Amidst protests and parades for LGBTQ+ equality in the United States, the fight for equal rights in Tanzania seems to be ostensibly getting worse. The recent crackdown certainly came as a surprise, as Tanzania has in the past been relatively tolerant of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in comparison to other African countries such as Kenya and Uganda. Although sodomy is punishable by life imprisonment, homosexuality was not criminalised, and as such, many could live normal lives without being harassed or arrested. In the past year, however, things have significantly changed.
On the 17th of October, thirteen people were arrested for taking part in a meeting to discuss challenging a recent law that prevents private health clinics and physicians from providing HIV and AIDS healthcare. The chief of Dar es Salaam police, Lazaro Mambosasa, reported that these lawyers were arrested for promoting homosexuality. Three lawyers arrested during this time are now to be deported on this charge alone. This event follows a speech by Tanzania’s Deputy Health Minister just last month to parliament vowing to “fight with all our strength against groups supporting homosexuality in our country.”
Indeed, the crackdown is only one in a sea of others. Earlier in July, the regional commission for Dar es Salaam proclaimed a strike against gay people. He claimed that he would use social media in order to identify and arrest those suspected of being gay; according to him, “if there’s a homosexual who has a Facebook account, or with an Instagram account, all those who ‘follow’ him are just as guilty as the homosexual.” Furthermore, just lust last year, the health ministry imposed a partial ban on the import and sale of lubricants in order to discourage homosexual sex and thus “curb the spread of HIV”, and other NGO group
s supporting LGBTQ+ rights and youths are under more and more pressure.
This repressive ideology is extremely dangerous to Tanzanian youths and LGBTQ+ individuals; their ability to survive in Tanzania is dramatically eroded by increasingly limited access to non-discriminatory job or education opportunities, not to mention any thought of leaving the country to places with more legal protection. A United Nations meeting was held yesterday addressing the need to stop violations of LGBTQ+ rights across the world, with countries such as Tanzania increasingly in desperate need of anti-discrimination measures.