Tanzania detains human rights lawyers for ‘promoting homosexuality’
Police in Tanzania are holding a group of human rights lawyers and activists, who were investigating a case against the government, accusing the group of “promoting homosexuality”.
The team of lawyers and activists were discussing a potential case against the government, which has shut down a number of private HIV clinics over the last year, as part of a crackdown on homosexuality in Tanzania.
Police arrested 13 people in total at the Peacock hotel in Dar es Salaam earlier this month. Among those arrested were three lawyers from the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (Isla), a human rights organisation. Nine members of Community Health and Education Services and Advocacy (Chesa), a Tanzanian sex workers’ rights organisation, were also arrested.
Police also arrested the manager of Peacock hotel in the operation.
The group was due to hold a meeting on 16-17 October, discussing the potential for a case against the government over the closure of HIV clinics in Tanzania. Police came to the hotel prior to the event, asking to see the agenda and notes for the upcoming meeting, and then left. However, police later returned and detained the entire group.
The following day, police issued a statement saying 13 people had been arrested for promoting homosexuality.
Crackdown on homosexuality
Despite no laws against homosexuality or its promotion, there has been a clear crackdown over the past 18 months. Many activists and organisation members have been arrested multiple times and the government has banned the registration of any charity or non-governmental organisation that supports homosexuality.
In October 2016, the government announced a ban on a US-funded HIV/AIDS programmes aimed at gay men. The programmes provided testing, condoms and medical care. Shortly after banning them, the government started closing private HIV clinics across the country.
In the past, media outlets have also been fined for supporting same-sex marriages and other LGBT issues. It is becoming increasingly difficult for members of the LGBT community and people who support it to find lawyers who will defend them.
Featured image: By Vincent van Zeijst – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25585842