July 5, 2006
Behind the mask
Myfashion is, as far as I know, the country's only home-grown glossy. Issue 2 has everything you would expect - a photo spread on Osman Mohamed Osman's new 'Ras Africa' leather line, an introduction to interior decoration for the Addis elite and an interview with the country's latest supermodel.
And then from pages 38-40 there is a society feature on 'Gay Ethiopians behind the mask'.
You have to live here to know what an unusual article this is. Homosexuality remains illegal and totally taboo. Any discussions about it are generally hushed and polarised. For a taste of those discussions, have a quick read through the conversations still going on under my year-old post Holding hands.
The Myfashion article reflects some of the prevailing views in Ethiopia, particularly in its side Vox Pop. Here is Habtamu Tena, a 32-year-old security guard:
These people are sick. I suggest they receive medical attention to relieve themselves from their illness. If modern medical attention does not help, then I recommend shenkora tsebel (holy water).
And here is Alemu Tegauze, a 65-year-old radio technician:
This is a pure abomination to Ethiopian society. It has no moral, cultural or religious justification. I do not understand the significance of deviating from nature. I do not see the justification of this sinful act. I think they are probably on drugs or something.
The Myfashion article itself breaks new ground by writing about homosexuality in Ethiopia sympathetically. It is a solid piece of journalism with interviews with gay Ethiopians, frank discussions about the challenges they face and statistics from online dating services. Here is how it starts:
After reading this headline, many people will probably say "Gay Ethiopians? That is a bit far-fetched." Yes, gay Ethiopians, living in Ethiopia and elsewhere. There has been significant recent growth in the Ethiopian gay population for many reasons. However, since their sexual orientation does not conform to a conservative society like Ethiopia, gays and lesbians prefer to live hidden behind curtains.
"It is always difficult to escape society's watchful eyes," says and Ethiopian gay man living in the diaspora whilst reflecting on his gay life in Ethiopia.
For the heterosexuals in the audience, there is also a great article about the travails of a poor white guy on the Addis dating scene, written by one of the writers behind Things We Should Have Written Down.
Posted by aheavens at July 5, 2006 4:34 AM