United States ‘Deeply Concerned’ Over Tanzania’s Strict Anti-LGBTQ Laws
By Sharelle Burt
Zanzibar may be a travel hot spot, but the United States is concerned about Tanzania’s anti-LGBTQ laws.
Tanzania is making moves to cut back on human rights and civil liberties, focusing on arrests and harassment in the country’s LGBTQ community. President John Magufuli has been criticized by politicians and international rights groups for being overly authoritative towards those who identify as LGBTQ, claims that the government denies.
“The United States government is deeply concerned over escalating attacks and legislative actions by the Government of Tanzania that violate civil liberties and human rights, creating an atmosphere of violence, intimidation, and discrimination,” the U.S. Department of State said. Earlier this month, the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania warned citizens to be careful after the governor of Dar es Salaam Paul Makonda, vowed this week to begin mass arrests of “homosexuals in our city.”
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“I have received reports that there are so many homosexuals in our city, and these homosexuals are advertising and selling their services on the internet,” Makonda said in a Youtube video on Monday. According to Human Rights Watch, homosexuality in the East African country serves a punishment of 30 years to life in prison, one of the harshest punishments in the world for same-sex intimacy. Any American citizen arrested in Tanzania should make sure that local officials have alerted the U.S. Embassy.
The new crackdown has already caused an economic rut for the country. Denmark is holding out on giving close to $10 million in foreign aid due to the recent homophobic remarks. Demark’s development minister Ulla Tornaes tweeted concern, calling the remarks “unacceptable.” They are Tanzania’s second largest aid donor.
An anonymous LGBTQ activist spoke of the high vigilante fears since the announcement was made in Dar Es Salaam. He claims many gay people in the city have not slept since Monday. “We know our community,” he said. “Once the community starts something like that … they always taking action by their own.” Just last week, men were arrested at a suspected gay wedding in Zanzibar. Reports from Amnesty International say that when police showed up, six men fled but ten were arrested. They are being held in prison with no charges filed against them.