Ten men have been arrested on suspicion of being gay on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar after police received a “tip-off” from members of the public about a same-sex marriage taking place.
The arrests have been made just a few days following an order by Dar es Salaam’s Regional Coordinator Paul Makonda to form government taskforce to hunt down people believed to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI).
According to a report by Amnesty International, the arrests come after a prominent Tanzanian politician last week called on the public to report the names of suspected gay men to the police – comments subsequently denounced by the government.
“This is a shocking blow following the Tanzanian government’s assurance that no one would be targeted and arrested because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional for East Africa.
“This appalling attack on Tanzanian people simply exercising their human rights shows the danger of inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric at senior levels of government.
“We now fear these men may be subjected to forced anal examination, the government’s method of choice for ‘proving’ same-sex sexual activity among men. This must not be allowed to happen – these men must be released immediately.”
The 10 men were arrested when police raided a party at Pongwe Beach, Zanzibar on Saturday night (3 November). They are being held at Chakwal police station in Unguja. Six others at the event fled.
No charges has been brought against them.
Amnesty International has established that the men were arrested for allegedly conducting a gay marriage, with police saying they found the men sitting in pairs “two by two”.
On Sunday 4 November, the Government of Tanzania, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, distanced itself from Makonda’s remarks terming them “personal opinion”.