Lesbians, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LBTI) people in Tanzania are particularly vulnerable to various human rights violations, including but not limited to physical, sexual, and verbal abuse, arbitrary arrests and detention, denial of access to justice, eviction from housing, and unfair dismissal from places of employment – all despite the existence of a Constitution that explicitly provides protection against the aforementioned violations.
Tanzania has also orchestrated a systematic attack on the rights of LGBT people through a clampdown on the work of activists and organisations. The Penal Code of Tanzania and the Penal Decree Act of Zanzibar both criminalise “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”. However, these laws do not explicitly criminalise consensual same-sex acts between adult women.
Police continue to conduct arbitrary arrests and forced anal examinations based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and LBTI people often struggle to access and receive healthcare for HIV/AIDS infections. There is no legislation or policy that would protect or recognise the rights of transgender and intersex people.
LGBTIQ human rights defenders have been arrested under Tanzania’s restrictive censorship laws. In 2018, a Regional Commissioner publicly announced the establishment of a team of officials and police to find and arrest LGBTIQ individuals and called on Tanzanians to support this effort by reporting LGBTIQ persons to the authorities. Section 150 of the criminal code, related to “unnatural offenses,” prescribes 14 years in prison, section 153 specifically criminalizes same-sex relations between women, and section 154 criminalizes gross indecency. Societal acceptance is extremely low, LGBTIQ topics are highly taboo and LGBTIQ identities are often seen as un-African and immoral. These beliefs result in widespread discrimination and violence towards LGBTIQ Tanzanians at the hands of private individuals. This is exacerbated by political and religious hate speech and persecution of LGBTIQ people by authorities.
The last submitted State party report was in 2014 and contained no information on LBTI constituencies.
The CEDAW Committee did not provide any SOGIESC-focused recommendations to Tanzania in 2016. The List of Issues also did not include LBTI-inclusive questions.
The Committee provided a few general observations that may be applicable to LBTI people:
(a) to raise awareness on SRHR, sexual behaviour, and reproductive and health rights at primary and secondary school levels;
(b) to reduce maternal mortality with the implementation of policy, amendment of legal provisions to regulate abortion and decriminalising it;
(c) to provide access to free prevention, treatment, and care and support services to women living with HIV/AIDS;
(d) to amend the provisions of the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act (2008) that perpetuate discrimination against women living with HIV, including those that criminalise the transmission of HIV and force the disclosure of HIV status to sexual partners;
(e) to repeal discriminatory provisions of the Penal Code and eliminate discriminatory practices faced by female sex workers, including access to healthcare, exit programmes, and introduce measures to discourage the demand for ‘prostitution’.