A politician in Tanzania has vowed to create a taskforce dedicated to persecuting LGBTQ people.
Paul Makonda, the regional governor of Dar es Salaam, the nation’s largest city, recently encouraged citizens to report anyone who they suspect of being gay, according to CNN.
Video of Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, asking Tanzanians to report to him about alleged gays within three days. Says he has received reports of gays using social media to 'advertise' themselves. pic.twitter.com/dqH7NRNtSN
— DENIS NZIOKA (@DenisNzioka) October 29, 2018
“I have received reports that there are so many homosexuals in our city, and these homosexuals are advertising and selling their services on the internet,” Makonda said during a press conference. “Therefore, I am announcing this to every citizen of Dar es Salaam. If you know any gays … report them to me.”
Makonda claims he has received over 5,000 calls about approximately 100 people. Many members of the LGBTQ community have reportedly been forced into hiding.
“They are raiding houses. It is a horrible thing,” an anonymous activist told The Guardian. “It is just going to get worse. So many people are leaving the city, running away. They are targeting the activists, saying we are promoting homosexuality. We have to hide.”
Some LGBTQ activists have vowed to stay and help the vulnerable, but they have to be secretive.
James Wandera Ouma, the founder of LGBT Voice Tanzania, said his office “will not be operating for a while."
He knows the risks of being vocal but refuses to be silenced. “You go to the front line, you die or come back. Risking means doing the work because you can’t do it unless you risk,” Ouma told Vox.
Discrimination against LGBTQ people has intensified since President John Magufuli was elected in 2015. In 2016, the government banned NGOs from distributing sexual lubricant because Tanzanian officials believed it contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS. There are laws on the books banning sex between men that were passed while the country was controlled by the British.
Last year, 12 men were arrested at a hotel during a pro-gay gathering. Citizens can be jailed for up to 30 years for participating in “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.”
Tanzania’s federal government has distanced itself from Makonda.
"His views are not the view of the government. The state would like to use this opportunity to assure people that it will continue to respect all organizations that are relating to human rights," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Another anonymous activist doesn’t trust the statement.
"If the government really means it, then they should stop these actions by Makonda. Otherwise the harassment and fear will just continue," the activist said. "I need the government's assurance that I will not be attacked.”
The European Union withdrew an ambassador from the country to protest Makonda’s actions. The United States government issued a travel advisory that urged potential visitors to delete social media content that “may run afoul of Tanzanian laws regarding homosexual practices and explicit sexual activity.”
Makonda's anti-LGBT taskforce was supposed to launch on Monday. Its current status is unknown.
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