Tanzania accused of ‘attacking’ LGBT health rights

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Sammy Awami

Campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Tanzanian government of denying basic health services to LGBT people.

HRW’s report says arbitrary arrests and forced anal examinations are meted out to LGBT people, among other violations of their rights.

“The Tanzanian authorities have orchestrated a systematic attack on the rights of LGBT people, including their right to health. Manufactured threats around the so-called ‘promotion of homosexuality’ have displaced best practices and evidence-based approaches in guiding HIV policy in Tanzania,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at HRW.

Four years ago, Tanzania’s health ministry banned non-governmental organisations from distributing free lubricants to gay people as part of efforts to control the spread of HIV/Aids.

Health experts criticised the move and warned that it could put the lives of vulnerable populations at risk of HIV infection.

But Tanzania’s health ministry insists that public health centres provide services to people of all backgrounds without discrimination, and says there is no need for specialised services run by civil society organisations targeting LGBT people.

The government is yet to respond to the accusations in this new report but homosexual acts are illegal in Tanzania, and punishable by 30 years to life in prison for “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”.

This has led to many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to hide their sexuality.