On Aug 8, 2016 The Guardian reported: Situation for the gay community deteroriates as ministers partially ban lubricants and restrict pro-gay charities
Tanzania’s justice minister has announced controversial new plans to suspend the registration of any charity or NGO that supports homosexuality.
Claiming that he was protecting the “culture of Tanzanians”, Harrison Mwakyembe’s announcement comes just days after the country’s health minister imposed a partial ban on the import and sale of lubricants to discourage gay men from having sex and “curb the spread of HIV”.
The sudden crackdown has come as a surprise in a country that has until recently been tolerant of its LGBT community. Unlike in neighbouring Uganda – where pride events were disrupted by the police last week – Kenya and Zimbabwe, gay Tanzanians have not experienced the same levels of violence and discrimination, and politicians have until now generally ignored the topic.
James Wandera Ouma, the founder and executive director of LGBT Voice Tanzania, one of the only registered organisations openly promoting LGBT rights, has said the plans are proof that “the environment for the LGBT community is very bad right now and it’s getting worse.”
Ouma said that the political mood shifted in early July, when Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner for Dar es Salaam, the country’s biggest city, told citizens during a religious rally that he had started a crackdown against gay people.
Makonda said he would use social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to identify and arrest people suspected of being gay.
“If there’s a homosexual who has a Facebook account, or with an Instagram account, all those who ‘follow’ him, it is very clear that they are just as guilty as the the homosexual,” he told a cheering crowd.
Ouma said since Makonda’s speech he knows of at least 20 men who have been arrested by police outside bars and clubs popular with the gay community. He said the men have now been released, but face charges of sex-work and loitering.
Though gay sex is a criminal offence punishable by life imprisonment, there is no law prohibiting homosexuality in Tanzania. As a result, Ouma said that many LGBT people in Tanzania have been able to lead relatively normal lives free from harassment and violence until now.
“Makonda has made people believe that it is now OK to hate LGBT people, especially gay men. He has planted a hate that was not there before,” Ouma said.
The speech was followed by several homophobic editorials in popular newspapers and this month a local television station was forced to apologise by the government for running an interview with a gay man.