On October 29 2018, the ongoing crackdown on LGBTI people in Tanzania hit a new low. This came with Regional Commissioner of Dar es Salaam Paul Makonde’s announcement he wanted to track down LGBTI persons through online surveillance.
His intensified crackdown featured plans to form an interagency task force including the Tanzania Commissions Regulatory Authority, police and media to arrest LGBTI people. Citizens, too, were urged participate in this campaign by “reporting” LGBTI individuals to authorities. As a result activists went into hiding fearing arrests and threats to their lives.
Years of anti-LGBTI rhetoric and action
While the government has distanced itself from Makonde’s announcement, the anti-LGBTI rhetoric in Tanzania continues. It began in 2016 following the government’s suspension of 40 HIV service delivery clinics which were purported to be promoting “homosexuality”. The ripple effect of this action deprived key populations of access to vital ARVs and commodities. In 2017, 13 health and human rights activists who were meeting to discuss a pending lawsuit were also arrested for allegedly promoting homosexuality.
These acts of impunity and human rights abuses are contrary to Tanzania’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration affirms the basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled to regardless of race, color and sex. Furthermore, Tanzania’s adoption of the United Nations Peer Review recommendations in 2016 illustrated its resolve to make positive changes to the human rights situation in the country.
Tanzania must ensure all citizens are protected
Hivos calls upon the government of Tanzania to ensure that state officials do not abuse their power to threaten citizens on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Hivos has said this before, and will say it again: the Tanzanian government has an obligation to ensure all its citizens are protected, are free to contribute to society and are not treated as second class citizens on the basis of their sexuality.
It is also deeply regrettable that homosexuality is still a punishable crime in Tanzania, with up to 30 years life imprisonment. Upholding everyone’s human rights is crucial for a country’s peace, prosperity and economic stability.