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Tanzania deports 3 anti-AIDS lawyers for 'promoting homosexuality'

Lazaro Mambosasa, police chief of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Lazaro Mambosasa, police chief of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Tanzanian yesterday deported three lawyers it accused of “promoting homosexuality,” although what they actually did was consult Tanzanian activists about a planned lawsuit to restore health services for the LGBT community there.

Agence France-Presse reported:

Sibongile Ndashe, executive director of ISLA. (Photo courtesy of Flickr)
Sibongile Ndashe, executive director of ISLA. (Photo courtesy of Flickr)

Tanzania has deported three South African lawyers arrested last week for “promoting homosexuality”, their organisation said in a statement.

The Initiative for Strategic Litigation (ISLA) in Africa said that the three had been “deported earlier this evening”, in the statement dated Friday.

The lawyers were amongst a group of 13 people, including a Ugandan and Tanzanians, who were arrested last Tuesday at the Peacock hotel in Dar es Salaam.

[Editor’s note: Among those arrested, and presumably now deported, was Sibongile Ndashe, executive director of ISLA, who was in Tanzania discussing a planned lawsuit against the Tanzanian government for obstructing the nation’s fight against HIV/AIDS by shutting down organizations providing health services to the LGBT community.]

Local police chief Lazaro Mambosasa said they had been “promoting homosexuality”.

“Tanzanian law forbids this act between people of the same sex, it is a violation of our country’s laws,” said Mambosasa.

Just days later an NGO, the Community Health Education Services and Advocacy (CHESA) centre, was suspended on the same charge and accused of organising a workshop at the Peacock hotel.

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

CHESA and ISLA insisted they were merely coordinating a “legal consultation” to challenge a government decision to limit the provision of some health services.

In February, Tanzania provoked criticism notably from the United States after announcing the closure of several health centres specialising in AIDS prevention, alleging they were fronts for promoting homosexuality.

Tanzania has vowed to deport foreigners campaigning for gay rights in a country where gay male sex is punishable by anything from 30 years to life imprisonment.

In July 2016, the government banned the import of some lubricant gels alleging they were used exclusively by homosexuals.

Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said the sale and occasional free distribution of the gels encouraged gay sex.

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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 info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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