(EDGE) The announcement of a "task force" with the mission of identifying and persecuting LGBTQ people in Tanzania, together with government appeals to citizens to turn gays in to the authorities and reported house raids, have sent hundreds of people into hiding, media reports say.
The move from the Tanzanian government, which is headed by President John Magufuli, is part of a wider rollback of human rights and a broader crackdown on dissidents and marginalized groups, reported Reuters.
President Magufuli recently came in for criticism for saying that Tanzanians do not have "any need for birth control" and suggesting that those who practice it do so out of laziness.
(Edge) The Tanzanian government is stooping to tried-and-true methods of identifying LGBTQ people, including asking the nation's citizens to turn one another in to the authorities, reported UK newspaper The Guardian.
One official for the city of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, reportedly announced the creation of a "task force" created to round up and persecute LGBTQ people, The Guardian said. The newspaper also reported that Makonda had taken to YouTube to appeal to Tanzanian citizens to give authorities the names of people they knew or suspected to be gay.
Equality activists have been the first to come in for police action, the report said. One source told The Guardian. "They are raiding houses. It is a horrible thing.... They are targeting the activists, saying we are promoting homosexuality. We have to hide."
The recent ramp-up of anti-gay persecution prompted the European union to withdraw its diplomatic presence from Tanzania. The EU pointed to "the deterioration of the human rights and rule of law" in the nation.
The Tanzanian government's radical move alarmed even the United States, whose government has come under recent criticism for attacking LGBTQ equality. The U.S. State Department issued a statement in which it claimed to be "troubled by the continued arrests and harassment of marginalized persons, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and others who seek to exercise their rights to freedom of speech, association and assembly," the Reuters article said.
The article also noted that the State Department had issued an advisory to Americans in Tanzania. In its statement, the State Department seemed to echo what LGBTQ advocates in the United States have been saying for decades about America's own often-hostile policies towards sexual minorities and their families: "The deteriorating state of human rights and rule of law in Tanzania inhibits development, economic prosperity, peace, and security."
The State Department advisory, which was sent out on Nov. 9, warned Americans to "Review internet footprint and social media profiles," NBC reported. "Remove or protect images and language that may run afoul of Tanzanian laws regarding homosexual practices and explicit sexual activity."