Fears for LGBTI people in Tanzania as ‘homophobic taskforce’ launched

Fears for LGBTI people in Tanzania as ‘homophobic taskforce’ launched

An official in Tanzania has launched a crackdown on LGBTI people, with a “homophobic taskforce” established to identify and punish homosexuality.

Paul Makonda, administrative chief of Dar es Salaam, put out a request for citizens to report the names of people suspected of being gay.

The taskforce was said to be an inter-agency effort, involving police, media and members of the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority.

The Tanzanian government has formally distanced itself from Makonda’s claims, saying he “was only airing his personal opinion which does not represent the official position” of the government, according to a statement.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation said the government would “continue to respect and uphold all human rights as provided for in the country’s constitution.”

Tanzania is just one of many African nations where gay sex is currently criminalised.

Makonda said last week he had already received thousands of messages and 100 names from the call-out.

“It is extremely regrettable that Tanzania has chosen to take such a dangerous path in its handling of an already marginalized group of people,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“The idea of this taskforce must be immediately abandoned as it only serves to incite hatred among members of the public.

“LGBTI people in Tanzania already face discrimination, threats and attacks without hateful statements of this kind.

“The Tanzanian government must also ensure that no one, especially those in positions of power like Paul Makonda, makes statements or takes actions to sow hatred that endangers the lives of people just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The government has a duty to protect everyone in Tanzania and uphold their human rights without discrimination.

“They must take this obligation seriously and not initiate programmes or use government agencies to rob LGBTI people of their rights,” Nyanyuki said.

“Every gay person is living in fear. Even the parents of gay children are also living in great fear,” US-based Tanzanian activist Geofrey Mashala told The Guardian.

“You cannot do anything. You cannot go to the police. You cannot ask people to help you.”

The crackdown echoes that of current president John Magufuli, who has acted against LGBTI people since taking office in 2015.

Anyone convicted of “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” could face up to 30 years in prison.

Last year, Magufuli extraordinarily claimed that even cows are anti-gay.

“Those who teach such things do not like us, brothers,” Magufuli said.

“They brought us drugs and homosexual practices that even cows disapprove of.”

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