Yesterday, the LGBTQ+ community in Tanzania went on high alert after Paul Makonda, a governor in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, announced the creation of a surveillance team dedicated to hunting down LGBTQ+ people. According to Governor Makonda, the operation was launched to find, arrest, and “educate” gay people. The Independent reported that 1000 names have already been handed to authorities since the launch of the surveillance team yesterday. Tanzania is among the 34 African countries where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to 30 years in jail.
The surveillance team consists of 17 members, including doctors, lawyers and individuals from the Tanzania Communications Authority and will use the internet and social media to find gay individuals or anyone with “gay content” on their social media accounts or personal devices, and turn them in to authorities. The surveillance team also warned Tanzanians to delete any sexual content on their phones or they will face imprisonment.
The operation has sparked major criticism from international groups. Amnesty International’s regional director called the launch a “dangerous path… that serves to incite hatred among members of the public.”
Homophobic rhetoric and discrimination has been on the rise in Tanzania since their 2015 presidential election, leading many LGBTQ+ members to hide their sexualities. In February 2017, a Tanzanian deputy health minister threatened to publish the names of suspected gay individuals, which would lead to their imprisonment.
Newswire Sources: BBC News 10/31/18; 01/27/17; Independent 10/31/18; News24 11/01/18; Amnesty International UK