Over 20 arrested in Zanzibar for ‘homosexual’ activities

Tanzanian police

Over 20 people have been arrested in Zanzibar after they were accused of engaging in “homosexual activities”.

Authorities in the region, which is semiautonomous of Tanzania, said that over twelve women and eight men were arrested following a police raid.

African protest

Hassan Ali, a regional police chief, said that officers raided a hotel in the area and arrested the group of suspects.

It is believed that they were attending a workshop.

Authorities have claimed that they suspected they were engaging in homosexual acts.

Ali confirmed this and said that police would “intensify vigilance against these groups”.

“We rounded them up because we suspect that they were engaged in homosexuality in Zanzibar, which is illegal in Zanzibar and is against the law of the country,” he said.

Related: Tanzanian President John Magufuli has claimed that “even cows” disapprove of homosexuality.

In Tanzania, if a man is found to be engaging in homosexuality then they could face a jail sentence of 30 years to life.

The country’s penal code states that anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” can face prison.

Other laws are also used to punish men who have sex with men such as a gross indecency law which carries prison sentences of up to five years and fines of a maximum of 300,000 Tanzanian shillings($134).

In recent months, the country cracked down on the LGBT+ community as the Home Affairs Minister, Mwigulu Nchemba, said that activists would soon face arrest and deportation.

Nchemba announced that domestic and foreign campaigners for gay rights would face criminal repercussions and that those who wanted to campaign should leave the country.

South Africa Pride parade (Getty)

South Africa Pride parade (Getty)

“Those who want to campaign for gay rights should find another country that allows those things,” Nchemba said.

He went on to stress that the country would be pursuing legal action.

“If we establish that any organisation registered in our country is campaigning for gay rights, I will deregister that organisation.

“If a Tanzanian national is doing that campaign, we will arrest him and take him to court and if it is a foreigner, we will immediately order him to leave the country.”

Tanzania recently threatened to publish a list of gay people who are allegedly selling sex online.

Health Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla announced the plan as part of the same government crackdown on “the homosexuality syndicate”.

“I will publish a list of gay people selling their bodies online,” Kigwangalla wrote on Twitter. “Those who think this campaign is a joke are wrong. The government has long arms and it will arrest all those involved quietly.”

They have since backed down on the threats and insisted that they would “deal with this issue differently”.

Kigwangalla confirmed on Twitter: “For strategic reasons and to avoid destroying evidence we will deal with this issue differently and will keep you informed at every step.”

He also said that releasing the names would be akin to “freeing a devil in a bottle.”

Earlier this year the country stopped 40 privately run clinics from providing HIV-related services because they “cater to homosexuals”.