Addis Ababa: The fate of an upcoming gay conference here hangs in balance with religious leaders seeking a ban on it.
Religious leaders and government authorities in Ethiopia held a meeting Tuesday over whether or not to ban the gay conference in which about 200 activists as well as UN and US officials are expected to participate. The conference is being held at Addis Ababa`s Jupiter International Hotel Dec 3 to discuss men having sex with men (MSM) issues.
Organised by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (Amsher), the meeting seeks to increase attention on MSM and HIV related issues in Africa, to reflect on the state of the response in MSM communities in Africa and to identify ways to scale up MSM and HIV interventions, according to News from Africa website.
The speakers at the conference will discuss health and human rights issues, including criminalisation of same-sex practices, facing the gay community.
Ethiopia`s criminal law strictly prohibits homosexuality.
The controversy erupted ahead of the Dec 4-8 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs) in Africa (ICASA).
Ethiopia`s Health Minister Tewodros Adhanom Tuesday held an hour long meeting with religious leaders from the Ethiopian Muslim Council as well as the Ethiopian Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical churches.
Ther religious leaders had also called a press conference to oppose the gay conference.
"The minister came to convince the religious leaders to call off the press conference as the government believes it would affect the ICASA turnout," a source said.
"In return, the minister may offer to quietly cancel the gay conference."
At the end of the meeting, neither the minister nor religious leaders spoke about what they agreed on.
Religious leaders later told journalists that "the press conference has been postponed to undetermined date".
Homosexuality is illegal in about 80 countries throughout the world and nine countries prescribe death as a punishment.