A Tanzanian Woman Was Arrested for Kissing Another Woman at a Party
Her arrest is the latest in a government campaign against homosexuality.
In Tanzania, police have arrested a woman after a video of her hugging and kissing another woman at a party went viral online.
Her alleged crime was homosexuality. If she is convicted, she could face 30 years in prison for having “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.”
Though the woman is the first suspected lesbian to be arrested by Tanzanian officials for homosexuality, her detention follows a clear pattern of discrimination against gay men. Since coming to power in 2015, President John Magufuli has initiated a severe crackdown on homosexual activities across the socially conservative country.
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As police prepare a case against the newly arrested woman from the video, and continue their search for the second woman involved, they are also building similar cases against dozens of men charged with homosexuality who are systematically rounded up for arrest.
African outlet News24 reported that these arrests took place in suspected gay clubs, among other locations. Buzzfeed News reported that other men have been arrested at cafes and restaurants in sting-like operations involving coordinated efforts from police.
Following these arrests, men reported to Buzzfeed that they were often subjected to invasive anal exams, ostensibly administered to check for homosexuality, though reports have shown them to be ineffective in this regard. Men who underwent these exams likened the experience to assault.
The criminalization of homosexuality in Tanzania has been problematic in more ways than one. While targeted campaigns to arrest gay and lesbian people is condemnable in its own right, the Tanzanian government’s efforts to eliminate all homosexual behavior has also involved the systematic dismantling of resources for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment across the country.
In August of 2017 the government suspended programs designed to prevent HIV infection among gay men, NPR reported. The same report noted that over 40 clinics offering HIV/AIDS treatment to gay men, sex workers, and transgender people were prevented from serving these vulnerable populations.
The World Health Organization reported that HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in Tanzania, killing over 73,000 people in 2012 alone. Eliminating centers that increase awareness about treatment and prevention of the disease puts the Tanzanian population at risk of even higher rates of infection.
Furthermore, the government’s campaigns against homosexuality has included persecution of all NGOs and nonprofits working on LGBTQ rights across the country. In one high-profile event 20 activists were arrested while attending a workshop on HIV/AIDS prevention.
It remains unclear when the case against the recently arrested woman will be brought to court. Reuters reported that the local police chief could only confirm that she was in fact in a detention center as a result of her arrest.
“I can confirm that a Tanzanian woman is under police custody over that video clip,” police chief Mponjoli Mwabulambo told Reuters. “We will issue more details later after we conclude our investigation.”