Extremely disturbing news from the East African nation of Tanzania, where police are accused of routinely assaulting, raping and torturing gay men, lesbians, transgender women, sex workers and drug users. Medical staff, health workers and some HIV/AIDS organizations have denied these marginalized populations healthcare, which undermines efforts to reduce HIV infections, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.
Researchers found that sex workers, sexual minorities and drug users were arrested and detained for days on end, beaten and raped by the police. Officers gang raped children as young as 12 years old. "I have had sex with policemen many times so I cannot even remember how many," Halima, a sex worker, told HRW. "He catches me, he wants money, but I do not have money so he will force me to have sex with him. ...
HRW identified dozens of cases in which health workers turned away sex workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and drug users without offering services or they publicly humiliated them. Jamal, a man who has sex with men, said a doctor refused to treat him for gonorrhea because of his sexual orientation. "He said: ‘You already have sex with men, now you come here to bring us problems – go away," Jamal told HRW.
Gay men are often singled out by Tanzanian authorities for abuse and rape, reports Voice of America.
In a case recounted from a December 2010, an 18-year-old man identified as gay was forced by police at gunpoint to call five gay friends and tell them to meet him at a bar. When they arrived, police arrested the group and brought them to the central station where they say they were repeatedly raped by fellow detainees. The police, victims said, refused to help.
According to the report, Tanzanian law classifies some high-risk groups as criminals. ... The criminal status, the report indicates, drives gay men underground, preventing them from seeking or receiving medical attention and making them easy targets for human rights violations by law enforcement.
While Tanzanian authorities have pledged to reduce stigma attached to marginalized groups and work toward decriminalization of same-sex intimacy and sex work, Ghoshal says it is time the government acts on the commitments.
Tanzania is adjacent to Kenya but is far more conservative than its neighbor on LGBT issues. Tanzania is one of at least 38 of 54 African nations that criminalize same-sex activities. Sexual relations between men are criminalized and punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment, descrbed as "one of the most severe punishments for gay sex in the world" by Human Rights Watch. In late 2011, the East African nation slammed UK Prime Minister David Cameron's suggestion that aid would be cut unless it relaxed its anti-gay laws.
More recently: In July 2012, one of Kenya's leading LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS actvists was brutally murdered in his Dar es Salaam home. Maurice Mjomba was a founding member of Tanzania's leading group for men who have sex with men, Stay Awake Network Activities (SANA). Police have not reported any leads or arrests.
President Obama will visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania later this month.