LGBTI Lives Under Threat as Tanzania Bans Distribution of Lubricant!
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.
People suspected or perceived to be lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex(LGBTI) have, subsequent to this public reaction, been subjected to police harassment, violence and discrimination in the ensuing backlash in an attempt to “clean the country”. “This desperate and dangerous approach by the Ministry of Health will only act to weaken the HIV response and public health in general as research have shown that 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.
In another statement released 11th August 2016 by released today by Deputy Minister of Health, Social Development, Gender, Ageing and Children, Dr. Hamis Kigwangalla, the government of Tanzania has declared an ultimatum on a local LGBTI civil society organization to present themselves to the offices of the Deputy Minister by 12 August 2016, amidst claims of “promoting homosexuality”. The organization has been demanded to release organizational documents and information such as its constitution, projects, beneficiaries, donors and partners. “This level of intimidation and harassment of = LGBTI groups by the government of Tanzania is unacceptable and is an infringement on the right to freedom of assembly, the right to privacy and contributes only to the shrinking of civil society space in that country” said Ms. Monica Tabengwa, Executive Director of PAI.
Since the ban on lubricants some three weeks back, it is reported that at least 293 cases of key populations have stopped seeking health care and defaulted on their ART regimens, while a 15% drop in condom usage has also been noted by local groups. The country also continues to see an increase in rights violations of LGBTI people.
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.
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 frameworks provide, amongst others, prioritizing health services to key populations in order to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Moreover, Tanzania has been host to the biennial African Conference on Key Populations since 2013 with the full support of the Ministry of Health, the National AIDS Control Programme and the Tanzania Commission for AIDS. This conference brings together key populations and health service providers across Africa in order to build partnerships between those working on addressing HIV and its impact on key populations. Accordingly, Tanzania’s response to ban the distribution of lubricants is in direct contravention of its Multi-Sectoral Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS (2013-2017) for HIV prevention and all its other commitments to include all key populations in the HIV prevention strategy.
Pan Africa ILGA (PAI) is concerned that the violence, harassment and threats of arrest, combined with the existing criminalization will likely drive these populations back into hiding where they are not able to access the services needed to prevent further spread of the disease. “For a country which had made admirable strides in reducing the rate of HIV infections, it appears as if Tanzania has taken a giant leap back. Excluding MSM, transgender and other sexual minorities in the HIV prevention response is counter-productive”, said Mr. Rugori.
PAI further 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. 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.
For further enquiries please contact PAI secretariat in Johannesburg: Monica Tabengwa, Tel:+27 767 958 245 email: email@example.com, twitter: @panafricailga, @tabengm or PAI board in East Africa: Richard Lusimbo, Tel +256 782 612972 email: firstname.lastname@example.org , twitter: @richardlusimbo
The Pan Africa International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (PAI) is a federation of organizations in Africa working to improve human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity expression (SOGI).
Press release by the Pan Africa ILGA Board.