Tanzania: Statement on recent arrests

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, and Pan Africa International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Association (Pan Africa ILGA) strongly condemn the recent arrest of parents and NGO personnel at a training workshop on HIV prevention.

On Friday 15 September 2017, Zanzibari police, acting on the orders of the District Commissioner, arrested a group of twenty parents, local partners and staff of an implementing NGO for organising and attending a workshop on peer-to-peer parent HIV and AIDS prevention. The workshop was aimed at addressing stigma and discrimination in the family with regards to HIV and AIDS. According to a local NGO leader, the group was accused of “training people on homosexuality”, which is not a crime in any known law in operation in Tanzania.

While Section 154 of the Tanzanian Penal Code prohibits same-sex conduct, and makes it punishable with up to 30 years in jail, homosexuality, as such (and being a homosexual) is not a crime.

All except two staff members of the implementing NGO have been released without being charged. The arrest followed by release is indicative of arbitrariness and abuse of power. The Centre for Human Rights and Pan Africa ILGA strongly condemn this action by Zanzibari police.

These arrests are part of a recent pattern in the country. In December 2016, a meeting organised by Open Society Initiatives for Eastern Africa on reproductive rights, was raided in Dar-es-Salaam with eight people detained and released without charges. Offices belonging to organisations working on LGBTI issues were also unlawfully raided and documents from these offices confiscated in Dar-es-Salaam in the same year.

The Constitutions of both Tanzania and Zanzibar, in Article 18 (in both cases), provide that everyone has the right to seek, receive, and impart information. Article 20 of both Constitutions further provides every person with the right to peacefully assemble, associate, and cooperate with other persons. Tanzania is also party to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which states in Article 9 and Article 10 that every person has the right to receive information, express themselves, and to disseminate information; and that every individual shall have the right to free association. African Commission Resolution 275, Resolution on Protection Against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, expressly condemns the arbitrary arrest of persons. It also calls on state parties to ensure that human rights defenders work in an enabling environment that is free of stigma, reprisals or criminal prosecution. The actions of the Tanzanian government are thus in contravention of both the African Charter and the Constitution. This pattern of violation of the freedom of association is rife in the country.

Same-sex conduct may be illegal in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania, but sexual orientation and gender identity minorities, or those perceived to be so, maintain the right of access to information and education on HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment.  Read more via Pan Africa ILGA