What does it mean to be gay in Tanzania?

The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) releases a map which shows gay rights by country. The countries with the most homophobic laws are shown in red and the countries with the most open laws are green. In between are various shades of orange, yellow and light green. Tanzania is colored a bright red, indicating that it has some of the harshest anti-gay laws in the world, short of the death penalty (those countries are shaded a dark red). The penalty in Tanzania is 14 years to life in prison for homosexuality.

But Tanzania rarely seems to make the headlines in the way that Uganda and other countries that have enacted harsh new anti-gay legislation have. There seems to be very little direct prosecution or sentences handed down to LGBT individuals in Tanzania. A new anti-gay law, similar to the one enacted in Uganda, had much less traction here in Tanzania. In many ways homosexuality seems like an issue that isn’t specifically discussed in the country, either positively or negatively.

But yet, the laws are still on the books and as a gay mzungu trying to find a sense of a gay community in Tanzania (Zanzibar specifically) it seems like either one doesn’t exist or it is so deeply hidden that there is no way for an outsider (and probably young LGBT Tanzanians) to access it. Additionally, there still is a great deal of homophobic violence and discrimination facing the LGBT community, even if it has not garnered the headlines that other countries recently have.

However, despite its lack of visibility, there is word of an active underground gay community, particularly in Zanzibar, that has filled in the void left by the strict control of male/female relations in the deeply Muslim culture on the island. One of the local nightclubs, Bwawani, famously has a gay night once a week and caused a furor in 2004 when they held a “gay marriage” on the premises.

Despite this, there are no typical signs of the “gay scene” or gay community that is found in many Western cultures. There isn’t much of a movement and it doesn’t seem to be discussed openly on very many levels. There is a strong connection between men and between women in Zanzibar that often probably turns into affection and occasionally into a physical relationship, but it doesn’t threaten the hetero-normative concept of traditional marriage; if men fool around in their youth, there is still no question that they will get married in the proper way. And often, married men also have homosexual extra-marital relations.

Every day, though, LGBT rights are increasingly an international conversation. It is an issue that is beginning to be discussed to a greater extent in Tanzania, and this discussion highlights the homophobic violence that does occur here, as well as the need to protect the concept of heterosexuality and “family values” as a core basis of society.

What does this mean for homosexual identity and rights in Tanzania and Zanzibar? What is the situation facing people who identify as LGBT or who are questioning their sexuality? How does this effect the process of “coming out” for LGBT individuals?

In this blog I will begin to explore these issues. It will look at LGBT rights in Tanzania and Zanzibar as well as a greater notion of LGBT identity in this country. I understand that as an outsider, I don’t have all of the specific answers and the direct connection to the local LGBT community, but hopefully through interviews and personal stories, this can become a rich picture of LGBT life and LGBT rights in an East African country.

Human Rights Day

LGBT Rights Tanzania Africa

James Wandera Ouma, LGBT Voice Executive Director

Today the Tanzanian LGBT community joins millions of other people in commemorating the International Human Rights Day. This day is a time for people worldwide to reflect about the meaning, importance and need for human rights. It is an occasion for the government and people of Tanzania to re-commit themselves to the spirit and letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which we are a signatory.
The theme of the 2011 International Human Rights Day, Dignity and Justice for all of us, is especially important for the LGBT community in Tanzania particularly in the wake of increased hate speech from government officials, the Minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, religious leaders and discriminating and criminalizing legislation against sexual minorities, which have resulted in mass hateful uprisings, direct harassment, violence intended to silence activists advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender in Tanzania. These violations deprive sexual minorities of the dignity and justice guaranteed to all peoples under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
As we celebrate this year’s International Human Rights Day, the LGBTI community in Tanzania recommits to working towards a more inclusive and tolerant society that will ensure that every Tanzanian lives in peace and with dignity, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We emphatically stress on this day that LGBTI rights are human rights and not special rights.
LGBT VOICE Tanzania stress that human rights as stipulated by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights are God-given and inherent. It is a violation of those God-given rights to witch-hunt LGBT individuals and makes us scapegoats for all the moral and social problems that the nation is contending with. It is a violation of our human rights to deny us the right to live peacefully and contribute to the social, economic, and political progress of our country. It is also a violation of our human rights to deny us the right to access appropriate health care and education, and force us to change from our God given sexual orientations and gender diversities.
In light of this the LGBT community denounces the government’s complacent position and continued refusal to accord LGBT Tanzanians equal access to the human and civil rights every other Tanzanian is entitled to under the Constitution, and for continuing to make same sex relationships criminal.
It is LGBT Voice Tanzania`s fervent belief that the promotion of human dignity shall remain hollow unless we transform our social and political attitudes to eliminate hate and ensure tolerance for diversity.

May God bless Tanzanian and all LGBT in Tanzania?

LGBT Voice Tanzania featured in good 100 magazine


James Wandera Ouma , Executive Director LGBT VOICE

James Wandera Ouma , Executive Director LGBT VOICE

James  James Wandera Ouma wants you to imagine that someone you love is seriously ill. Now imagine taking your loved one to a hospital or clinic where care is readily available, but being turned away because he or she happens to be LGBT. For Ouma, who identifies with this LGBT community as a gay man, this is a common reality in Tanzania. As the executive director of LGBT VOICE,

We responded

LGBT Rights Tanzania Africa

James Wandera Ouma, LGBT Voice Executive Director

LGBT VOICE Tanzania held a press conference and issued a statement  in response to Minister Bernard Membe’s comments of on 3rd  November 2011

Read the statement:
We would like to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Honorable Bernard Membe, for demonstrating in his statement to the press on 3 November 2011 that he does not respect the Human Rights clauses in the Tanzanian Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, to which Tanzania is a signatory. In response to David Cameron’s statement of the UK’s threat to withhold aid to countries that are persecuting homosexuals, the Minister suggested that he is reluctant to see aid being cut, but is willing to accept such cuts because he does not accept homosexuals in Tanzania. Therefore he is excluding LGBT Tanzanians from the life of the country and protection of the law. We as LGBT Tanzanians exist, we are here. We were not created by the UK and have no connection whatsoever with the UK. The Minister further states that the UK wants Tanzania to allow Gay Marriage, which is currently against the Marriage Act, but this is not true. Mr. Cameron did not speak to Gay Marriage but focused rather on the more egregious acts of persecution of Gays that have occurred in Malawi, Uganda and Senegal, including imprisonment, and in the case of Uganda, a proposed law that makes repeated homosexual activity a capital offense.
The Tanzanian government should respect our rights under the Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It’s now time for the government to review the penal code and other laws and remove all sections which criminalize homosexuality because such criminalization of a class of citizens is unconstitutional. Section 3, Chapter 12 of the Constitution states that all persons have the right to enjoy equality, humanity, identity and respect. Section 3, Chapter 13 states that all persons are entitled to equal protection under the law and prohibits any law which will discriminate because of his or her status. Section 3, Chapter 29 states that every person in Tanzania has a right to enjoy the fundamental Human Rights and the results of those Rights. We as LGBT Tanzanians claim protection under the constitution. We believe that fundamental Human Rights includes the right to freedom of expression and the right to be heard. The right to equality under the law. The right to walk down the street without being subjected to violence. The right to be recognized and accepted for who we are. The right of equal access to education, employment and health care.
Laws which discriminate against a certain class of citizens, and a culture of stigmatization, create an underclass of such citizens. At its heart, colonialism was nothing more than a legal underpinning for the creation of and exploitation of an underclass. A just society must protect the rights of all its citizens.

James Wandera Ouma,



I’ve got something to tell you…

Telling people about your sexuality is called coming out. Lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) people may ‘come out’ many times throughout their lives, whenever they meet new people. But the first time you consciously tell people you are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be daunting, especially if it’s close friends or family members.

Remember, you don’t have to tell anyone you’re gay or bi if you don’t want to but you might feel better if you can be honest about who you really are.

Start by telling someone you really trust, and who you know will be supportive. Then you can gradually tell more people. It’s a good idea to suss out people’s attitudes on sexuality before you talk to them.

As with all ‘announcements’, the circumstances in which you choose to tell people can have a big impact so be sure to tell people somewhere where everyone (including you) is comfortable and can be talk freely.

Telling your parents

Whatever your reasons for coming out to your parents, be prepared for shock, maybe a bit of outrage, or any emotion you might not expect. Like it or not, this may be quite a big deal for your parents at first. But hopefully they will accept and support you.

Planting ideas ahead of time could help lessen the surprise factor. It might not be possible for you to do it face to face; in which case think about writing an honest letter and allowing them time to respond.

Think about whether they may already have an idea what you’re about to tell them.

What to say

If you feel a bit awkward about saying “I’m gay” maybe go for, “I have a boy/girlfriend” or “I’m not really into guys/girls”.

Warn a friend in advance that you’re about to tell them, so you have somewhere to go if you need to give your parents (and you) a bit of space. This hopefully will not be necessary, but it’s good for you to have someone to talk it over with afterwards.

Give your parents time – they may need a while to get used to the idea. And remember, their initial reaction won’t necessarily be their long-term one.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to come out. Whatever the response, it’s likely you’ll feel better about it being in the open so that you can be yourself.


Don’t expect everyone to support you. Unfortunately homophobia (fear or negative attitude towards gay people) is all too common and many gay people have a hard time getting friends and family to understand.


Coming Out at the United Nations

ILGA members, partners and States urge the Human Rights Council to act on the need to ensure that the UN pay systematic attention to the violence experienced based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Two years ago, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a groundbreaking Resolution on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”. It mandated the High Commissioner to produce a report on “Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence against Individuals based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”.

Its presentation was the occasion of an historic discussion held during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva in February 2012.

Regional workshops organised in Spring 2013 in Brazil, Nepal and France with a culminating conference in Oslo co-hosted by Norway and South Africa were an acknowledgement of the commitment of a number of States on this issue.

Many had expected the process would be continued with a second resolution this June at the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council, but that was not to be the case. ILGA, together with ARC International, organised a side event on “Voices of human rights defenders from around the world on sexual orientation and gender identity”. Various States and human rights defenders that were involved in the regional workshops and conference gave inputs on the process so far.

On June 10, a series of States intervened in the frame of the General Debate under Item 8 (Follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action).

South Africa highlighted the complexity and sensitivity of the subject at the UN and reaffirmed the need to continue open, inclusive and constructive dialogue. It noted the landmark conference in Oslo and announced its commitment to convening an African regional workshop, so that Africa’s views could be heard, and also a high-level seminar in Geneva.

Norway on behalf of 33 States affirmed the conclusions of the conference in Oslo and expressed commitment to “working with all partners in keeping the issue of human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity on the agenda of the United Nations through an appropriate decision of the Human Rights Council”.

Additional statements were delivered by the USA, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, France and a group of 29 national human rights institutions.

Despite some difference of opinion between States on the need to adopt immediate measures at the Human Rights Council, they remain united in their belief that it should continue its leadership role in mapping and identifying ways and means to highlight the human rights of LGBTI people. In the weeks running-up to the 24th session of the Human Rights Council in September, ILGA and others are looking to see what that will actually mean in terms of action at the United Nations.

Watch for yourself what States had to say 

Norway on behalf of 33 states (Chapter 4)

United States (Chapter 8)

Argentina (Chapter 9)

Spain (Chapter 11)

Brazil (Chapter 13)

South Africa (Chapter 17)

The Netherlands (Chapter 19)

France (Chapter 20)

Finally, Lucas Paoli Itaborahy delivered a statement on behalf of ILGA’s 1040 members including WEZESHA, also signed by a coalition of 18 NGOs. (Chapter 25)

Read the statement here:


Should We Go to Court?

Two weeks ago Chanel Ten Television aired an interview with a sex worker intentionally to to give a wrong image of LGBT people in Tanzania through its famous program Mimi na Tanzania. In the interview Hoyce Temu the presenter, said that being gay is a problem and there is a need for Tanzanians to help Gay people become strait because gay people suffer.

The presenter had an anonymous person who was recorded by the road in darkness who claimed to be gay but could not quit being gay due to financial problems. He continued saying that he is not happy with the life he is living because most of his clients do not pay him well and sometimes some of his clients do embarrass him in bed.

LGBT Voice Tanzania approached Hoyce Temu and asked her why she was misleading the entire community about LGBT life and asked her to consult LGBT Voice Tanzania in case she wanted to air educative programs about LGBT life that would build love,respect and dignity to LGBT people in Tanzania, but Hoyce was furious and never wanted to hear anything.

Should take her to court for abusing our rights by producing misleading information about LGBT people and promoting Homophobia, bigotry and Discrimination?

Same-Sex Marriage

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Same-sex marriage, also known as gay marriage or equal marriage, is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex and/or gender identity. Legal recognition of same-sex marriage is sometimes referred to as marriage equality, particularly by supporters.

The first laws in modern times recognizing same-sex marriage were enacted during the first decade of the 21st century. As of March 2013, eleven countries (Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden), and several sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Brazil, Mexico, and the United States), allow same-sex couples to marry. Bills allowing legal recognition of same-sex marriage have been proposed, are pending, or have passed at least one legislative house in Andorra, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Nepal, New Zealand, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay as well as in the legislatures of several sub-national jurisdictions (in Scotland as well as parts of Australia, Mexico, and the United States).

Introduction of same-sex marriage laws has varied by jurisdiction, being variously accomplished through a legislative change to marriage laws, a court ruling based on constitutional guarantees of equality, or by direct popular vote (via a ballot initiative or a referendum). The recognition of same-sex marriage is a political, social, human rights and civil rights, as well as a religious issue in many nations and around the world, and debates continue to arise over whether same-sex couples should be allowed marriage, be required to hold a different status (a civil union), or be denied recognition of such rights. Allowing same-gender couples to legally marry is considered to be one of the most important of all LGBT rights.

Same-sex marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting. Various religious groups around the world conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies; for example: Quakers, Episcopalians, the Metropolitan Community Church, the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, Reform and Conservative Jews, Wiccans, Druids, Unitarian Universalists and Native American religions with a two-spirit tradition.

Studies conducted in several countries indicate that support for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage increases with higher levels of education and that support is strong among younger people. Additionally, polls show that there is rising support for legally recognizing same-sex marriage globally across all races, ethnicities, ages, religions, political affiliations, socioeconomic statuses, etc.

Eleven countries (Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden) allow same-sex couples to marry nationwide. Same-sex marriages are also performed and recognized in Mexico City, Quintana Roo, and parts of the United States; in Brazil, civil unions may be converted into marriage. Some jurisdictions that do not perform same-sex marriages but recognize it being performed elsewhere include: Israel, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, Rhode Island in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and, in at least one case, Uruguay.Australia recognizes same-sex marriages only if one partner has had gender reassignment therapy.

Some analysts state that financial, psychological and physical well-being are enhanced by marriage, and that children of same-sex couples benefit from being raised by two parents within a legally recognized union supported by society’s institutions. Court documents filed by American scientific associations also state that singling out gay men and women as ineligible for marriage both stigmatizes and invites public discrimination against them. The American Anthropological Association avers that social science research does not support the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon not recognizing same-sex marriage.

Some organizations have described same-sex marriage as a universal human rights issue, equality before the law, and of normalizing LGBT relationships. Several authors attribute opposition to same-sex marriage as coming from homophobia or heterosexism and liken prohibitions on same-sex marriage to past prohibitions on interracial marriage between blacks and whites.

For more info : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage

Second International Conference on African Same-Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity

The Conference mission is to identify and celebrate indigenous and evolving male, female and/or gender variant same-sex sexual practices, identities and communities, including expressions of gender diversity, and to promote their social acceptance and their physical and social well-being.
The primary target group is persons knowledgeable about or scholarly engaged in the study of same-sex practices, identities, and communities from a liberating or emancipatory perspective (persons from Sub-Saharan Africa are encouraged to attend), and sexual rights advocates.

The Conference will be held from March 17 20, 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Call for abstract submission can be found at the http://www.asssgd.org

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