Tanzania has threatened to arrest and deport those campaigning for gay rights and de-register organisations protecting homosexual interests, local media reported today.
“I would like to remind and warn all organisations and institutions that campaign and pretend to protect homosexual interests … we are going to arrest whoever is involved and charge them in courts of law,” the state-owned Daily News quoted Interior Minister Mwigulu Nchemba as saying.
In the country’s latest attack on its homosexual community, Nchemba also said foreigners involved in such campaigns would be “deported within no time … they will not have even the time to unplug their mobile phones from the socket.”
“Those who are interested in homosexuality should go and live in countries that entertain such businesses. If there’s any organisation in the country that supports and campaigns for homosexuality … it shall be deregistered.”
Nchemba’s comments come just days after President John Magufuli slammed NGOs who campaign for gay rights, saying they should be countered even if this meant losing foreign aid.
“Those who teach such things do not like us, brothers. They brought us drugs and homosexual practices that even cows disapprove of,” Magufuli said in a speech last Thursday.
Gay male sex is punishable by anything from 30 years to life imprisonment under Tanzanian law, but there is no such ban on lesbian relations.
However, politicians have largely ignored the gay community — which has not experienced the levels of discrimination seen in other countries such as neighbouring Uganda — until a recent spike in anti-gay rhetoric by the government.
Last July, the regional commissioner for the port city of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, announced a crackdown which was followed by arrests in clubs.
Dozens of men suspected of being gay have been detained and taken to hospital for anal exams to confirm their homosexuality.
In the same month, the government banned the import and sales of sexual lubricants, which Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said encouraged homosexuality that led to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
And in February, the government said it was stopping many privately-run health centres from providing AIDS-related services after they were accused of providing services to homosexuals.
The government also said it would publish a list of gay people selling sex online, but retracted this threat several days later.
Homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 countries in Africa, and is punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia, according to Amnesty International.