Thursday, November 24, 2016

Tanzania suspends US-funded HIV program on grounds that it promotes male homosexuality (Yes, an African country has really done this!); arrests for Facebook friending of gays possible

When it comes to anti-gay laws and culture, it seems like eastern Africa is now the absolutely bottom.

 The Washington Post has a front page story Thanksgiving morning “Oppressed African gays now face loss of HIV aid”, or, online, “Tanzania suspends U.S. funded AIDS program in new crackdown on gays”, a story by Kevin Sieff.  The ban was announced in October (before the provocative US election) after the “health minister” Hamoso Kigwangalla, said that HIV treatment programs promote male homosexuality. Then in October Ummy Mwalimu stated that US HIV programs were suspended to examine whether they encourage same-sex relationships.

The program had been called PEPFAR, or the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, actually instituted during the Bush administration.

The political situation for gays in Tanzania  has deteriorated since the election of Magufuli, through his political appointments.  One governor, Paul Makonda, threatened to arrest all those who friend or follow “known homosexuals” on Facebook.  This is the first time I have heard of social a draconian threat involving social media.  It isn’t hard to imagine how that could lead to more asylum claims in the U,S.  – men who had behaved “straight” but then self-outed on social media when on visas in the United States or western countries.

The article also mentions “anal tests” for past  receptive homosexual activity as being done in Uganda and upheld by the courts.  I had never heard ot this,

The rhetoric reminds me of the extreme right in Texas in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when a group called “Dallas Doctors Against AIDS”, seeing AIDS as driven by “conduct” within a circumscribed group,  tried to push a draconian enhancement of the sodomy law through the Texas legislature in the spring on 1983.  It did not get out of committee.

The rabidly anti-gay policies of some sub-Saharan countries (which seem like a political exploitation or religion and of certain beliefs about group fertility) would make it very hard for many western companies to send technical workers there, or for non-profits and churches to aid them.

Wikipedia attribution link of picture of Sar es Salaam, by Chin Hualin, link here

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