A Tanzanian man last month sentenced to 30 years in prison after a court convicted him of violating the country’s sodomy law.
According to LGBT VOICE Tanzania, an LGBTQ and intersex rights organization, the Kilwa District Court sentenced Muharami Hassan Nayonga to 30 years in prison after it convicted him of violating Sections 154 and 157 of the country’s Penal Code that criminalize so-called unnatural offenses and “indecent practices between males.”
LGBT VOICE Tanzania said Nayonga was a security guard who lived in Masoko Ward. He was arrested on April 13 “after he used his phone to persuade a young man known as Zalafi Selemani to be intimate with him.”
“After the arrest, Muharami was examined by health professionals who found that he had engaged and engages in unnatural sex,” said LGBT VOICE Tanzania. “He was then brought to court and confessed his crimes where he was sentenced to 30 years in prison by the Resident Magistrate of the Court, Carolina Mtui, under case number 27 of 2023.”
LGBT VOICE Tanzania accused the country’s government of violating Nayonga’s human rights.
“Using Sections 154 and 157 of the Penal Code to persecute LGBTQIA people is a violation of human rights and a violation of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania,” said LGBT VOICE Tanzania.
There have been consistent reports of discrimination and violence against LGBTQ and intersex Tanzanians in recent years. These include murder, assault, harassment and denial of basic rights and services.
The Health Ministry in 2016 prohibited community-based organizations from conducting outreach on HIV prevention to men who have sex with men and other key populations, based on the pretext that such organizations are engaged in the promotion of homosexuality. The ministry also closed drop-in centers that provided HIV testing and other services to key populations. International organizations ran many of these centers, and the government accused them of promoting homosexuality.
The ministry also banned the distribution of lubricant.
A crackdown against LGBTQ and intersex Tanzanians has been underway since 2018; with reports of raids, mass arrests, arbitrary detention and forced anal examinations.
According to Daniel Marari, a human rights lawyer and researcher, most Tanzanians strongly oppose LGBTQ and intersex rights on the assumption that non-traditional sexual orientation or gender identity is ungodly and immoral.
“While acknowledging the presence of LGBT people in the Tanzanian society, many anti-LGBT actors find it easy to demonize the issue as un-African, and a western invention as there is no such thing as a right to homosexuality. Those who are quick to condemn homosexuality hardly bother to reflect on the scientific aspects of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Marari.
Marari also stressed LGBTQ and intersex Tanzanians are not asking for any special rights but basic human rights like every other citizen.
“What LGBT people are asking for is the fulfillment of the Constitutional promise of equality and there is nothing specifically western about that. Tanzania has ratified international and regional treaties guaranteeing basic rights including the right of minorities and vulnerable groups and it is time it lives up to its promises,” said Marari. “There is no doubt that the criminalization of private consensual homosexual acts between adults affects the private lives of LGBT people as they cannot express their sexual or gender identity without being liable to prosecution.”
“Even where there is justification to restrict homosexual relationships so as to protect special groups like children or other vulnerable persons from sexual abuse, just as heterosexual relationships can be restricted on the same grounds, that argument would not justify all-inclusive criminal sanctions where persons involved are consenting adults,” added Marari.
Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain prohibited in Tanzania, and anyone convicted under the country’s sodomy law faces up to life in prison.