Religious leaders in Ethiopia on Monday urged lawmakers to amend the country’s constitution to ban homosexuality in a move they argue could further strengthen existing codes.

At a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, nearly a dozen religious figures, including heads of Ethiopia’s Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, adopted a resolution against homosexuality, which they termed as “the pinnacle of immorality.”

They also blamed homosexuality for the rise in sexual attacks on children and young men.

“This is something very strange in Ethiopia, the land of the Bible that condemns this very strongly,” said Abune Paolos, the patriarch of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church.

“For people to act in this manner they have to be dumb, stupid like animals,” he told reporters. “We strongly condemn this behaviour. They (homosexuals) have to be disciplined and their acts discriminated, they have to be given a lesson.”

Homosexuals can be jailed for a minimum of six months in Ethiopia, where hostility towards gays is high and sexual practices are very conservative.

But while homosexuality is illegal under the country’s penal code, it is not mentioned in the constitution.

“We urge parliamentarians to… endorse a ban on homosexual activity in the constitution,” the resolution read.

It also urged the government to establish more rehabilitation centres and to place strict controls on the distribution of pornographic materials.

The head of local NGO United for Life Ethiopia said homosexuality was not a human rights issue.

“Here we don’t believe that it is and we don’t believe that it is related to creation — it has no biological base,” head Sium Antonios said.

“It is unacceptable, it is immoral. Every religious leader said in one voice that it is the pinnacle of immorality,” he added.