A threat to publish a list of gay men in Tanzania made by the country’s deputy health minister which was the latest in a gay crackdown sweeping the nation has been suspended.
Initially, however, the deputy health minister had been intent on carrying out the threat, going so far as engaging in a twitter row that saw him defending his stance on the matter.
Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla who was accused in tweets of homophobia and infringing on the right to freedom of expression online hit back with the argument that homosexuality did not scientifically exist and was a social construct.
The minister who is also a medical doctor by profession said that homosexuality could only be associated with an urban lifestyle as the small town in central Tanzania where he came from did not have any homosexuals.
One of his tweets written in Swahili and English read:
“Have you ever come across a gay goat or bird? Homosexuality is not biological, it is unnatural.”
Tanzania’s gay crackdown began in earnest last year with a spike in anti-gay rhetoric by the government. Gay male sex is punishable by anything from 30 years to life imprisonment under Tanzanian laws. Despite the punishment enshrined in the law, Tanzanian politicians had largely ignored the gay community.
The country is, however, now in the midst of a gay crackdown. Earlier this month, homosexuality was named as one of the three major challenges facing the country in a parliamentary debate about Aids.
Dr. Kigwangalla’s to threat publish a list of gay people was one of the resultant effects of this gay crackdown. On Monday, however, Tanzania backed out of its plan to publish the names of gay people accused of selling sex online, saying this would “destroy evidence”. Dr. Kigwangalla had, initially, called a press conference on Monday to publicise the list.
The minister once again took to twitter to air the change of plans;
“We cancelled the press conference. We are not going to announce the names of (LGBTs) who publicly market themselves for technical reasons,”
“For strategic reasons and to avoid destroying evidence we will deal with this issue differently and will keep you informed at every step.”
The minister also said that releasing the names would be akin to “freeing a devil in a bottle.” Homosexuals in Tanzania will still have to live on edge wondering what is next to come in the government’s spirited gay crackdown.