of these, almost none are in positions of responsibility or decision-making.
“In addition to the wide disparities in education and employment opportunities for Ethiopian women, they also face serious and substantial risks to their sexual and reproductive health. And with one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS on the Continent (18 per cent of the urban population is HIV-positive), the country’s Health Sector Development Programme has – so far – had very little impact on women’s lives. Access to even basic health care is limited, while support and resources for maternal and child health remain inadequate.
“An inadequacy poignantly reflected in the country’s shockingly high maternal mortality rates. And despite the Government’s 2004 ban on the practice of any form of female circumcision, FGM is widespread throughout the country. Mainly performed by traditional birth attendants, over 85% of Ethiopian women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation. For the practitioners, it means payment and social status for their role. For the women who are subjected to the practice, it means a lifetime of painful menstruation, incontinence, and complications with pregnancy and childbirth. A legacy of damage to women’s physical, mental, emotional and psycho-sexual health and well being.
“Ethiopia’s women face further violence and discrimination in the form of early, forced or marriage by abduction. Some 72% of the country’s women are married by abduction – a practice which often involves rape by the abductor – while the figures are 92% in the country’s Southern Nations region.
“According to the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey, 85 per cent of women believe their husbands have the right to beat them if they burn food, refuse sex, or go somewhere without their husband's consent.” 
The Freedom in the World 2008 Report stated:
“The government recently established a women’s affairs ministry, and Parliament has passed legislation designed to protect women’s rights in a number of areas. In practice, however, women’s rights are routinely violated. Women have traditionally had few land or property rights, especially in rural areas, where there is little opportunity for female employment beyond agricultural labor. Violence against women and social discrimination are reportedly common. Societal norms and limited infrastructure prevent many women from seeking legal redress for their grievances. While illegal, the kidnapping of women and girls for marriage continues in parts of the country. General deficiencies in education exacerbate the problems of rural poverty and gender inequality.” [21a]
Return to Contents
Go to sources
Female genital mutilation (FGM) The United States State Department 2008 Human Rights Report on Ethiopia stated:
“The majority of girls and women in the country had undergone some form of FGM. Girls typically experienced clitorectomies [sic: clitoridectomies] seven days after birth (consisting of an excision of the clitoris, often with partial labial excision) and faced infibulations (the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM) at the onset of puberty. The 2005 Health Survey reported that the practice of FGM among all women had decreased from 80 to 74 percent, while support for the practice among women had dropped from 60 to 29 percent. Additionally, a February study funded by Save the Children Norway reported a 24 percent national reduction in FGM cases over the past 10 years due in part to a strong anti-FGM campaign. The penal code criminalizes practitioners of clitorectomy [sic: clitoridectomy] by imprisonment of at least three months or a fine of at least 500 birr ($49). Likewise, infibulation of the genitals is punishable with imprisonment of five to 10 years. No criminal prosecutions have ever been brought for FGM. The government discouraged the practice of FGM through education in public schools and broader mass media campaigns.” [2a] (section 5)
A report about FGM in Ethiopia, published by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit in November 2007, stated:
“The Demographic and Health Survey 2005 (DHS) indicates that 74 % of girls and women nationwide have been subjected to female genital mutilation. The practice is almost universal in the regions of Somali, Affar and Dire Dawa, in Oromo and Harari more than 80% of girls and women are affected. FGM is least prevalent in the regions of Tigray and Gambela, where 29% and 27% respectively of girls and women are
affected. Some ethnic groups in the south of the country do not practice FGM at all. Support for the practice has declined since 2000: 38% of mothers of girls have had at least one daughter excised today, as compared to 52% in 2000. Women from urban
backgrounds with a higher level of education are most willing to abandon the practice.
“Half of all women subjected to FGM in Ethiopia have their clitoral hood cut. In the remaining cases, the clitoris and/or the labia minora are cut. Infibulation is limited to five ethnic groups but appears to be losing ground to less severe types of FGM. Nationwide, 6% of women affected by FGM have undergone infibulation. This form of excision is particularly widespread among the Somali, (with more than 80% of women suffering this form of FGM) and the Affar (more than 60%). The age at which FGM is practised varies from region to region. In Amhara and Tigray girls undergo excision before their first birthday, whereas the Somali, Affar and Oromia wait until girls are aged between seven and nine. Some ethnic groups wait until shortly before girls are married, between the ages of 15 and 17.
“The practice of FGM is justified to exercise control over women's alleged uncontrolled sexuality and emotional nature. There are also said to be hygienic and aesthetic reasons and the need to comply with tradition and supposed religious requirements. More and more religious leaders, however, are now rejecting the practice. FGM is retained primarily because of the fear that girls and their families will be marginalised if they refuse to comply with the social norm.
“The cutting is usually carried out by traditional female excisors in private under unhygienic conditions and without pain relief. Rarely do trained health professionals undertake the procedure. We repudiate this so-called ‘medicalisation’ of FGM in line with the position adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO). A medical procedure does not preclude health problems and continues to represent a violation
of women’s and girls’ human rights. Popular awareness of the physical, psychological and human rights consequences of the practice is low, particularly in those areas with the highest incidence of FGM…in 2004, the Ethiopian Government enacted a law against FGM, although no prosecutions have yet been brought under this law.
“The National Committee (NCTPE) was established in 1987 to help overcome traditional practices harmful to women’s and children’s health, while promoting those with a positive effect on society. It provides information on the dangers posed by harmful practices, and makes religious and traditional leaders aware of
the need to eradicate FGM. Work focuses on media and poster campaigns as well as education and sensitisation measures for young people and multipliers, who work in schools, at health centres and within the communities. The NCTPE is a member of the Inter-African Committee (IAC) on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children…several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are working in Ethiopia to eliminate FGM, using a variety of approaches. Some of them are supported by GTZ. The NGO HUNDEE helps women and girls in particular. It takes a grassroots approach based on the situation on the ground. Within the framework of municipal development programmes, HUNDEE has been working since 1998 to promote gender equality and empower women, also affording them protection from harmful traditional practices.
“Kembatta Women’s Self-Help Center – Ethopia (KMG, Kembatta Menti Gezzima) is working to overcome FGM at local level, involving communities and very young girls who are at risk. Within the scope of municipal development and school-based programmes, the organisation has achieved initial encouraging successes in changing the attitudes of community members.
“In Amhara Region, the Youth and Culture Office of the Amhara Region is endeavouring, in conjunction with other agencies, to make more effective use of the media to overcome FGM. The project goes further than merely disseminating information on FGM and involves local communities in the media strategy in an interactive way, because personal communication at community level boosts the effectiveness of measures. Thus not only were local radio stations, journalists and printed media encouraged to report regularly on FGM. Plays, concerts, dance events and puppet shows were developed together with actors. These IEC (information, education, communication) materials are used to provide information about FGM and other harmful traditional practices, as well as about HIV/AIDS. Young people are the main target group. The population is called on to become involved, especially the younger members of the community, for instance through art and literature competitions.”