The news of Robel Gizaw Hailu’s probable forced exile was revealed by Mr Gay World’s Africa director, Coenie Kukkuk in an interview with the Gay Star News website (http://www.gaystarnews.com).
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are not recognized in Ethiopia; all homosexual activity is recognized by Ethiopian law as a sexual crime, and the public acknowledgement or promotion of homosexuality is overwhelmingly rejected by Ethiopian society.
By coming out in such a public manner Robel Gizaw Hailu will have ensured a hostile reception when he returns to Ethiopia. Hailu is currently living outside the country.
According to GSN, the global male beauty pageant, which is this year held in Johannesburg, from April 4 to April 8, had been celebrating after getting its first ever black African finalists.
However, the competition was shaken a week ago when Zimbabwe’s Taurai Zhanje pulled out due to ’some very serious considerations’, which many have suggested are linked to the country’s political situation in the run up to a general election and the general homophobic atmosphere there.
Nevertheless Hailu is still competing in the contest, along with other black African finalists Wendelinus Hamutenya from Namibia and Lance Weyer from South Africa.
About Ethiopia and Gizaw Hailu’s participation, Kukkuk had earlier in the week told Mambaonline.com: “It’s significant that an Ethiopian delegate is participating. The capital city Addis Ababa is the seat of the African Union, so it sends a strong political message.”
Recently, at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged African leaders to respect gay rights.
Hamutenya was the first ever Mr Gay Namibia, but in December last year he was attacked with a glass bottle after being followed by two men while on his way home.
Kukkuk told GSN he is sad about recent developments, but says unfortunately the persecution of LGBT people in Africa is still the norm.
He said, ‘I do not think LGBTI people in the West really have an idea what black LGBTI Africans have to deal with on a daily basis. That is why most of them still are, and will remain, closeted.’
Homosexuality is illegal in 38 African countries, with Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria allowing for the death penalty.
The Mr Gay World competition is defined as an annual contest for gay men, seeking to establish ambassadors for LGBT and human rights, with winners of national contests competing as delegates in a variety of categories. It is not a beauty contest and there is no age limit.
This competition is the most publicized gay contest in the world and unashamedly uses the attention it garners to focus attention on the plight of LGBTI people worldwide, with the focus in 2012 being on African LGBTIs specifically.
The delegate chosen to represent his peers on a global stage will not only have the inner beauty of confidence, self assurance, charisma and natural leadership abilities but he will also take care in his outward appearance. He will also have knowledge of LGBTI general history and recent news.
For more, see the websites www.mrgayworld.org and www.mrgsa.co.za and for online bookings for the Grand Finale see: http://online.computicket.com/web/event/mr_gay_world_2012_grand_finale/477720853/referer:-highlights-index-2-0-2012_04_08-grid-