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ANTI-GAY BACKLASH IN TANZANIA AS STATE REACTS TO PROPOSED UK AID CUTS FOR HOMOPHOBIA

in TANZANIA, UNITED REPUBLIC OF, 11/11/2011

Tanzania has joined the growing group of countries that have lashed out against the proposed move by British Prime Minister David Cameron to cut aid to homophobic countries.

Tanzania has joined the growing group of countries that have lashed out against the proposed move by British Prime Minister David Cameron to cut aid to homophobic countries.

According to a report by the Reuters news agency, Tanzania’s foreign affairs minister Bernard Membe was quoted by Tanzania’s Guardian newspaper as saying, “Tanzania will never accept Cameron’s proposal because we have our own moral values. Homosexuality is not part of our culture and we will never legalise it.”

He added, “We are not ready to allow any rich nation to give us aid based on unacceptable conditions simply because we are poor. If we are denied aid by one country, it will not affect the economic status of this nation and we can do without UK aid.”

Membe said, “We cannot be directed by the United Kingdom to do things that are against our set laws, culture and regulations.”

Following this statement, reports from some Tanzanian activists have indicated that known gay individuals have been isolated, beaten and attacked by members of public and some activists are linking the attacks to the proposed aid cuts.

In Tanzania homosexuality is illegal and punishable with a sentence of ten years or more.

A gay Tanzanian activist who sought anonymity said in a telephone interview, “The homosexuality debate is very hot right now in Tanzania and we are lying low to avoid retribution from fundamentalists. Everyone is talking about the issue and my worry is that some gay people do not always know how to handle these kinds of situations and find themselves under attack when discussions escalate into a scuffle.”

He added, “As at now we have two members [of the LGBTI community] who were arrested in Dar es Salaam on Friday, November 4. They have been held on trumped up charges of theft. As at Monday November 7 they were still in custody and we are looking for ways to assist them. We are appealing to all Tanzanian LGBTI to lie low and report any attacks.”

These attacks seem to confirm the fears that a section African social justice activists pointed out in a joint statement released on October 27. (See story on Behind the Mask African headlined: Activists concerned by UK move to cut aid to anti-gay countries.)

According statistics from ILGA, only 13 countries in Africa have not criminalised same-sex relationships.

Meanwhile, other African nations continue to react to the proposed aid sanctions from the British targeted at anti-gay regimes.

The BBC reported that the Ghanaian president John Atta Mills announced on November 2 that that the UK “should not impose its values on Ghana and he would never legalise homosexuality.”

The BBC also mentioned Uganda’s presidential adviser John Nagenda, who accused the British Prime Minister of having a “bullying mentality.”

In their statement the African activists had warned, “The imposition of donor sanctions may be one way of seeking to improve the human rights situation in a country but does not, in and of itself, result in the improved protection of the rights of LGBTI people.”

The activists said, “Donor sanctions are by their nature coercive and reinforce the disproportionate power dynamics between donor countries and recipients. They are often based on assumptions about African sexualities and the needs of African LGBTI people.”

The statement added, “They disregard the agency of African civil society movements and political leadership. They also tend, as has been evidenced in Malawi, to exacerbate the environment of intolerance in which political leadership scapegoat LGBTI people for donor sanctions in an attempt to retain and reinforce national state sovereignty.”

The move by the British government may result in a wider backlash or a push for stronger anti-homosexuality legislation and this may result in enhanced societal homophobia as illustrated in Tanzania. 

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