Members of the homosexual community in Tanzania could face up to 30 years imprisonment for their same-sex relationships.
The Tanzanian government has begun a movement to scour the internet for the names and social media profiles of those belonging to the LGBTQ community in order to prosecute them for their sexual orientation. Governor Paul Makonda of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, gave the order after setting up a 17-member squad for the task.
The squad is to comb through the internet and fish out same-sex couples, who Makonda says has been showing off their sexual orientation on social media. The anti-gay internet surveillance squad will commence operation on Monday.
“Give me their names,” Makonda said. “My ad-hoc team will begin to get their hands on them next Monday.”
While the directive seems targeted at men who have sex with men, there seems to be a taciturn exemption for women who have sex with women.
LGBTQ Crackdown Since Election of ‘The Bulldozer’
The crackdown on homosexuals and the rest of the LGBTQ community in the country stems from the election of Tanzanian President John Magufuli in 2015. Nicknamed “The Bulldozer,” the president has established himself as a “no-nonsense” leader with strict policy agenda since his election in 2015.
In the crackdown, a number of gay men reported that they were subjected to forced anal examinations to determine their homosexual status.
These examinations allegedly happened in government hospitals where individuals said they were directed for HIV/AIDS testing and treatment after the government shuttered 40 testing centers in 2017. A victim of the prosecution told Buzzfeed in 2017 he felt like he was raped after he was forced to undergo the anal examination last year without his consent.
Meanwhile, a body of health experts denounced the practice, saying that anal examinations cannot unequivocally reveal who is gay and who is not, adding that people feel sexually harassed when subjected to such experiences.
Last year, the Tanzanian government faced international scrutiny when they arrested human rights activists and lawyers for “promoting sexuality.” That same year, Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba announced: “Those who want to campaign for gay rights should find another country that allows those things.”
At the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, British Prime Minister Theresa May told attendees that no one should be punished for who they are or who they love on the basis of sexuality. She urged all member-states of the Commonwealth to strike anti-gay colonial legacy, adding that the U.K. stands ready to support any country that leaves behind the persecution of and discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.