Police in Zanzibar are reporting that 20 people have been arrested in the Tanzania semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar in an anti-homosexuality raid.
The 12 women and eight men were picked up in a hotel where they were receiving training about HIV/Aids education programs.
Earlier this year, authorities banned private health clinics from providing HIV/Aids services, saying they encouraged gay sex.
Homosexuality is a crime in Tanzania. Gay male sex is punishable by up to 30 years in jail in the country. Throughout Tanzania, sex acts between men are illegal and carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Sex acts between women are not mentioned specifically in mainland Tanzanian law. The semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar outlaws same-sex sexual acts between women with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment or a 500,000 shilling fine.
Regional police commander Hassan Ali Nasri boated proudly on state television: "They are implicated in homosexuality. We arrested them and are busy interrogating them. The police cannot turn a blind eye to this practice."
On Friday, Deputy Health Minister Hamisi Kingwangalla vowed in front of parliament to "fight with all our strength against groups supporting homosexuality in our country," AFP news agency reports.
In July 2016, the government banned the import and sales of sexual lubricants, with Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu saying it encouraged homosexuality which led to the spread of HIV/Aids, AFP adds.
In July, human rights group Amnesty International said the authorities were "arresting and prosecuting people on homosexuality-related charges, and subjecting them to forced anal examinations".
Homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 countries in Africa, and is punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia. In recent years with the help of American Evangelical preachers, politicians in various African countries have upped the anti-gay rhetoric, seeing it was unifying and politically expedient. This has led to increased legislations and attempt to legislate against homosexuality with more onerous, expanded and harsh punitive laws.
One must also note that in raids such as this detainees seldom receive the legal help they are by right entitled to and are often subject to harsh treatment during interrogation, including anal exams. We hope to receive more information about this case. We do note that even lawyers are terrified to defend people in such cases.
One must note that the act of attending the workshop does not meet the definitions of homosexual activity under the existing penal codes - however anal exams resulting from the arrest can prove onerous. It seems to me these arrests may be without cause and unconstitutional.
This seems persecutory by nature and a direct attempt to intimidate the LGBT community and force then even further underground.
According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 95 percent of Tanzanian residents believe that homosexuality is a way of life that society should not accept, which was the seventh-highest rate of non-acceptance in the 45 countries surveyed.