When Sibongile Ndashe, a South African feminist lawyer, got on a plane to travel to Tanzania to convene a meeting of human rights lawyers and activists, she knew she might come under the scrutiny of Tanzanian authorities. But what she did not expect was for Tanzanian police to raid the October 17 workshop at the Peacock Hotel and arrest her and 12 of her colleagues for “promoting homosexuality.”
The arbitrary arrest of the 13 lawyers and activists is a sign of the Tanzanian government’s increasing lack of tolerance for freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. The recent arrests follow a disturbing pattern, in which several dozen people have been arrested since December 2016 for “homosexuality” or “promoting homosexuality”. In most of these cases police have not presented any evidence whatsoever suggesting that those detained have engaged in same-sex conduct.
The truth is that the lawyers and activists are not being held for promoting homosexuality, but for challenging absurd, reactionary policies that could cost many HIV positive people their lives. Tanzanian police should immediately release Sibongile and her colleagues and drop any politically motivated charges.