Tanzania threatens to arrest all gay rights activists

Location of Tanzania in East Africa.
Location of Tanzania in East Africa.

Tanzania has expanded its anti-gay crackdown to include anyone working for gay rights or protecting “homosexual interests.” Government officials seem unaware or unconcerned that such repression, which includes denial of health services to LGBTI people, is likely to lead to a rebound of HIV/AIDS, as has occurred in Uganda.

Agence France-Presse reports:

Tanzania vows to arrest those ‘protecting’ gay interests

Tanzanian President John Magufuli (Photo courtesy of CGTN Africa)
Tanzanian President John Magufuli (Photo courtesy of CGTN Africa)

Tanzania has threatened to arrest and deport those campaigning for gay rights and de-register organisations protecting homosexual interests, local media reported Monday.

“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.

“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 [had not, but now has!] 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.

Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu claims that lubricants encourage homosexuality. (Photo courtesy of
Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu says she’s concerned that anti-AIDS programs for gay men promote homosexuality. (Photo courtesy of

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. [See this blog’s July 2016 article, “Seeking to limit gay sex, Tanzania bans lubricants.”]

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. [See this blog’s Feb. 21 article “Tanzania ramps up anti-gay panic, risks HIV expansion.”]

The government also said it would publish a list of gay people selling sex online, but retracted this threat several days later. …



Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.


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