Anti-gay Tanzanian leader barred from the United States amid reports of country’s obstruction of LGBT Access to Healthcare

Anti-gay Tanzanian leader barred from the United States amid reports of country’s obstruction of LGBT Access to Healthcare

A powerful Tanzanian government official responsible for sweeping anti-gay crackdowns, surveillance squads and arrests of homosexuals has been banned from the United States.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted out the news, saying, “Today we designated Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Christian Makonda as ineligible to enter the U.S. for his involvement in gross violations of #humanrights. We are deeply concerned over deteriorating respect for human rights and rule of law in #Tanzania.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania and punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

In 2018, Makonda, the regional commissioner of Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, announced the creation of an anti-gay surveillance squad and went on television to urge people to spy on neighbors and report homosexuals to a phone hotline.

“Report them to me,” Makonda urged, according to NPR, adding that “next Monday we start arresting them.” At the time, Makonda said “he expected international criticism for the move,” but added, “I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God.”

A statement from the US State Department read in part: “These actions against Paul Christian Makonda underscore our concern with human rights violations and abuses in Tanzania, as well as our support for accountability for those who engage in such violations and abuses.  We call on the Tanzanian government to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression, association, and the right of peaceful assembly. … The Department has credible information that Makonda was involved in such violations in his capacity as the Regional Commissioner of Dar es Salaam. In that role, he has also been implicated in oppression of the political opposition, crackdowns on freedom of expression and association, and the targeting of marginalized individuals.

Days after the news of this ban was made public, it came out in a Human Rights Watch report that the Tanzanian government’s health policies are actively discriminatory against LGBTQ people.

The 112-page report, entitled “‘If We Don’t Get Services We Will Die’: Tanzania’s Anti-LGBT Crackdown and the Right to Health,” is based on interviews with 35 LGBTQ Tanzanians and reveals that the government’s health policies are not only inadequate, but mentally and physically harmful.

It documents how since 2016, the government of Tanzania has cracked down on LGBT people and the community-based organizations that serve them. The Health Ministry in mainland Tanzania has prohibited community-based organizations from conducting outreach on HIV prevention to men who have sex with men and other key populations vulnerable to HIV. It closed drop-in centers that provided HIV testing and other targeted and inclusive services, and banned the distribution of lubricant, essential for effective condom use for HIV prevention among key populations and much of the wider public.

“The Tanzanian authorities have orchestrated a systematic attack on the rights of LGBT people, including their right to health,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Manufactured threats around the so-called ‘promotion of homosexuality’ have displaced best practices and evidence-based approaches in guiding HIV policy in Tanzania.”

The Health Ministry claims that the specialized services and provision of lubricant promote homosexuality. It says that public health centers provide discrimination-free services so that there is no need for specialized services run by civil society organizations. Human Rights Watch research found, however, that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in government health centers is common.

The Tanzanian authorities have also undermined the right to health through police raids on meetings and trainings by health and rights activists and their allies, including potentially lifesaving sessions about HIV, arresting participants. The raids have instilled fear within activist communities and among service providers and their beneficiaries.

Makonda’s wife, Mary Felix Massenge, is also barred from entry into the US.

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  1. Mitch
    February 06, 07:46 Reply

    What does he go to the US for?
    I mean, he wants to please God, doesn’t he? And the US is an LGBT friendly country. He should tear up his US visa to show his allegiance to God and his dictates.

    Stupid ozwai of a man!

  2. Mandy
    February 06, 11:24 Reply

    Well done. Just imagine. The hypocrisy of attacking LGBTQ people in your country and still wanting to visit countries where they are legally free.

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