The mention of Lesbians, Gay,Bisexual, Transgender and Queer in Tanzania is either in whispers from LGBTQ community or as a national headlines warning and threat.It has continuously been a brewing storm… The LGBTQ community in Tanzania are perceived as lesser humans, actually noncomformists and this phenomenon is like awakening sleeping ghosts within the universe. That is to say, the Tanzanian federal law does not prohibit discrimination on the LGBTQ community at all. On the other, the LGBTQ community feels vulnerable for what they term as a sexual and gender identity.
This takes me aback, what’s are human rights and how do they link to sexual and reproductive health ? According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights are inherent to all individuals as a consequence of being human and they are indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. More so, the Constitution of Tanzania guarantees the right to equality and prohibits any form of discrimination based on sex or gender.
Although the Tanzanian Constitution (1977) guarantees the right to equality and prohibits discrimination based on gender and sex, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people still face deeply rooted hostility, prejudice and widespread discrimination in the Tanzanian society. Threats of criminal penalty, social exclusion, harassment and violence make it particularly unsafe for one to come out as an LGBT person.So, the LGBTQ perfectly fit in the brackets of all individuals . Therefore, their plight is but a violation. My stand on the LGBTQ is I advocate for their inclusivity regardless of all that is said and done!
The LGBTQ Conversation-
Not once have I brought up the conversation on LGBTQ or the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer amongst peers, family, aqquitances and strangers. I can’t but wonder of ridicule, fear and peculiarity it has manifested. For example, my hubby asked, ” what if you one of our sons called to introduce the love of his life, and boom brought home a male partner? Before I could answer, he said, “I can only image of how hard shock and frustrations would hit. It would be such a horrible truth.” For Peter, a well-known carpenter in my hood was like, ” hao watu hawafai kuwa hai kabisa, jaro zao ninatisha, I cannot imagine being in bed with a fellow man, na kama inaweza happen, unless ni uchawi.” Follow the conversation on Youtube….
LGBTQ’s Community in Tanzania -The Can of Worms
According to Tanzanian’s LGBTQ is a non-conformity with the society norms, noting that same-sex marriages or sexual relationships are both taboo. Religion morality also depicts LGBTQ as detestable. Let’s not forget Tanzania is a Sub-Saharan country where 93% are either Muslims 30% and Christians 63%, making Africa the religious continent in the world. Their religious precepts shape their attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. For the example, the book of Leviticus warns of homosexuality, I quote, “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.” “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offence.” Because of the religious background, majority of Tanzanians promote a conservative agenda, and because LGBTQ community is minority, their sexual identity make Tanzania one of the hardest place to enjoy liberties, access opportunities and privileges.
LGBTQ promoted as Un-African Sexuality–Speaking in One Voice
From the late John Pombe Magfuli to Robert Mugambe and Yoweri Museveni, their voice have been one-LGBTQ is un-African. Times have never been so tough for the Tanzania LGBTQ community as it was during under the leadership of John Pombe Magfuli. In his own words, the late President in a striking homophobic rant said, “those who teach such things do not like us, brothers. They brought us drugs and homosexual practices that even cows disapprove.” Further, 2018, Tanzania made international headline when a regional official claimed to have established a task force to round up of men suspected to gay in Dar es Salaam. The suspects were to be tested for homosexual conduct and be jailed for life.Shocking enough, he claimed to receive hundreds of text messages from the public. Against this background, the government issued warnings of arrest and deporting anyone campaigning for the rights LGBTQ community and shut down all the organizations working on awareness and advocacy programmes.
LGBTQ is a Taboo-The Tanzanian/ African Culture
Leave out LGBTQ acceptance and mainstreaming, sexual conversation in most African backgrounds be it homes, schools or churched have been in whispers until recently. First, the LGBTQ community is ostrasized from the larger community for who they are according to the social and gender construction. Just recently, the rest of Africa got into shock during Kenya’s national census that saw the counting of intersex people. Did it change Tanzania’s perspective and attitude on the LGBTQ community? Zanzibar is and was known for Lesbianism but that does not stop the larger community define it a total taboo, and the best attitude is ignore lesbianism, at worst is death. Years back it was common in Zanzibar, an island off the Tanzania Coast to come across bars, clubs or cafes that were open for lesbians and gays where they could network. That was then, the recent war on the LGBTQ community has left them relying on secrecy organizations and international internet platforms for information and support. More so, LGBTQ is associated with mental sickness, witchcraft, devil worshiping, infidel and risky lifestyle.
The LGBTQ Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights-The Puzzle in Human Rights
LGBTQ sexual and reproductive health and rights have an inextricable bond, noting they involve individuals’ autonomy in their most intimate state. Public out cry from the LBGTQ community in Tanzania demonstrate a picture of historical failure progressing from one period to another. As human rights defender, I feel the LGTBQ community in Tanzania is faced by intense discrimination compared to any other minority group, because their sexual and gender identities are used shape every other aspect of life. Secondly, they are not pushing for any special right, nevertheless, what is provided and recognised by the Tanzanian Constitution.
What’s more, the new ground-breaking definition of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Right enable LGBTI people access sexual and reproductive health information and services. The report from Lancet and Guttmacher Institute Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights affirms that achieving sexual and reproductive health relies on people being able to realize their sexual and reproductive rights.Importantly the new definition includes people’s right to freely define their own sexuality, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The Commissioners also stress the importance of people being able to have access over their lifetimes to the information, resources, services and support necessary to achieve this without discrimination, coercion, exploitation or violence.
Violation of LGBTQRights-The Bad Conviction!
The Tanzanian LGTI community can to some point celebrate strides. However, they have a long way to go. The discrimination and prejudice from family to the wider society is unexplainable. These are negative attitudes emboldened by political, cultural and religious sponsored homophobia and transphobia, consequently, they cannot effectively access education, housing, economic opportunities, health care and leadership positions leading to underrepresentation. Most society’s deeply believe it is perfectly okay that LGBTQ are not worthy of respect and value, which makes them vulnerable to violent physical attacks such as bullying, sexual abuse not to mention the anal examinations, family rejection, overrepresentation in the criminal systems, bullying, unwarranted arrest and life imprisonment and death. It gets gloomier when the LGBTQ sexual and reproductive health and rights are not mainstreamed into…Just like heterosexuals LGBTQs experience mental health issues at a higher rate, a recent study found that 36 % have anxiety disorder, 61% have depression while 45% have PTSD.
Ubuntu: I am Because We are!
Be and let them be is my take on the LGBTI community. First, the Tanzanian LGBTI community is not advocating or lobbying for special rights, rather what is provided in the Constitution. The rise of LGBTI organisations in Tanzania is as a result gender and sexual orientation among minorities that is deemed by the larger society as illegal.The LGBTI are therefore excluded from accessing and enjoying their fundamental human rights such as education, healthcare, employment, housing and leadership. Tanzania is a signatory to international and national treaties guaranteeing fundamental rights minorities and vulnerable groups. Thus, its time the LGBTI community feel the positive effect of the ratifications.