A group of men have been arrested on suspicion of conducting a gay marriage on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.
A member of the public tipped off the authorities about a same-sex marriage ceremony taking place, and police arrived on the scene and detained ten men.
Six others fled the event, which was taking place at Pongwe Beach on Saturday night (3 November).
It comes days after Paul Makonda, governor of Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam, called on citizens to report people they suspect of being LGBTQ in a concerted effort to target members of the community.
The Tanzanian government distanced themselves from Makonda’s declaration, saying that it is his personal opinion.
“This is a shocking blow following the Tanzanian government’s assurance that no-one would be targeted and arrested because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s East Africa Deputy Director.
“This appalling attack on Tanzanian people simply exercising their human rights shows the danger of inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric at senior levels of government.
“We now fear these men may be subjected to forced anal examination, the government’s method of choice for ‘proving’ same-sex sexual activity among men. This must not be allowed to happen – these men must be released immediately.”
The ten men arrested are currently being held at Chakwal police station in Unguja, despite having no charges brought against them.
Magongo added: “It’s mind-boggling that the mere act of sitting in a pair can assume criminal proportions. The police clearly have no grounds to file charges against these men in court, despite arresting them three days ago.”
If a person is found guilty of homosexual activity in Tanzania, they currently face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The laws against homosexuality in place in Tanzania are a hangover from a colonial-era legal system forced upon them by the British Empire.
Since Makonda’s call for the public to report any LGBTQ person they know of in Dar es Salaam, authorities have received more than 5,000 calls.
It’s been reported that police are acting upon this information by raiding the homes of LGBTQ people in the city.
Many are fleeing their homes with LGBTQ activist being targeted by the authorities.
The atmosphere in the city was described as “open season on gay people” by another activist, with lists of names posted across social media as an attempt to out LGBTQ people.
“You can imagine what that is doing to people, to families,” one activist said.
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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Author: Lewis Corner