Saturday, 18 July 2009

Activists petition UN over violation of gays' rights in Tanzania

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By Edward Qorro

Human rights campaigners have filed a report with the United Nations, complaining against Tanzania's violation of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) persons .

The report submitted this month to the Human Rights Committee of the UN, seeks to highlight the social and legal obstacles that hinder the freedom of the groups with this type of social relations.

The report was filed by three non-governmental organisations: the Centre for Human Rights Promotion in East Africa, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the Global Rights.

Mr Julius Kyaruzi, coordinator of LGBTI support unit in Tanzania; Ms Monica Mbaru, Africa Programme coordinator for IGLHRC; and Mr Stefano Fabeni, director for LGBTI Initiative for Global Rights, were behind the effort.

They hoped the release of the report would raise their plight and inspire Government attention.

The three NGOs argue that Tanzania still maintained laws that invade their privacy and create inequality.

"They relegate people to inferior status because of how they look or who they love. They degrade people's dignity by declaring their most intimate feelings unnatural or illegal," read part of the report.

Because of the criminalisation and stigmatisation, they said careers and lives had been destroyed, while promotion of violence and impunity was the daily suffering by the LGBT that drive them underground to live in invisibility and fear.

Among many petitions, the three bodies are pushing for amendment of the Penal Code decriminalising private, consensual, adult same-sex sexual activity as well as reviewing the HIV and Aids (Prevention and Control) Act, 2008, to provide "access to HIV preventive information and services"to LGBT.

However reached for comment, a spokesperson in the office of the Attorney General, Mr Omega Ngole, who admitted seeing the report, said the country's laws were meant to protect the right of all and safeguard their integrity.

And a section of religious leaders and the Centre for Human Rights, expressed mixed reactions on the report.

Auxiliary Bishop Method Kilaini of the Dar es Salaam Roman Catholic Archdiocese said lesbians and gays habits were unlawful and harmful to the society and that the practices should not be tolerated.

"A man should marry a woman and the two shall form a family, so says the Bible," stressed Bishop Kilaini. However, he said gays and lesbians were part of the community, and should be treated like any other people.

Mr Muhidin Hassan, head of Pilgrimage Department at the National Muslim Council of Tanzania (Bakwata), strongly opposed the presence of such groups of people in society.

But favoured the idea of extending HIV preventive information and services to such groups. Mr Francis Kiwanga of the Legal and Human Rights Centre, stressed that every person had the right to privacy as stipulated in the country's Constitution.

He said such people should be allowed to enjoy their freedom and the right of association.

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