Cablegate: Homosexuals Stigmatized, Marginalized in Tanzania

DE RUEHDR #0905/01 3641339
R 301339Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 130765

1. (U) SUMMARY: Homosexuality has long been prohibited in Tanzania,
but anti-homosexual laws have rarely if ever been used in recent
years. Homosexuals in Tanzania face occasional police harassment
and routine societal discrimination, which affects employment
opportunities as well as access to medical care. The nascent NGO
community that focuses on supporting the rights of gays and lesbians
works in a challenging environment with limited resources. Because
they must in large part operate underground, it is difficult for
these NGOs to coordinate with one another or engage the GOT.
However, in 2009 local NGOs publicly presented a paper to the Deputy
Minister of Community Development on the stigma and discrimination
facing members of their community. To improve coordination and
advocacy efforts, local NGOs plan to establish a consortium of gay
and lesbian support groups. END SUMMARY

2. (U) Since 1954 Tanzania's penal code has prohibited males from
engaging in acts of "gross indecency" with persons of the same sex,
whether publicly or privately. A person convicted under this law
could be sentenced to five years in jail. The penal code also
prohibits persons from having "carnal knowledge of any person
against the order of nature" or allowing any male to have "carnal
knowledge" of a man or a woman "against the order of nature". These
prohibitions, in place since the mid-1950s, were in 1998
incorporated into the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act and
then into the revised penal code in 2002. Persons convicted under
these stipulations of the law are subject to 30 years to life in
prison. The law in semi-autonomous Zanzibar establishes a penalty
of up to 25 years in prison for men who engage in homosexual
relationships and seven years for women in lesbian relationships.

3. (SBU) Neither Tanzania nor Zanzibar has in recent years
prosecuted individuals under these laws. However, there have been
allegations that mainland police and prosecutors use laws against
prostitution and loitering to harass homosexuals. Dr. Emmanuel
Kandusi, Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights
Promotion, told Poloff that 39 individuals arrested on prostitution
charges on October 7 were targeted for their membership in gay and
lesbian support groups. Police made the arrests reportedly after
receiving complaints from residents about prostitutes in their
neighborhood. However, Kandusi asserted that the residents were
upset that members of two local organizations, Community Peer
Support Services (CPSS) and Tanzanian Lesbian Association (TALESA),
were meeting in their neighborhood. As of December 28, the case had
yet to be heard by the court. (Note: Kandusi said his organization
began working to promote the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals,
and transgender individuals (LGBTI) in 2000 after a group of
Ugandans fled to Tanzania, fearing persecution in their home
country. End Note.)

4. (SBU) Gay rights activist and CPSS member Ali Semsella related to
Poloff other incidents of harassment and arrest. For example, a
group of seven individuals arrested in January on charges of
prostitution continue to be held in remand prison because they could
not make the Tsh 500,000 bail (USD380). Semsella also said that he
and five other members of CPSS were arrested in 2002 because of
their efforts to provide a support network for gay men. Semsella
claimed that they were beaten in jail as the police tried to extract
confessions from them about their sexual orientation. According to
Semsella, homosexuality seems to be tolerated more on Zanzibar than
on the mainland.

5. (SBU) Due to the threat of arrest and other harassment, the gay
and lesbian community in Tanzania has been reluctant to lobby the
government to change the law against homosexual activity. However,
in 2009 community members publicly presented to the Deputy Minister
of Community Development a paper detailing the stigma and
discrimination they face. Semsella noted that Embassies and
International Organizations have more freedom to engage the
government, but the government rarely responds by taking action to
reduce stigma and discrimination, much less change discriminatory

6. (U) In July, a group of international NGOs, including Global
Rights and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
(IGLHRC), as well as a local NGO, the Centre for Human Rights
Promotion, submitted a "shadow" report to the United Nations Human
Rights Committee (UNHRC) which detailed the legal and societal
discrimination faced by gays, lesbians, and transgendered people in
Tanzania. The report stated that the laws against homosexuality
interfere with an individual's right to privacy and encourage the
stigmatization of gays, lesbians, and transgender people. The

DAR ES SAL 00000905 002 OF 002

groups called on the government of Tanzania to amend the penal code
to remove homosexuality as a criminal offense. The publication of
this report coincided with Tanzania's fourth periodic report to the
UNHRC. In its response to Tanzania's Fourth Periodic Report, UNHRC
expressed concern about the criminalization of same sex
relationships as well as the discrimination faced by those engaged
in such relationships. UNHRC recommended that the GOT "should"
decriminalize homosexual relationships.

7. (SBU) Stigma and discrimination are pervasive throughout society.
According to representatives from TALESA, CPSS, and the Centre for
Human Rights Promotion, members of the gay community in Tanzania
face significant discrimination from family members, religious
institutions, health workers, and employers. Family members often
fail to provide adequate emotional or material support, while
religious leaders at times refuse to bury homosexuals. Semsella
lamented the fact that many within the gay and lesbian community do
not know their rights and are often afraid to assert themselves for
fear of persecution.

8. (SBU) Gays and lesbians also face challenges securing stable
employment. Both Semsella and Sofia Lugilabe of TALESA said they
had been fired from their jobs as a result of their sexual
orientation Q a common occurrence. Samsella was recently in court
to assist two workers from a local security company who were
petitioning the court for reinstatement after losing their jobs due
to their sexual orientation. Lugilabe said such discrimination
poses significant challenges in particular to women outside the
capital, where job opportunities are more limited. Difficulty in
securing steady employment further marginalizes homosexuals and
makes them more likely to engage in transactional sex.

9. (SBU) Health providers discriminate against gays and lesbians,
often refusing treatment and services, for example related to
HIV/AIDS. In particular, it is difficult for homosexuals to obtain
anti-retroviral treatment or even access voluntary counseling and
testing facilities despite their increased risk. Anecdotal evidence
suggests gay men are increasingly making use of a (USG-funded)
confidential helpline for HIV and other health-related inquiries
established in 2001. Kandusi said the Centre for Human Rights
Promotion is working to mainstream the needs of the lesbian and gay
community into HIV/AIDS care, treatment, awareness, and counseling

10. (SBU) Activism for gay rights in Tanzania is a fairly new
effort. NGOs supporting the homosexual community operate in a
challenging environment as they face possible legal action as well
as stigma and discrimination. Samsella said his organization,
formed in 1996, was one of the first. Due to the anti-homosexual
law, the group could not register as an organization supporting gay
rights, but had to incorporate as an organization providing
assistance to the poor and those with HIV/AIDS. NGOs supporting
gays and lesbians also have difficulty finding and keeping office
space. Both TALESA and CPSS reported being evicted by landlords
once they became aware of the organizations' mission. Securing
funding as well as assistance from other local NGOs has been
problematic as well. One local human rights organization flatly
refused to discuss the issue of discrimination against the
homosexual community with CPSS, expressing indignation at the idea
of becoming involved. Similarly, TALESA was rebuffed by the women's
groups it approached for support. Lugilabe said the Tanzania Gender
Networking Program (TGNP), for example, told her that TALESA needed
to publish materials before TGNP could provide assistance.

11. (SBU) Kandusi said the lack of coordination among the various
NGOs supporting gay rights affects the movement's success in
Tanzania. The Centre for Human Rights Promotion is working to build
a coalition of LGBTI organizations, which Kandusi hopes will
increase capacity for advocacy and other activities.


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