Bridging Women’s Rights and Human Rights: A Case Study of Five Ethiopian Lesbians

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Addis Ababa University


In Ethiopian society same-sex sexuality is seen as a disease or as a deviant behavior which exists irrespective of the natural. This research is intended to answer four basic questions: How do Ethiopian women who engage in same-sex sexual activity perceive themselves and their sexuality? Do they perceive any relation between gender equality and same-sex sexuality despite state-sanctioned homophobia? What social, psychological, and physical threats, if any, do Ethiopian lesbians face? How do they cope with state-sanctioned homophobia? In order to answer the above research questions an online semi-structured and selfadministered questionnaire, relying mainly on open-ended questions, was utilized to better understand the lives of Ethiopian lesbians and to ensure privacy, confidentiality and anonymity. By employing purposive sampling, the present study recruited Ethiopian lesbians who are members of the Queer Abesha Women’s Yahoo Group listserv. Three major themes emerged from an analysis of the content of five Ethiopian lesbian cases. The first theme reflected the negative impact of Ethiopian laws on the personal lives of Ethiopian lesbians. The second theme revealed sexual agency among the women despite political, cultural and religious repression. The third theme reflected the dynamic nature of Ethiopian women’s sexuality as well as their sexual fluidity. Despite the challenges Ethiopian lesbians experience from fundamentalist religious beliefs, repressive laws and societal norms, all five women perceive themselves as healthy sexual human beings



Gender Studies