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Collaborating with human rights defenders in Tanzania

In collaboration with a number of local and international human rights defenders, Rainbow Railroad launched a joint response to the situation in Tanzania that includes both advocacy and direct intervention.


Collaborating with human rights defenders in Tanzania Collaborating with human rights defenders in Tanzania

The Issue

The LGBTQI+ community in Tanzania continues to face a long history of intolerance.

Tanzania is one of 35 countries on the African continent that criminalizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex individuals. In Tanzania, “homosexual acts” are punishable with up to life in prison. Since the 2015 election of former president John Magufuli, the community has been subject to growing violence, harassment, and discrimination.

Magufuli’s authoritarian approach to freedom of the press made it difficult to access reliable and accurate reporting in the region. Additionally, non-profits working with the LGBTQI+ community there were driven underground, and numerous activists remain in hiding.

Our Response

In collaboration with a number of local and international human rights defenders, Rainbow Railroad launched a joint response to the situation in Tanzania that includes both advocacy and direct intervention.

On October 29, 2018, the situation worsened when Paul Makonda, then- regional commissioner for Dar es Salaam, announced plans to identify and arrest LGBTQI+ people in the country. Makonda’s statement—believed to be a political move—turned into a witch hunt aimed at suppressing, scarring and hurting LGBTQI+ individuals.

This photograph taken on September 8, 2017, shows Paul Makonda, Regional Commissioner of Dar es Salaam as he addresses a press conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Mass arrests occurred during the crackdown in 2018, and there is evidence that Tanzanian police violated the UN’s Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on multiple occasions.

Through direct intervention efforts, we have been able to relocate LGBTQI+ persons involved in the initial arrests and violations in the country; these individuals are now safely living outside of Tanzania. We continue to monitor the situation and explore resettlement options for those who are still being victimized by the ongoing community and state-level persecution there.