Tanzanian AIDS event disrupted by arrest of 20 'gay' suspects

Tanzania’s crackdown on its LGBT community continued over the weekend with the arrest of 20 people at an HIV/AIDS training session. Police accused them of homosexuality.

Location of Tanzania in East Africa.
Location of Tanzania in East Africa. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous Tanzanian island.

Deutsche Welle reported, based on accounts from Associated Press and Agence France-Presse:

Police in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar island have arrested 20 people suspected of homosexuality, police said Saturday, in the latest crackdown on the gay community.

“Yes, we rounded them up because we suspect that they were engaged in homosexuality in Zanzibar, which is illegal in Zanzibar and is against the law of the country,” he said, adding that police “will intensify (their) vigilance against those groups.”

Eight men and 12 women were arrested in a hotel where they were attending a training session from a NGO that works on education programs for HIV/AIDS.

The Tanzanian government announced in February that it would crack down on privately run health centers that provide AIDS-related services, which Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said promoted homosexuality.

Gay sex between men is severely punished in Tanzania. Those convicted could receive anything from 30 years to life imprisonment. However, there is no such ban on lesbian sex.

Until recently the gay community in Tanzania had not be subjected to levels of discrimination seen in other African countries, such as neighboring Uganda.

Hamisi Kigwangalla, Tanzanian deputy health minister. (Photo courtesy of Gay Times)
Hamisi Kigwangalla, Tanzanian deputy health minister. (Photo courtesy of Gay Times)

Politicians had largely ignored the gay community until a recent spike in anti-gay rhetoric by the government.

Deputy Health Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla vowed in front of parliament Friday to “fight with all our strength against groups supporting homosexuality in our country.”

The government has recently vowed to deport foreigners who “campaign for homosexuality.”

Dozens of men suspected of being gay have been arrested and taken hospital for anal exams that allegedly confirm their homosexuality.

In July 2016 sexual lubricants were banned by the government. Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said they encouraged homosexuality which led to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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