Authorities in Zanzibar in September 2017 detained 20 people accused of engaging in same-sex activities, another incident in an ongoing crackdown on homosexuality in Tanzania. Twelve women and eight men were arrested following a police raid on a hotel where the suspects were attending a workshop, said regional police chief Hassan Ali. “We rounded them up because we suspect that they were engaged in homosexuality in Zanzibar, which is illegal in Zanzibar and is against the law of the country,” he said, adding that police “will intensify (their) vigilance against those groups.”
Under a colonial-era law, “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” is a criminal offence in Tanzania. Sex among men is punishable by jail terms ranging from 30 years to life imprisonment.
A year earlier, in September 2016, the government temporarily suspended HIV/AIDS outreach projects targeting gay men. And in February 2017, the government stopped 40 privately run health centres from providing AIDS-related services, accusing them of catering to homosexuals.
It is reported that “several dozen” people have been arrested since December 2016 for “homosexuality” or “promoting homosexuality”.
More recently, in October, thirteen human rights lawyers and activists were arrested while holding a meeting at the Peacock Hotel in Dar es Salaam for “promoting homosexuality.” Lazaro Mambosasa, Dar es Salaam head of police, confirmed the arrests, stating that the “criminals” had violated Tanzanian law. The meeting had been organized by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA), a Pan African organization whose mandate is to advance women’s and sexual rights. ISLA say homosexuality was not on the agenda at their meeting.
“Its aim was to explore the possibility of mounting legal challenges to the government’s ban on drop-in centres serving key populations at risk of HIV, as well as the ban on importation of water-based lubricants, an essential HIV prevention tool,” said a statement issued by Human Rights Watch, a partner of ISLA.
In a separate incident, a woman in Geita could face jail after a video of her kissing another woman and presenting her with a ring went viral on social media. She was arrested in the town after the clip of her at a party was widely shared.
President Magufuli has threatened to arrest and expel activists and to de-register organisations that campaign for gay rights.