The plight of Tanzania’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, which has long suffered from social and institutionalised discrimination is set to continue following indications that the government will not renege on its tough stance on homosexuality.
Same sex activity, which is seen as a taboo is criminalised in Tanzania, and it is defined as going against the country’s cultural traditions and constitutional provisions.
According to reports, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and Justice, Amon Mpanju, said during a discussion at a workshop on human rights that the government would not accept recommendations, which go against society’s traditional beliefs.
“While you are discussing, you should note that the government will never entertain recommendations that are contrary with the law of the land and the cultural norms of the society,” Mpanju said.
Of the 227 proposed human rights recommendations, 72 recommendations were reportedly set aside for going against the country’s Constitution and traditions and customs.
The country’s law imposes a penalty of 30 years to life in prison for consensual sexual conduct between adult males.
Section 154 of the Penal Code of 1945 defines punishable “unnatural offences” as having “…carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or permitting “a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature”.
While President John Magufuli has been commended for the early signs of good governance and tough stance of corruption, the rights of the LGBT community have not been respected under his administration and there have been calls for the government to protect their rights.
The stigma, discrimination and homophobia, which has characterized Tanzania continues, and the statement by Mpanju indicates that the government is not committed to changing its attitude towards the LGBT community. It seems the discriminatory laws, which are based sexual orientation or gender identity will not be changed anytime soon and the social and institutionalised discrimination against gay, lesbians, bisexual, transgender and intersex people will continue.
While Seychelles recently decriminalised consensual gay sex (previously punishable by up to 14 years in prison), after parliament voted to amend a penal code, which outlawed gay sexual activity, it seems the struggle continues for the LGBT community in other African countries.