Over 5000 people reported to Tanzanian police in anti-gay purge

From GCN (Gay Community News) by Sarah MCKenna Barry

Tanzanian authorities have already received several thousand reports of people perceived as being LGBT+ since the governor of Dar Es Salaam announced the beginning of an anti-gay crackdown in the East African country.

Earlier this week, governor Paul Makonda urged the people of Tanzania to report their LGBT+ relatives to police:

“If you know of a homosexual, you must report them to a police officer. No one can escape.”

Additionally, newspapers in the country have been encouraged to publish the names of LGBT+ Tanzanians, while government officials have introduced plans to submit suspected gay men to forced anal examinations.

Geofrey Mashala, a Tanzanian activist living in California, spoke to The Guardian about the current climate of fear in the country:

“Every gay person is living in fear. Even the parents of gay children are also living in fear.

“If you are on the bus or walk in the street, maybe two or three guys start to shout ‘Hey, he’s a gay, he’s a gay’. Suddenly, ten people can join these two people, or 20 people, and start attacking you on the street.

“You cannot do anything. You cannot go to the police. You cannot ask people to help you.”

British colonial era laws criminalise homosexuality in Tanzania so LGBT+ people are forced to hide their identities. Men who have sex with other men may face life sentences in prison. 12 men were arrested in Dar Es Salaam last year after they were accused of engaging in gay sex and “promoting homosexuality”. In the country’s region of Zanzibar, a further 20 people were arrested in a police raid for “homosexual activity”.

Additionally, health centres in Tanzania are no longer legally allowed to treat people with HIV and AIDS, as the government claims HIV services “cater to homosexuals”. It is estimated that up to 33,000 Tanzanians died as a result of AIDS related illnesses in 2016.

Amnesty International has condemned the Tanzanian anti-gay crackdown and has called for its immediate abandonment. Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes said:

“It is extremely regrettable that Tanzania has chosen to take such a dangerous path in its handling of an already marginalized group of people. The idea of this task force must be immediately abandoned as it only serves to incite hatred among members of the public.”

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