Homosexuality is a punishable offense in Tanzania, with a guilty sentence rendering someone 30 years to life behind bars.
The regional governor overseeing the city of Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, has made ambitious and alarming promises to crack down on homosexuality in his jurisdiction.
Governor Paul Makonda said on Monday that he would start arresting citizens under his watch who allegedly engage in homosexuality beginning on November 5. His remarks suggested that a massive surveillance effort could come about as well.
Makonda urged citizens to call his offices directly to report others they suspected of homosexual behavior. “I am announcing this to every citizen of Dar es Salaam: If you know any gays…report them to me,” he said, according to reports from NBC News.
Makonda expressed in his remarks that his crackdown was meant to rid the city of homosexuals as well as individuals working in sexual occupations. His comments seemingly failed to differentiate between the two.
“I have received reports that there are so many homosexuals in our city, and these homosexuals are advertising and selling their services on the internet.”
Speaking in Swahili in a YouTube video, Makonda gave citizens a phone number that they could call in order to out others that they suspected of engaging in homosexual acts. On Wednesday, he also announced that more than 18,000 tips had already been received and that 200 individuals had been identified as sex workers or homosexuals in the city.
Tanzania has one of the harshest non-death penalties for homosexual individuals throughout the world, according to a report from Human Rights Watch. Those found to be guilty of being gay can be thrown in prison for 30 years to life.
Makonda intends on forming a 17-member committee to issue his crackdown on “gays” in the city. It will consist of police officers and psychologists, but also telecommunications and film regulators. The committee will also target homosexuals using social media and other communications networks.
“Every gay person is living in fear. Even the parents of gay children are also living in great fear,” LGBT activist Geofrey Mashala said. Mashala once lived in Tanzania, but now resides in California, according to reporting from The Guardian.
Anti-gay sentiments in Tanzania are strong, and violent attacks from the public are common if an individual gets outed. “If you are on the bus or walk on the street and maybe two or three guys start to shout, ‘Hey, he’s a gay, he’s a gay,’ suddenly, 10 people can join these two people, or 20 people, and start attacking you on the street,” Mashala added.
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