Tanzania arrests ten men on suspicion of being gay, Amnesty says

Tanzania arrests ten men on suspicion of being gay, Amnesty says

Even without a special committee looking for LGBT people, Tanzania is already a heavy place for gays. According to the country's anti-homosexuality legislation, those who feel guilty about having "physical knowledge of individuals against the natural order" could spend decades in prison.

At the end of October, Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Paul Makonda announced that he was planning to form a team to locate and identify gay people in order to persecute them. At a news conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's business center, he told reporters that he had "information about the presence of many homosexuals in our province," claiming "they boast social networks."

"Give me your name," he said. "My ad hoc team will get their hands on it next Monday."

The proposal sparked an almost immediate backlash by human rights groups, and the State Department later went back to Makonda's suggestion saying it did not reflect the official position of the government.

However, Amnesty International announced that ten men had been arrested on the island of Zanzibar at the weekend after police were informed of a possible same-sex marriage ceremony.

Seif Magango, Deputy Director of Amnesty for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said the arrests were "a shocking blow" after the government asserted that there would be no targeted sexual orientation arrests.

"We now fear that these men may be subjected to a forced anal examination, the government's method of" proving "same-sex sexual activities among men," he said. "That must not happen – these men must be released immediately."

It was not immediately clear that the men's arrests were directly linked to the threat posed by Makonda in Dar es Salaam on mainland Tanzania, but Amnesty said the arrests testify to "the danger of inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric at higher levels of government."

Amnesty had previously urged that the idea of ​​a task force to pull together LGBT people "be given up immediately, as it only serves to arouse hatred among the citizens."

Human Rights Watch had also warned that Tanzania had "forced anal examinations" on men suspected of being gay. The Watchdog said in a statement that Tanzania's "Anti-Homosexuality Act is among the toughest in the world" and that since the election of President John Magufuli in December 2015, the country "has seen a marked decline in respect for freedom of expression, association and assembly Has. "

Following the announcement by Makonda, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement: "This could turn out to be a witch hunt and could be construed as a license to commit acts of violence, intimidation, harassment, harassment and discrimination against those suspected of LGBT people. "

CNN quoted LGBT activist James Wandera Ouma as saying he had closed his office and "for a while did not operate on fear of a government attack". Other LGBT people have gone underground, the news network reported.

Tanzania is a popular tourist destination with beautiful beaches and safari excursions. However, the US embassy in Tanzania issued a travel warning after Makonda's press conference, pointing out that LGBT Americans visiting Tanzania delete photos or language from their social media accounts that "violate Tanzanian laws violate homosexual practices and explicit sexual activities. "

Tanzania has arrested a large number of people on suspicion of homosexuality in the past.

Last year, police announced that they arrested 20 people for homosexuality and stopped training for HIV / AIDS programs. "They are involved in homosexuality. We arrested them and are interrogating them, "the BBC quoted regional police commander Hassan Ali Nasri on national television. "The police can not ignore this practice."

In 2016, the country banned the import and sale of personal lubricant, claiming it promotes homosexual behavior.

In June, Tanzania's then Minister of the Interior, Mwigulu Nchemba, said at a rally that "those who want to campaign for gay rights should find another country where those things are allowed." He also said that those who continue to work for LGBT rights, arrested or deported, and their organizations could be closed.

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