The Tanzanian government has banned the import and sale of sexual lubricants in its latest move targeting the gay community and to curb the spread of HIV.
"It is true that the government has banned the importation and use of the jelly to curb the spread of HIV," Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said. He said that lubricant encourages homosexuality, which is against the law in the east African country and is punishable by life imprisonment. "It is estimated that 23% of men who have sex with men in Tanzania are living with HIV/AIDS," he added. He said that he had instructed stakeholders working with gay people to remove the products from the market which were being supplied to the gay community for free by the groups working for them.
‘To discourage homosexuality and to curb the spread of HIV, the import and sale of sexual lubricants has been banned. 23% of men who have sex with men in Tanzania are living with HIV/AIDS. Men who have sex with men can be sentenced to life imprisonment in the east African country.’
Tanzania is one of several commonwealth countries which criminalise gay sex. Although the law is not enforced as strictly as in some other parts of east Africa, activists fear the situation is getting worse. There had been no known arrests over homosexuality in recent years.
The newly appointed regional commissioner for the port city of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, announced a major crackdown against gay people, followed by arrests of suspected gays in clubs. Some people who have been open about their sexuality on the internet stopped posting after Makonda threatened that police would arrest those who follow them on social media. He did not address the fact that the ban directly contradicts recommendation made by The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), that water-based lubricant is distributed with condoms to prevent the spread of HIV in high prevalence areas.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) have previously accused the police of human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in Tanzania, and of sexually assaulting people. In 2013, researchers found that sex workers, sexual minorities and drug users were often arrested and detained for days on end, beaten and raped by the police.
The efforts to reduce HIV infection rates in the African country were being impeded by state abuse of sexual minorities. Officers had gang raped children as young as 12. "The government's HIV policy can't succeed if police are driving away the very people the public health programmes most need to reach," said Neela Ghoshal, a HRW researcher. HRW also identified dozens of cases in which health workers turned away sex workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and drug users without offering services and publicly humiliated them.