Tanzania: Officials order physical exams of 10 men arrested at gay wedding in Zanzibar

Authorities accused of 'appalling attack on people exercising their human rights'

Peter Stubley
Friday 09 November 2018 18:28
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The men were arrested on Pongwe Beach in Zanzibar following a tip-off
The men were arrested on Pongwe Beach in Zanzibar following a tip-off

Tanzanian authorities are carrying out physical examinations on 10 men suspected of homosexual activity on the island of Zanzibar, according to police.

The group were arrested last week after police received a tip-off about a gay wedding at a resort hotel at Pongwe Beach last week.

They are being checked to see if there are any signs of same-sex relations, local police chief Suleiman Hassan said.

The men were arrested days after Paul Makonda, the administrative chief of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, urged citizens to report suspected homosexuals.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Tanzania and can be punished by a sentence of up to 30 years imprisonment.

Amnesty International had previously warned that the men could be subjected to a forced anal examination as part of the investigation.

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Seif Magango, the organisations East Africa deputy director, said it was “the government’s method of choice for ‘proving’ same-sex sexual activity among men.”

“This appalling attack on Tanzanian people simply exercising their human rights shows the danger of inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric at senior levels of government,” he said.

“This is a shocking blow following the Tanzanian government’s assurance that no-one would be targeted and arrested because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The police chief said the men had now been released pending further investigation.

“We acted on a tip-off from a good citizen leading them to abort their party during the weekend and then police made a quick arrest,” Mr Hassan added.

Fears are rising about the treatment of LGBT+ people in Tanzania following Mr Makonda’s announcement that a task force would be set up to identify and punish gay people.

He claimed authorities had already been handed 18,000 messages of support for the policy from people “disturbed by moral erosion”, many of which also named individuals believed to be homosexual.

The EU has recalled its ambassador to Tanzania, citing “the deterioration of the human rights and rule of law situation” in Tanzania, while the US Embassy has warned American citizens about the possible crackdown.

Travellers to Tanzania were urged to remove images and social media posts that could be interpreted of breaking laws about ”homosexual practices and explicit sexual activity.”

The UK Foreign Office warns British travellers that same-sex couples are “not tolerated in Tanzania’s conservative society”.

Tanzanian president John Magufuli has made several statements attacking gay rights since coming to power.

In 2016 the government even banned the import and sale of sexual lubricants in a bid to “curb homosexuality”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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