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Tanzania’s Health Policies Discriminate Against LGBTQ Community: Report

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The Tanzanian government’s health policies are actively discriminatory against LGBTQ people, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on Monday. 

The report, entitled “‘If We Don’t Get Services We Will Die’: Tanzania’s Anti-LGBT Crackdown and the Right to Health,” is based on interviews with 35 LGBTQ Tanzanians and reveals that the government’s health policies are not only inadequate, but mentally and physically harmful.

The report found that Tanzania’s Health Ministry conducts forced anal examinations and closed down walk-in clinics that once provided HIV testing and other related services. 

The ministry has also banned organizations from practicing community HIV education outreach and prohibited the sale of lubricant, which is important for condom use for the prevention of HIV. 

Neela Goshal, the senior LGBTQ Rights researcher at HRW, claims that these inadequate health services are an outright attack on the greater LGBTQ community in Tanzania. 

“Manufactured threats around the so-called ‘promotion of homosexuality’ have displaced best practices and evidence-based approaches in guiding HIV policy in Tanzania,” Goshal said in a news release.

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The government has also put the health and safety of LGBTQ Tanzanians at risk through the commonplace practice of police raids, which mostly target meetings of health professionals and HIV activists aimed at informing the public about HIV treatment and prevention. 

Arresting someone on the suspicion of homosexual intercourse is in direct violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

During these raids and subsequent arrests, police have asked health care workers to perform forced anal examinations to “collect evidence” of sexual activity, despite having no scientific merit and being condemned as a form of torture by the African Commission on Human Rights.

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Goshal called on the Tanzanian government to stop arresting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or for seeking educational information on HIV prevention. 

“Concrete steps forward should also include banning forced anal examinations and reforming health policies so that they are based on evidence, not prejudice,” she said.