Tanzanian authorities are carrying out physical examinations on 10 men suspected of homosexual activity in Zanzibar, according to police.
A wave of arrests of gays in Tanzania is feared after a senior official urged the public to report suspected homosexuals to authorities. Homosexual acts are illegal in Tanzania and can bring a sentence of up 30 years.
The examinations are taking place on Friday to see if there are any signs of same-sex relations among the men, who were arrested last week on suspicion of celebrating a gay marriage at a resort hotel, police chief of the south region of Zanzibar, Suleiman Hassan, told The Associated Press.
“We acted on a tip-off from a good citizen leading them to abort their party during the weekend and then police made a quick arrest,” said Hassan. After being held for several days, the men have been released pending the investigations, he said.
Last week Paul Makonda, the administrative chief of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, urged citizens to report any suspected homosexuals. He said a task force would be established to seek out and punish homosexuals and prostitutes.
Forced anal examination
Days later Tanzania’s foreign ministry said Makonda’s statement did not represent government policy but many gays in this East African country say they are frightened.
Amnesty International warned against the examinations of the men who were arrested.
“We now fear these men may be subjected to forced anal examination, the government’s method of choice for ‘proving’ same-sex sexual activity among men,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s East Africa Deputy Director.
“This appalling attack on Tanzanian people simply exercising their human rights shows the danger of inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric at senior levels of government,” said Magango.
“This is a shocking blow following the Tanzanian government’s assurance that no-one would be targeted and arrested because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.”
There’s also been a significant diplomatic reaction. The European Union has recalled its ambassador to Tanzania, citing “the deterioration of the human rights and rule of law situation” in Tanzania. The EU will be conducting a broad review of its relations with Tanzania, said the statement emailed to AP.