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20 People Arrested for ‘Homosexuality’ While Attending HIV/AIDS Workshop in Tanzania

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On Saturday, 20 people were arrested for suspected homosexuality in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, according to the Washington Post.

As in other former British colonies like Singapore and Jamaica, homosexual acts — specifically between men — are illegal in Tanzania. These laws have their roots in the British penal code, which has since been revised in the UK but remains in many of its former colonies.

Read more: 50,000 Gay Men Pardoned in UK Under 'Turing Law'

In Tanzania, men who engage in sexual acts with other men may be jailed for up to 30 years, according to the BBC.

The eight men and 12 women were arrested after police conducted a raid on a hotel where the group was attending an HIV/AIDS education workshop, the Washington Post reported.

Over the last two years, the government of Tanzania has attempted to restrict LGBT rights by targeting HIV/AIDS programs and organizations. Last year, the government banned the sale of personal lubricants, arguing that it encouraged homosexuality and contributed to the spread of HIV, according to the Daily Beast. It also suspended HIV programs that serve gay men and threatened to suspend non-profit organizations serving those communities, NPR reported.

“Until recently, there was an acceptance in African governments, even if they were homophobic and transphobic, that dealing with HIV in relation to men who have sex with men was a priority,” Human Rights Watch researcher Neela Ghoshal said.

But the BBC reports that an increase in homophobic rhetoric among Tanzanian politicians has seen a rise in discrimination against LGBT people in the East African country. 

This February, the Tanzanian government took yet another restrictive step, banning 40 private health clinics from providing HIV/AIDS services to gay men, transgender people, and sex workers — again arguing that these services encourage gay sex.

“Tanzanian authorities are arresting and prosecuting people on homosexuality-related charges, and subjecting them to forced anal examinations, a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that can amount to torture,” Amnesty International said in July.

The government’s crackdown on LGBT people in Tanzania has restricted their rights to live freely and to access vital health care.

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