Insiders Insight: Tanzania’s LGBTQ crackdown – African Arguments

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Tanzania LGBTQ: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Credit: Babak Fakhamzadeh.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Credit: Babak Fakhamzadeh.

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Tanzania cracks down on LGBTQ community

On 31 October, Dar es Salaam’s Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda announced the creation of an anti-gay surveillance squad. He simultaneously called on the public to report members of the LGBTQ community, promising his team would “get their hands on them”.

In Tanzania, homosexual acts are punishable by up to 30 years in jail.

In the days since his announcement, Makonda said he has received more than 5,700 messages with the names of more than 100 people. Activists in Tanzania said there are reports that members of the LGBTQ community have already been arrested and they worry that Makonda’s announcement will spark anti-LGBT violence throughout the country.

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The national government has taken some steps to distance itself from Makonda, pledging to respect the international treaties on human rights it has signed on to.

But President John Magufuli’s government has not actually condemned or halted the effort. In a country that was once at least semi-tolerant toward the LGBTQ community, Magufuli has resurrected anti-gay rhetoric since he took office in 2015. Administration officials have threatened to prosecute or deport LGBTQ rights activists and the government has shut down HIV programmes aimed specifically at supporting gay communities.

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Most tellingly, 12 people were arrested last year after the government accused them of participating in a gathering to promote same-sex relationships.

Activists have encouraged people in Tanzania worried about their safety to reach out to organisations like Rainbow Railroad, which can help extricate them from dangerous situations.

Compiled by @_andrew_green

This week’s editorial team: @PeterDoerrie, @_andrew_green@jamesjwan

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