Paul Makonda, governor of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, is developing a surveillance team to hunt down gay people, CNN reports.
The governor said that he wants the team “get their hands on them.” Makonda, who serves in Tanzania’s largest city, announced on Monday that his new 17-member team will help track down and arrest same-sex couples in the area. By the next day, Makonda said he received over 5,000 reports with 100 names of LGBTQ civilians, according to CNN.
"Give me their names,” he said. “My ad hoc team will begin to get their hands on them next Monday.”
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The iniative is a culmination of years of discrimination and violence that the LGBTQ community faces in the country.
LGBTQ people in Tanzania can face up to a 30-year jail sentence for openly embracing their identities and sexualities, because Tanzania is one of 37 previously colonized Commonwealth nations that still uphold colonial sodomy laws. Other countries with colonial ties have overturned these laws, including South Africa, Belize, and India.
People who engage in same-sex acts can receive the death penalty in Sudan, Mauritania, Somalia, and parts of Nigeria.
“I can strongly conclude that 'no single argument for LGBTI has scientific proof.' It is simply 'unnatural' and 'unGodly'. To me, as a medic, I know it is a social construct, a mental illness," tweeted Hamisi Kigwangalla, a doctor and Tanzania's minister for natural resources and tourism.
Kigwangalla's statements, of course, have no basis in fact. Despite such stigmatizing and dangerous beliefs, homosexuality is not classified as a mental disorder (the American Pysciatric Association, for example, removed it from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973), and same-sex interactions and relationships are present throughout nature, and documented to exist among people since the earliest civilizations.
Bro., I have done a lot of reading on this matter, tena from a scientific/medical side. I can strongly conclude that ‘no single argument for LGBTI has scientific proof’. It is simply ‘unnatural’ and ‘unGodly’. To me, as a medic, I know it is a social construct, a mental illness https://t.co/NHg26QcGzq— Dr. Kigwangalla, H. (@HKigwangalla) October 30, 2018
Makonda has ordered crackdowns on the LGBTQ community in the past, and the Tanzanian government has previously promoted anti-gay prejudice.
Last year, Tanzania closed 40 HIV testing and treatment centers that were intended to help gay men and sex workers. Their patients then had to use public health facilities where forced anal examinations are prevalent.
In 2017, a group of human rights lawyers and activist were detained by the police for "promoting" homosexuality. This intimidated lawyers from taking LGBTQ cases, leaving people without proper representation in court.
The year before that, the Tanzanian government banned HIV/AIDS outreach programs that were intended specifically for gay men. It closed US-funded programs that provided condoms, medical care, and HIV testing for the LGBTQ community. Later, private HIV clinics were forced to close nationwide.
LGBTQ activists and civilians are at risk of being violently attacked by police and members of their local community, as has happened in the past. Because of this, people are being forced to evacuate or hide in their homes.
“Every gay person is living in fear,” said Geofry Mashala, a Tanzanian LGBTQ activist who currently lives in California. “You cannot do anything. You cannot go to the police. You cannot ask people to help you.”
Makonda said that his surveillance force will go into effect Monday, Nov. 5.