Johannesburg, August 11, 2016
Tanzania is seeing a fresh wave of homophobia since June 28, 2016, following a television interview on HIV prevention, where a trans-woman discussed health care programming for populations most at risk of HIV. The Dar Es Salaam Regional Commissioner reacted negatively, publicly referring to LGBTI people as illegal and calling for their arrest. The public call by the Regional Commissioner was also followed by the publication of pictures and names of suspected LGBTI people in a local tabloid.
According to The Citizen, The Tanzania Ministry of Health subsequently called for a ban on lubricants, a safer sex commodity, as these are seen to encourage homosexuality. Since the ban on lubricants was issued, organisation providing HIV services to key populations report that some of their clients have stopped seeking health care and defaulted on their ART regimens. People suspected or perceived to be lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) have also been subjected to police harassment, violence and discrimination in the ensuing backlash in an attempt to “clean the country”.
On August 11,2016, Deputy Minister of Health, Social Development, Gender, Ageing and Children, Dr. Hamis Kigwangalla, issued an ultimatum for local LGBTI civil society organizations to present themselves at his offices by noon August 12, 2016, and prove that they were not “promoting homosexuality”. The organizations are expected to present organizational documents and information such as the constitution, ongoing projects, beneficiaries, donors and partners, failing which they will face de-registration and possible legal action. According to a UNAIDS Gap Report of 2014, 1.4 million people in Tanzania are living with HIV.
Tanzania’s response to HIV/ AIDS is guided by the Multi-Sectoral Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2013-17 which recognizes MSM, sex workers and transgender persons as key populations who are disproportionately affected and impacted by the epidemic. The national framework provide, amongst others, prioritizing health services to key populations in order to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. “This desperate and dangerous approach by the Ministry of Health will only act to weaken the HIV response and public health in general as lubricants are not used by MSM only.
There is already an increase in public violence against sexual and gender minorities, with cases of mob violence and police harassment being reported” said Star Rugori, board member for Pan Africa ILGA. Tanzania Penal Code criminalizes same-sex conduct under laws inherited from colonization with a penalty of life imprisonment. Although there are no state laws protecting key populations from discrimination and other human rights violations the Tanzanian government has promised that key populations will not be discriminated against in accessing health services.
Pan Africa ILGA (PAI) is concerned that the violence, harassment and threats of arrest, combined with the existing criminalization will likely drive LGBTI populations back into hiding where they are not able to access the services needed to prevent further spread of the disease. PAI condemns the course of action taken by the Tanzanian Ministry of Health because it impedes civil society organizations’ work with key populations and incites violence against anyone perceived to be homosexual. These actions further violate Tanzania’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (African Charter) and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which guarantee the rights non-discrimination, security of the person and privacy, and freedoms of association,, expression and assembly.
PAI calls on the government of Tanzania to honor her commitment to her own national strategic framework for HIV/AIDS and lift the ban on lubricant distribution. PAI further urges Tanzania to ensure equal protection of the law to all and prosecute those who perpetuate human rights violations based on actual, perceived or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Pan Africa International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (PAI) is a federation of organizations in Africa working to improve human rights of LGBTIQ+ whose rights are violated based on sexual orientation and gender identity expression (SOGIE).
For further enquiries please contact PAI secretariat in Johannesburg : Monica Tabengwa, Tel:+27 767 958 245 email: [email protected], twitter: @panafricailga, @tabengm or in East Africa: Richard Lusimbo, Tel +256 782 612972 email: [email protected] , twitter; @richardlusimbo