Persecution of Homosexuals (Tanzania)

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Note that this page may contain news regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, and transsexual people (LGBTT)

Following Friday prayers, a mob of 300 Muslims take to the street, protesting the arrival of gay tourists from America, and accusing them of bringing immorality to Tanzania

More than 300 Tanzanian Muslims staged a noisy demonstration in central Dar es Salaam on March 14 to mark the arrival of a gay tour from the United States.

The protest followed traditional Friday prayers. One third of Tanzania is Muslim. Notices of the demonstration were read out in mosques throughout the city.

About 100 gay tourists from the United States are scheduled to spend a month on a safari in the Tanzanian wilderness. Security around the Dar es Salaam airport was tight and officials would not confirm that the group actually arrived.

Nevertheless, the protesters took to downtown streets accusing the gays of bringing immorality to the conservative country.

“Homosexuality is foreign to Africa and it is totally against the teachings of Islam outlined in the Holy Koran,” Sheikh Musa Kaleo, a preacher at Kigogo Mosque, told the crowd.

“These people are bringing immorality to our community and the government is allowing them,” he said as the crowd jeered and shouted.

One of the leaders of the demonstration, Shaaban Mapeyo, a Muslim youth leader, said the march sent a clear message to the gays and all those who support the visit that Muslims were against “this foreign culture.”

Gays in the country lead an invisible life. One man, who did not wish to be identified, said gay couples must be very careful not to show any affection in public.
Mob Protests American Gay Tourists, March 17, 2003

Zanzibar lawmakers outlaw gay sex because "Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim, and in Islam, homosexuality is strictly prohibited”

Lawmakers in Zanzibar have overwhelmingly passed a bill that outlaws homosexual sex in the semiautonomous Indian Ocean archipelago. Legislators approved the bill late Tuesday, amending Zanzibar’s 70-year-old penal code to make gay sex punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. The bill has to be signed by Zanzibar’s president, Amani Karume, before it becomes law. Under Zanzibar’s 1934 penal code, sodomy and “unnatural acts” were offenses, but the government wanted to update the law to specifically deal with homosexual acts. “We want to be very specific that this sort of thing is not acceptable in Zanzibar.... People tend to think, Why now? Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim country, and in Islam, homosexuality is strictly prohibited,” said Adam Mwakanjuki, Zanzibar’s constitutional affairs minister. “People might think [Zanzibar is] all cosmopolitan, but as far as homosexuality goes, it is an offense.” The Zanzibar archipelago, which elects its own president and legislature, is a popular tourist destination, and some Muslim leaders have expressed concern about the influence of Western practices on the islands.
Zanzibar Bans Gay Sex
The Advocate, April 15, 2004

Zanzibar sets a 25-year prison penalty for homosexual sex between men, and a seven year prison penalty for lesbian sex

Zanzibar has banned gay sex and set prison terms of up to 25 years for those who break the law, officials said yesterday.

The law sets a penalty of life imprisonment for sodomizing a minor.

The penalty for homosexual sex between men is 25 years’ jail and seven years for lesbian sex.

That compares to death for murder in Zanzibar and 30 years for violent robbery or rape.

“This is what we have been aspiring for. If the government takes such steps, the country will really move ahead,” said Sheikh Muhammed Said, a local Islamic leader.

The office of Zanzibar’s attorney general said the law took effect when the island archipelago’s president, Amani Karume, signed it last week.

Zanzibar’s parliament, in a rare show of unity, passed the bill unanimously in April.

Islamic groups have been calling for a more puritanical approach to public affairs on the Tanzanian Indian Ocean island, which is overwhelmingly Muslim and ordinarily a tourist idyll.

Besides targeting gays, the groups have pushed for bars to be removed from residential areas.

Local supporters of gay rights said the law was unfair.

“How can you have different jail terms for man-to-man relations than those for women-to-women relations? And in any case, where is the sancrosanctity of the body?” said Issa Suleiman.

Several international human rights groups have condemned the law as an infringement on personal liberty.

Travel agencies who specialize in trips for gays and lesbians have also threatened to boycott Zanzibar, which relies heavily on tourism revenue.

To the outside world, Zanzibar is a tourist’s paradise, but for gays it has become a hotbed of persecution with Islamic groups spearheading a campaign to cleanse the island of “corrupting” practices such as homosexuality

It’s the eve of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, but Hamedi says he will not set foot in a mosque for the whole fasting period, or at any other time for that matter.

As a homosexual in the devoutly Islamic Indian Ocean island, Hamedi is afraid other worshippers will attack him if he dares enter a mosque.

“They know I am gay, they throw stones at me on the streets, they insult me. I don’t have time for them, I keep to my business,” Hamedi said, asking that his name and profession be kept secret.

To the outside world, Zanzibar is a laid-back tourist’s paradise but in recent months, Islamic groups have spearheaded a campaign to cleanse the island of “corrupting” practices such as homosexuality and alcohol.

In August, the government of the semi-autonomous island archipelago that forms part of Tanzania, outlawed gay sex and set prison terms of up to 25 years for men and seven years for lesbians. The law also set a penalty of life imprisonment for sodomising a minor.

The government argues there has always been a law against homosexuality, but that it was vague. Officials say the revised legislation is effective because it defines clearly what parliament considers indecent sexual practices.

The crackdown seems like a draconian measure to Hamedi, who says he has always wanted to be a girl.

“It was my destiny, I couldn’t hide from it. I played with girls and dolls. I want make-up and to look like a girl,” he said, patting his long hair into place with graceful, manicured fingers.

He currently does not have a boyfriend, nor has he ever slept with anyone’s husband.

“Men are liars, they just want to use you—male or female,” Hamedi says resignedly.
Secrecy, Stones and Insults: The Gay Life on Zanzibar
Helen Nyambura, Reuters, November 8, 2004

Planned Freddie Mercury birthday celebrations are cancelled, after Muslims threaten to disrupt the event which they claim would have "gone against their faith, and that it would have brought shame to Zanzibar"

A celebration planned for this weekend in Zanzibar to honor native son Freddie Mercury has been called off due to religious protests. The population of the Tanzanian islands off the East Coast of Africa is primarily Islamic, and conservative Muslims threatened to disrupt the event, which would have marked the 60th anniversary of the late QUEEN singer's birth, according to the AFP news agency. Sheikh Azzan Hamdani of the local Association For Islamic Mobilization And Propagation said, "We were ready to join forces against the party because we had information that a number of gays from abroad had come to take part."
. . .
Local religious leaders felt that honoring Mercury, who was gay and who died of AIDS in 1991, would have gone against their faith, and that it would have brought shame to Zanzibar, where Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5, 1946. The local government had been asked to close the party down before it started.
Freddie Mercury birthday party cancelled
The Rock Radio, September 4, 2006