Thousands of LGBTQ people reported to police as part of crackdown in Tanzania

Earlier this week, the governor of Tanzania’s economic capital, Dar es Salaam, launched an appeal for information on LGBTQ citizens in the city.

Paul Makonda pledged to rid the area under his control of homosexuality, asking the city’s more than four million residents to report any individual they believe to be LGBTQ.

He declared people have a week to come forward with information, before authorities will round them up on 6 November.

Since the announcement, the government has reportedly received over 5,000 messages from members of the public.

If a person is found guilty of homosexual activity in Tanzania, they currently face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

“If you know of a homosexual, you must report them to a police officer,” Makonda told reporters earlier this week. “No one can escape.”

He added: “Give me their names. My ad hoc team will begin to get their hands on them next Monday.”

Makonda also said that homosexual behaviour “tramples on the moral values of Tanzanians and our two Christian and Muslim religions”.

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The governor acknowledged that his hardline approach to stamping out homosexuality in Tanzania will draw criticism from the international community, but added: “I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God.”

A 17-member committee has also been put together with the role of using social media to identify LGBTQ people in the region.

“Every gay person is living in fear. Even the parents of gay children are also living in great fear,” Geofrey Mashala, a Tanzanian LGBT activist now living in California told The Guardian.

“People have become very powerful to attack people,” he said. “If you are on the bus or walk on the street and maybe two or three guys start to shout: ‘Hey, he’s a gay, he’s a gay’. Suddenly, 10 people can join these two people, or 20 people, and start attacking you on the street.

“You cannot do anything. You cannot go to the police. You cannot ask people to help you.”

The laws against homosexuality in place in Tanzania are a hangover from a colonial-era legal system forced upon them by the British Empire.

Last year, Tanzania president John Magufuli made the ridiculous claim that even cows oppose homosexuality during one of his many homophobic rants.

“Those who teach such things do not like us, brothers,” Magufuli said of LGBTQ people and activists. “They brought us drugs and homosexual practices that even cows disapprove of.”

What’s more, there have been calls for newspapers to publish the names of gays and lesbians, while some officials have also recommended forced anal examinations of suspected homosexuals.

Back in 2017, the Health Ministry also closed a number of HIV/AIDS clinics in the country as they claimed they were being used to promote gay sex.

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