Tanzania’s homophobic deputy health minister has cancelled a press conference in which he was set to release the names of gay people.
Hamisi Kigwangalla, who had promised to publish a list of gay people whom he claimed “sell sex” online, planned to out these individuals on Monday.
At the last minute, apparently as the media waited for the event to start, he called off the press conference.
“We are not going to announce the names of LGBTIs who publicly market themselves for technical reasons,” Kigwangalla tweeted.
“For strategic reasons, and to avoid damaging evidence, we will deal with this matter in another way, we will notify you at each stage of the process.”
He added that if he had released the list it would have “let loose a genie in a bottle”.
Leading Tanzanian LGBT activist James Wandera Ouma earlier told the Mamba Show on GaySA Radio that publishing the names could have led to attacks against those individuals.
“This will cause a lot of havoc, chaos. Violence will erupt on the streets,” he said.
The Tanzanian government recently embarked on a campaign against the LGBT community. This includes shutting down 40 facilities around the country that offered life-saving HIV services to men who have sex with men.
Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu claimed that the provision of lubricants and condoms by these centres was proof that they were intent on “promoting homosexuality” among young people.
According to Ouma, shutting down the facilities was in effect aimed at “killing the LGBT community”.
He said the situation for LGBT people had become dire in Tanzania. “Life is becoming very difficult for the LGBT community, especially for gay men and trans people. Everyone is afraid of getting arrested, everyone is afraid of getting detained, everyone is afraid of getting attacked on the streets.”
Sex acts between men are illegal in Tanzania and carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. While sex acts between women are not specifically banned in most of the country, they are illegal on the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar and are punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.