In Tanzania, the LGBT community faces widespread police discrimination and violence, a report released earlier this week by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found.
The study shows that those who are most at risk of HIV infection, including sexual minorities, drug users and sex workers, are driven away from prevention and treatment services because of fear.
It documents abuse including torture, rape, assault, arbitrary arrest and extortion by police and highlights how at-risk individuals cannot get help when they are the victims of crime.
“The Tanzanian government has committed on paper to reduce the stigma for at-risk groups, but that commitment is meaningless if the police regularly rape, assault, and arrest them,” said HRW researcher Neela Ghoshal.
“The government’s HIV policy can’t succeed if police are driving away the very people the public health programs most need to reach.”
The research found that sexual minorities were often detained for several days, beaten and raped by police officers. Children as young as 12 years old have been gang raped.
Many cases were cited by HRW where health workers refused to help LGBT people. One man was humiliated in public and told not to bring his “problems.”
The penalty for same-sex sexual activity in Tanzania is 30 years to life imprisonment. In 2007, a Pew Global Attitudes survey found that 95 percent of the country’s population believed homosexuality is something which society should not tolerate.
Famously, musician Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991, was born on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.