Two South Africans are among 12 men arrested for presumed homosexuality in Tanzania as part of an ongoing crackdown against gays, police said on Wednesday. “We arrested the criminals at (the hotel) Peacock – they were promoting homosexuality. Two are South Africans, one Ugandan and nine Tanzanians,” Dar es Salaam police head Lazaro Mambosasa said at a weekly press conference.
He said the 12 were being questioned ahead of being sent to a court and did not say when they had been arrested. “Tanzanian law forbids this act between people of the same sex, it is a violation of our country’s laws,” said Mambosasa. He added the hotel manager was among those arrested for “providing a room” for the others.
Mambosasa urged citizens to notify authorities if they caught wind of such activities “so we can act in time”.
Police made 20 arrests – eight men and 12 women – on similar grounds on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous archipelago Zanzibar last month. According to police, those arrests took place in a hotel where the group were undergoing training with an officially-registered international NGO, the Bridge Initiative, which works in AIDS awareness.
In February, Tanzania earned criticism notably from the United States after announcing the closure of several health centres specialising in AIDS prevention, alleging they were fronts for promoting homosexuality. The Dar es Salaam government also vowed to deport foreigners campaigning for gay rights.
Gay male sex is punishable by anything from 30 years to life imprisonment under Tanzanian law. There is no such ban on lesbian relations.
According to Amnesty International, homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 African states and is punishable by death in Mauritania, Somalia and Sudan. Uganda in 2014 tried to impose the death penalty on those found guilty of being homosexual, however the controversial law was later repealed.