An oft heard phrase, some cynics go as far as to call the title of this piece, which is also a famous quote, corny, utopian  or unrealistic. Yet the individual who said it would be defined by the antithesis of the spirit behind those words. As it stands, Mahatma Ghandi is remembered as the father of a nation, much like the way that we refer to our founding fathers: Thomas Jefferson, Benajmin Franklin and James Madison to name a few.

Gandhi is certainly one of those historic figures of the past that a great many people have at least heard of. Especially concerning his bravery and courage to stand up to an empire, beginning just with himself. His choices and principles inspired a people to rise up against authority. Few have truly come to understand how, and maybe even more importantly, why he choose to do what he did.

Mahatma Gandhi is, for the most part, unanimously regarded as the leader and motivational spearhead of the Indian Independence Movement that overthrew the British empire. Almost exclusively using his rights of civil disobedience, always grounded in non violence, he managed to topple one of the largest and most sophisticated military conquerors in history.

Born on October 2, 1869, to a prominent father in the local empirical government, and to a mother whom was the fourth wife of the former. At the age of 14, as was customary, he wed by an arranged marriage, and by 15 had his first child that died soon after birth.

In his early adulthood he moved to South Africa for a job prospect. What he experienced, through the Apartheid segregation system, profoundly affected him. Soon he began learning civil disobedience tactics, and became a social activist. In 1915 he returned to India, equipped with the knowledge and skills he would employ and later became revered for.

It was not long before Gandhi became deeply involved with the independence movement. Through his steadfast persistence in following the Sacred Male and Sacred Female behaviors, he became the figurehead and emotional leader of the campaign.

The Salt March is one of his hall mark actions, when he lead a walk through rural India, encouraging civil disobedience and non-compliance to the British Empire imposed salt tax. Though he was arrested many times during the action, it is considered a pivotal point in his rise to prominence amongst the Indian people.

Babo as the Indian people affectionately call him, achieved one of his major goals on August 15, 1947. That is to say, on this day, India became independent from the ruling British empire.

On January 30, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.

His legacy of forgiveness, non-violence in the face of overwhelming odds and his persistence have left a deep impression of the conscience of the world. We end this piece as we started. The brevity and truth behind his words cannot be improved upon.

“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
– Mahatma Ghandi

Tyler Shafsky

Sources: Times of India, MensXP, PBS
Photo: Daily Photostream

The nation of Chile underwent significant change during the 1970s. At the time, General Augusto Pinochet established a military coup d’état (overthrow of the state) aimed at dismantling the Salvador Allende regime. By means of violence, warfare and eradicating opposition, Pinochet was able to come to power and eventually appoint himself as the President of Chile in 1974. Pinochet was a free market fundamentalist policy permeated throughout much of Chilean society.

In 1981, Pinochet privatized the educational system of Chile by slashing government support for public schools. Fearing that government funded schools were inciting social activism and communist ideals, schools became private under the contemporary military regime. Because of Pinochet’s private education policy, the educational system of Chile suffered greatly. Schools became for-profit institutions with extremely high tuition costs that people were unable to afford. Those who were able to afford private education were often forced to paying off years of debt.

The education policies stemming back to Pinochet’s authoritative rule are still largely in effect today, which has recently sparked a significant amount of civil unrest. Preceding the Chilean elections in November of 2013, tens of thousands of students took to the streets of Santiago to voice their protest against the current education system. Ultimately, about 80,000 people took part in the protest to call for progressive education reform in Chile that would make it both affordable and universal.

Popular polls indicate that the demands of the students protesting are supported by roughly 85% of Chileans and the current administration has certainly taken notice. Although they have been criticized for not making any considerable strides in education reform, former Head of State Michelle Bachelet stated that she would make college education free within six years. Many continue to be skeptical, but hope that Bachelet will follow through with her promises of education reform in Chile.

In December of 2013, Michelle Bachelet won the election to solidify her second term as the President of Chile and exclaimed in her victory speech that she would work to improve education and establish equality through her policies. As a nation with poor framework that perpetuates economic discrimination in education, Bachelet will have to address the pressing issues presented by the thousands of students protesting. On an international scale, nations are moving towards establishing systems that allow for affordable and universal education—and with Chile lagging far behind, the people hope to see significant changes made.

– Jugal Patel

Sources: CNN, BBC, Global Post, Merco Press
Photo: SuleKha

Martin Luther King Quotes on Poverty
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr will forever hold a place in the hearts of millions of people around the world. The immediate need for freedom from racism, discrimination and flat out brutality toward African Americans will forever be King’s message. However, Dr. King also used his platform to shed light on global poverty.

He expressed the need for poverty to be abolished and the need for nations to come together to combat this growing problem. Here are excerpts of Dr. King’s written documents concerning the dire need to end poverty.

Excerpts from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize address in 1964:
“A second evil which plagues the modern world is that of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, it projects it’s nagging, prehensile tentacles in lands and villages all over the world. Almost two thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night. They are undernourished, ill-housed, and shabbily clad. Many of them have no houses or beds to sleep in. Their only beds are the sidewalks of the cities and the dusty roads of the villages. Most of these poverty-stricken children of God have never seen a physician or a dentist.”

“So it is obvious that if a man is to redeem his spiritual and moral ‘lag,’ he must go all out to bridge the social and economic gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ of the world. Poverty is one of the most urgent items on the agenda of modern life.”

“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”

“The time has come for an all- out world war against poverty.”

“The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.'”

Excerpts from Dr. King’s “Let My People Go” speech. Human Rights Day December 10, 1965:
“Africa does have spectacular savages and brutes today, but they are not black. They are the sophisticated white rulers of South Africa who profess to be cultured, religious and civilized, but whose conduct and philosophy stamp them unmistakably as modern-day barbarians.

We are in an era in which the issue of human rights is the central question confronting all nations. In this complex struggle an obvious but little appreciated fact has gained attention-the large majority of the human race is non-white-yet it is that large majority which lives in hideous poverty. While millions enjoy an unexampled opulence in developed nations, ten thousand people die of hunger each and every day of the year in the undeveloped world.”

An excerpt from “Where do we go from Here: Chaos or Community” written in 1967:
Sadly this is Dr. King’s last book before he was tragically assassinated.

“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income.”

“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”

Nearly fifty years after these words were breathed, they still reign true; especially since poverty continues to be a problem for millions of people in 2013. Let us not allow Dr. King‘s words to remain in the past. We must give them life again and continue to make this world a better place, as Dr. Martin Luther King did nearly fifty years ago.

Amy Robinson

Sources: Nobleprize, RFKSA Film, Progress,
Photo: BAR Photography

Foreign Policy annually compiles a list of the most prominent global thinkers of the year; to which the “Advocates” category lies among several others. Following is a list of all those honored under this category in 2013:

Mary Jennings Hegar, Zoe Bedell, Colleen Farrell and Jennifer Hunt, “for shattering the brass ceiling”

U.S. defense department announced in early 2013 that women would now be allowed to perform in combat roles, opening the doors to over two hundred thousand new jobs. Although women have been fulfilling these roles for years – particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq – little acknowledgement of this has existed. If a female were to die or get wounded in battle, she would still previously be considered “non-combat” and be ineligible for honors or career promotions. These four women – two of them holders of the Purple Heart – managed to lift the discriminatory restrictions.

Julieta Castellanos, “for fighting the system that killed her son”

Her 22-year old son and his friend were, under unclear circumstances, kidnapped and killed by Honduran police. Ironically, sociologist Castellanos is the founder of a crime statistics institute: the death of her son served as another addition to the list of countless killings in Honduras that she’s been compiling. The tragic death has further served as an incentive for Castellanos, who has taken up the fight against corruption in her country. According to her institute, crime rates are expected to drop by 6% this year.

Thant Myint-U, “for shaping Yangon’s future by preserving its past”

The lack of government regulation in Myanmar is a threat for the country’s historical architecture as it is for the less wealthy citizens. Recent development has initiated new industrial projects, reconstructing entire neighborhoods and skyrocketing the cost of living. Myint-U – the grandson of a former U.N. Secretary – has started an organization to prevent this.

Alexey Davydov, Igor Kochetkov, “for fighting Russia’s state-sponsored homophobia”

Going against the recent infamous law which bans homosexual propaganda in Russia, Davydov showcased in July a sign that read “being gay is normal” during a protest. Becoming the first individual to be arrested as a consequence of this law, Davydov led another protest in September before dying of kidney failure at age 36. Kochetkov, chairman of the Russian LGBT network, has been documenting violent and unfair cases against members of the group, including that of Davydov’s.

Other prominent names on the list (more in-depth descriptions of their accomplishments can be found on the official Foreign Policy website):

Urvashi Butalia, Kavita Krishnan – “for exposing the roots of India’s rampant sexual violence.”

Fatou Bensouda – “for prosecuting the world’s worst criminals.”

Navi Pillay – “for refusing to let the world forget the human toll of Syria’s crisis.”

Xu Zhiyong – “for promoting people power as an antidote to corruption.”

Malala Yousafzai – “for wielding uncommon courage and wisdom.”

Farea Al-Muslimi – “for appealing to the better angels of U.S. foreign policy.”

Hossam Bahgat, Heba Morayef – “for holding past to the promise of Egypt’s revolution.”

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: Foreign Policy, New York Times, QuestiaE, L.A. Times
Photo: Washington Post

By the end of 2014, the United States is expected to have all of its troops withdrawn from Afghanistan after 13 years of occupation. Public opinion in the U.S. heavily favors troops leaving Afghanistan before the proposed deadline. A majority of Americans now believe that the initial occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 was a mistake.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has stressed the importance of pulling out of Afghanistan for years, but now Obama is trying to land a deal with the Afghan Government that will allow several thousand military personnel, Special Forces troops, and CIA members to stay in the country through 2024. Why would the U.S. effectively ‘end the occupation of Afghanistan’ while leaving behind thousands of workers for the next 10 years? There are two possible explanations that could explain why the U.S. is opting to remain in the region and not just let the Afghan government completely take over.

First, the U.S. government fears that if they leave Afghanistan in the same way they left Iraq, the country could lose ground to al-Qaeda. The Iraqi government has already lost two cities that were considered major wins for the U.S. troops during the fighting in 2004, Fallujah and Ramadi. The U.S. pulled out of Iraq before reaching an agreement between both governments that was similar to what they are working on in Afghanistan. Not securing an agreement meant the U.S. had no control over the political development in Iraq. Al-Qaeda and groups affiliated with al-Qaeda have since begun gaining more ground in the western Anbar province.

Another reason that could be compelling the U.S. to maintain a presence in the region is because the only Middle Eastern Pentagon base is in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a strategic geopolitical asset for the U.S. It borders Iran, China and Pakistan, so it sits in the center of an area of the world that the U.S has many vested interests. Maintaining top officials in the country can help influence U.S. interests throughout the region.

If the U.S. does not pull all of their officials from the region, there is a possibility of continuing a smaller scale occupation until 2024. On the other hand, if the U.S. completely leaves and al-Qaeda and other military groups regain control of the region, more problems could be created for the U.S. and for citizens of Afghanistan.

Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: The Telegraph, Global Research
Photo: The Telegraph

Nelson Mandela’s legacy looms large over South Africa. Everyone agrees that his death will mean something significant to the country, but few agree on what that will be. Mandela’s death on December 5 left behind a country still rife with painful inequalities, an African National Congress no longer bolstered by their famed leader and a new generation of “born frees” who have never known the pain of apartheid though they live its aftermath every day.

South Africa’s Persistent Inequalities

Though it has made huge strides since the end of apartheid, South Africa continues to be plagued by massive racial inequalities.

Between 2001 and 2011, the annual income of black households nearly tripled while percentages of the adult black population who have completed high school have grown and are continuing to do so. There has even been an increasing, if only by a tiny amount, segment of the black population going to college. These numbers seem to represent real progress, until they are compared to the statistics for whites. In 2001, white households earned an average of $17,000 more than black households, a disparity that grew to $30,000 by 2011. And while a national increase in high school education for blacks certainly represents some positive change, this is a barrier most whites, who have also attended college at higher rates than blacks since apartheid ended, will never face. Unemployment among young black people is, furthermore, at an all time high. Such statistics make it clear that there is much more work to be done.

ANC at the Polls

With the loss of its most beloved leader, the ANC may be facing its most competitive election yet. The party, which came to power in 1994 with Mandela’s election, has lost its “biggest link to its glorious past,” says William Gumede, the author of numerous articles and a book concerning the ANC.

Despite his retirement from politics, many believed Mandela to still be involved in the decision-making of the party which allowed the ANC to enjoy the electoral bump that the legend provided for many years. Now, without him, the party is forced to confront the staggering economic and social inequalities that they have done little to eradicate. Not only are allegations of corruption abound, but the party has been unable to both alleviate unemployment and reduce crime rates.

Moreover, it is likely than many disillusioned ANC supporters will accept how far the party has fallen from its revolutionist ideals now that Mandela has died. Some predict that the weakened party will splinter and fall out of favor. As the ANC is proving, in many ways, to be an inadequate leader of South African democracy, perhaps a change is necessary.

Born Frees: The Next Generation of South Africans

The “born frees,” as the generation born at the end or after apartheid are called, make up about 40% of South Africa’s population according to census data. As one of the largest population segments, their views on the future of the country have the potential to change much of it.

Many born frees feel that the best way to honor Mandela is to focus on the future of South Africa instead of dwelling in the past. They often resent the frequent references to apartheid from their elders, wanting instead to address the problems currently facing the country. Such focus tends to cause tension with older generations, who often feel born frees are too distanced from the harsh realities of apartheid to fully understand the importance of political involvement.

“It’s not a matter of not understanding apartheid; it’s just a matter of us having different challenges,” Akhumzi Jezile, a 24-year-old producer, television personality and speaker, told the New York Times. Jezile cited youth-run efforts to reduce drug use, crime and HIV rates as evidence of changing priorities.

A 2012 Reconciliation Barometer report revealed changes in the born free generation that may hint at a changing social and political landscape for South Africa. The report found that born frees were more likely than older generations to be friends and socialize with people of a different race. The report also found that they were less likely to trust political leaders.

– Sarah Morrison

Sources: The Guardian, New York Times: A Test at the Polls, New York Times, New York Times,Real Truth

One bystander was killed and 20 people were injured when police clashed with protesting garment workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on November 12, 2013.

Workers at the SL Garment Processing Ltd. Factory, one of the largest in Cambodia and a supplier to many western brands including Gap and H&M, marched from the factory towards Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Pehn home to protest unfair wages and poor factory conditions. They were, however, blocked by police at Stung Meanchey bridge. Reports differ on which side started the violence, which escalated to more than 100 police officers firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition into the crowd, who were armed mainly with rocks and sticks. Police arrested 37 people, including seven monks, who were later released.

The march marked the three-month anniversary of 4,000 workers walking out of the SL factory to protest the presence of armed military police, which they viewed as an intimidation tactic meant to expel unions. Company shareholder Meas Sotha incited rage among workers with his claim that police were only there to protect the factory. SL 2 joined the strike, demanding raised salaries as well as a $3 per day lunch stipend and Sotha’s ousting.

Conditions in Cambodia’s more than 500 garment factories, though better than in some areas of the nation, are dismal. Wages are low—workers at SL, for example, make just $75 monthly—and factories are unsafe, with poor ventilation, recent collapses and regular fainting masses of malnourished workers. About 500,000 Cambodians work in garment and shoe factories, supporting the industry that accounts for 80% of the country’s exports. In 2012 alone, Cambodia exported $4.45 billion in products to the United States and Europe.

The protests erupted at a time of international attention on the garment industry following several deadly incidents at factories in Bangladesh, including a factory collapse at Rana Plaza that killed over 1,100 people in April. According to the New York Times, many multinational organizations are now looking to Cambodia as an alternative to factory locations in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, in Cambodia, strikes are frequent, though factory concessions are small and rare.

Workers at Alim Cambodia Co. Ltd. blocked a road in Phnom Phen on November 13, 2013 also protesting for higher wages. The demonstration was short-lived, breaking up due to rain when protestors became concerned they would get sick.  The Alim protestors were demanding a $1 lunch stipend, and were angry that the factory was paying new workers $93 monthly to their $89.

The Cambodian government has made few efforts to back garment workers, and seems largely indifferent to workers’ rights. In fact, government-official-mediated talks about wages between unions and SL ended in a deadlock.  Although the Cambodian People’s Party raised the monthly minimum wage from $61 to $75 earlier this year, reports by the local Community Legal Education Center and United Kingdom-based organization Labour Behind the Label found that a single garment worker needs at least $150 monthly to cover basic needs.

The United Nation’s International Labor Organization (ILO) released a report calling for the compliance of the Cambodian government and garment companies in improving workplace conditions in the garment industry, specifically concerning fire safety, child labor as well as worker safety and health. The ILO also announced in September it plans to continue the practice of “naming and shaming” factories that violate the law.

Sarah Morrison

Sources: The New York Times, NPR, The Cambodia Daily: Garment Worker Clash, The Cambodia Daily: Protest, AlJazeera, AlJazeera America

It is no secret that the concerns and rights of ethnic minorities in China fall to the wayside in favor of the Han, the ethnicity with the majority in the country. Inner Mongolia serves as an example of the cultural and economic strife caused by marginalizing one group over another. The result is what the Mongol minority believes is outright economic exclusion and the watering down of their culture.

One of the key issues within the region is the migration of the indigenous nomads from their native grasslands to the cities. The Chinese government waves off the migration as a move into modernity for the nomads. A removal from what Chinese authorities refer to as a “backward” culture, but as Nick Holdstock of the U.K. Independent points out, the natives have no say whatsoever when it comes to moving to the cities. This outflow of ethnic Mongolians to urban centers has raised fears among Mongolians that their culture, language and lifestyle are being threatened.

Another point of tension lies in the regional mining of rare-earth metals. Various mining companies have entered the region to take advantage of the lucrative prospects, especially since the value of these metals is demonstrated in their ubiquity among high-tech electronics. However, the mining has been accompanied by a degradation of the surrounding environment as well as the health of the nomads.

For example, the town of Baotou, a major mining hub, has seen its groundwater polluted to toxic levels, their crops ruined and much of their livestock destroyed. Moreover, the use of underground water sources, essential to the removal of impurities from the coal, has lessened the water available to crops and livestock. Many farmers, unable to deal with destruction of their livelihood, have moved away. The Guardian points out that the population within the surrounding villages of the Baotou plants has decreased dramatically. Those that have remained in the area are plagued by severe illness.

All of these factors have coalesced, creating serious economic problems for the ethnic minority. Environmental devastation of their grasslands has degraded some of the main forms of their economic livelihood; the mining industry in the region tends to hire workers from other provinces, excluding the nomads from many of the economic benefits the industry might bring.  Furthermore, those who have migrated to urban areas have discovered cultural barriers to finding gainful employment, namely an inability to speak passable Mandarin.

Tensions have, moreover, reached the point of violence in some instances. In 2011, a herder was killed by a passing coal truck when he attempted to prevent coal trucks from crossing into his land during his protest against the mining industry. Several days later another protester was killed by a forklift driver. Tensions finally boiled over and several thousand Mongolians went out to voice their opposition toward the mining activities.

Unfortunately, the case of Inner Mongolia is a harsh reminder among ethnic minorities in China of their second-class citizen status. Perhaps in time, the Chinese government will listen to the voices of protest among the disenfranchised minority groups that populate many rural areas throughout China. Until then, Mongolians and other ethnicities face major economic and cultural challenges.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: The Independent, The Guardian
Fabio Ghioni

In 2006, The Pew Global Attitudes Project poll revealed that 79 percent of Lebanese people thought that homosexuality “should be rejected.” Such a high percentage can be considered as quite high by some western and more liberal regional standards (Israel and Turkey were in the 50 percent rejection range.) Compared to more conservative Middle Eastern countries, however, Lebanon is considered to be more progressive concerning the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens.

In Egypt’s Pew research poll only one percent of people said that homosexuality should be accepted. On the other hand, however, in other countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, a gay person can be jailed, lashed, or put to death.

More liberal attitudes on homosexuality are largely associated with Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, where there is an underground, but lively gay culture.

It is in Beirut that Helem became the Arab world’s first LGBT advocacy group in 2001 and continues to this day, to be a powerful force against homophobia and abuse. Their stated primary goal is to rid Lebanon of Article 534, which outlaws “unnatural sexual intercourse.”

Though the law is not commonly used against homosexuals (a landmark 2009 ruling stated that Article 534 did not pertain to them), the wording of the law still provides justification for action to be taken against LGBT individuals within the safety of a vague legal framework.

Police took such action in July 2012, raiding a movie theater after a television show called it a “gay house.” They arrested 36 people, who were subsequently subjected to anal exams to allegedly confirm or deny their homosexuality. Even a doctor who performed the exams bluntly stated, “These tests prove absolutely nothing.”

Following the 2012 cinema raid, Lebanon’s Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi told the British Broadcasting Corporation, “From a humanitarian point of view, this is totally unacceptable.” He said he asked the Prosecutor General for clarification on laws concerning homosexuality and anal tests. All that resulted, however, was a memorandum calling for “restraint.”

In April 2013, the police force raided a LGBT bar in Dekwaneh, a conservative town near Beirut, and arrested several patrons. Those taken into custody were stripped and photographed, reportedly so the police could accurately identify their sex.

The Interior Minister of Lebanon’s interim government lauded the 2013 bar raid, and reiterated, “Lebanon is opposed to homosexuality.”

Calling anal exams “acts of shame,” Human Rights Watch reported the story of “Nadim,” who was initially arrested for suspicion that his brother sold drugs. However, when officers found phone numbers of known gay men in his phone, they physically and emotionally tortured him, forced him to sign a confession of his homosexuality, and subjected him to an anal exam.

At the same time, the Lebanese Psychological Association was the first in the Arab world to declare in July 2013 that homosexuality is not a disease. It stated, “Homosexuality in itself does not cause any defect in judgment, stability, reliability or social and professional abilities.” The association also criticized the practice of gay conversion therapy as scientifically baseless.

The Lebanese Broadcast Company reported a scathing criticism of the 2012 cinema raid, calling Lebanon “the republic of shame.” Citizens also took to social media to express their outrage—on both sides—about a topic not typically discussed openly.

With reports from October 2013, concerning the Beirut International Film Festival, banned the French gay love story “Stranger by the Lake” due to “obscene scenes of kissing between gay men…naked men, and sexual intercourse between men,” it is unclear what the future is for LGBT rights in Lebanon.

When asked by the BBC about Article 534, Justice Minister Qortbawi stated, “The law is a mirror of a society. And I think we need a lot of time before we get that far.”

– Kaylie Cordingley

Sources: Bekhsoos, Irin, BBC: End to Anal Exams, Huffington Post, The Daily Star, Y Net News, Raw Story, Reuters, BBC: Gay-Friendly Reputation Challenged, The Guardian

“Africa will become a graveyard for homosexuality!”

This is the rallying cry of Seyoum Antonius, president of United for Life, an NGO self-described as Christian, pro-life and backing the sanctity of marriage. He was the organizer of a national conference titled “Homosexuality and its associated social disastrous consequences” held in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa in June.

At the conference, Antonius presented his findings from a “study” that “proved” homosexuality leads to STDs, HIV and “severe psychological disorders.” His “findings” were received among wide condemnation of homosexuality from Ethiopian officials, religious leaders and civil representatives as a “western epidemic.”

Seyoum Antonius is only one of a number of reasons that Newsweek, in its recent investigative report, asserts that where life is getting better for many countries’ LGBTQ communities, “in Ethiopia, it’s getting worse.”

Prior to Antonius’s horrifying and detrimental conference, life was already bleak for Ethiopia’s LGBTQ community. Homosexuality is illegal in Ethiopia. Sentences for “homosexual activity” range on average from ten days to three years but can be as high as ten years in prison under certain circumstances.

Ethiopian daily newspaper Yenga had described homosexuality as a “rapidly growing ‘infestation’” whose “carriers” were “estimated to have reached 16,000.” Yenga also asserted that gays have an average of 75 partners a year and that their inherent promiscuity drives them to have between “seven and nine partners a day.”

Further, a 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project reveals that 97% of Ethiopians believe that homosexuality should be outlawed.

But this isn’t enough for Antonius. A representative from the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality claimed that the council was making “promising” progress in its efforts to sway the government toward implementing the death penalty for “homosexual acts.” Antonius has been clear that he won’t give up his efforts until this happens, hence his chilling rallying cry.

Two laws in Ethiopia in essence completely bar any health centers, charities, or publications in service of Ethiopia’s LGBTQ community. One, Ethiopia’s strict anti-terrorism law, allows the government to prosecute any person who “writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, [or] disseminates” statements the government considers terrorism. This translates to the police being able to search and arrest anyone they want — without a warrant.

Another pivotal law is the one that bars all charities and NGOs that receive more than 10% of their funding from abroad from engaging in activities that further human rights or promote equality.

The result of these laws, both adopted in 2009, is that the few reputable organizations doing work on human rights within Ethiopia have been either closed or coerced to wipe any mention of human rights from their mission statements.

Leslie Lefkow, Human Rights Watch’s deputy editor for the Africa division describes Ethiopia’s restrictive approach as a “two-pronged strategy that results in a climate of fear and self-censorship. The government has effectively closed off the country in terms of independent investigation. They’ve eviscerated the civil society.”

That strategy is so effective that not even major international organizations like the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria have had any success funding programs that educate men who have sex with men about HIV prevention or treat those that are inflicted with the disease.

Further, according to Amnesty International’s Claire Beston: “The U.S., U.K. and other governments give huge amounts of aid to Ethiopia while remaining tight-lipped about the extensive violations of human rights happening throughout the country.” Human Rights Watch, which used to research LGBTQ issues in Ethiopia, has found it “increasingly challenging” to do that work, given that it calls for undercover work.

Life is getting worse for the LGBTQ community, indeed.

Kelley Calkins

Sources: Newsweek, Pink News, UNHCR, Pew Global
Photo: Rainbow Ethiopia