The lurid reality TV shenanigans we enjoy with only the strongest sense of irony and postmodern cynicism may lead to real trouble for an Ethiopian woman who appeared, during her time on Big Brother Africa, to have sex with one of her housemates, an incident that probably didn’t scandalize the reality-show viewership nearly as much as it scandalized conservative Ethiopian attorneys.
According to Reuters, lawyers in Ethiopia have asked police to investigate Betty Abera, a 27-year-old contestant on the globe-trotting Big Brother series, which has appeared in various iterations all over the world. Ethiopia’s criminal code punishes sex acts or, if that’s too narrow a pearl-clutching definition, "any other obscene act or gesture" performed in public with a jail term of up to one year, or a fine of up to 1,000 bir ($54).
Lawyers pushing for a criminal investigation of Abera have insisted that her supposed liaison on Big Brother “shamed many Ethiopians,” and if you give any credence to Facebook vitriol and outrage, then you too might sense that many Ethiopians do feel ashamed. But so what? You know what usually happens when someone does something (short of harming others) that offends someone else? That someone else has to fucking learn some better coping mechanisms than seeking out palliative and modesty-affirming criminal punishments. It’s not as if Abera supposedly had sex with no one — another person is involved, and though the on-camera intimacy of Abera’s partner may not somehow directly offend Ethiopian national pride, nobody seems to care whether or not a man has sex on the TV.
Abera was evicted from the Big Brother house in June, but has remained in Johannesburg since then. Ethiopian police have yet to comment on whether they’ll begin an investigation.