Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Tanzania: Treatment of homosexuals by society and government authorities; recourse and protection available to homosexuals who have been subject to ill treatment (2005 - January 2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 2 April 2007
Citation / Document Symbol TZA102434.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Tanzania: Treatment of homosexuals by society and government authorities; recourse and protection available to homosexuals who have been subject to ill treatment (2005 - January 2007), 2 April 2007, TZA102434.E, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In Tanzania, sexual acts between men are illegal (Gay Times n.d.; BTM n.d). In particular, sections 154 to 157 of the Penal Code criminalize sexual activity between men, stipulating a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison (AI 2005; BTM n.d.; see also IGLHRC n.d.). Sexual acts between women are not mentioned in the Penal Code (AI 2005).

The Penal Code is applicable on the Tanzanian mainland (AI 2005) but not on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, which is part of Tanzania's territory (ibid; CBC 14 Apr. 2004). In fact, in 2004 Zanzibar enacted a law criminalizing female homosexual acts (AI 2005; Gay Times n.d). Sexual acts between women are punishable by a maximum prison term of five years – the same prison term that men face for homosexual acts in Zanzibar, according to Amnesty International (AI) (2005). The Guardian likewise reports a maximum prison sentence of five years for homosexual acts, adding that "contrary to earlier press reports men convicted of gay sex will not risk being jailed for life" (2 June 2004).

However, gay or lesbian couples who celebrate their union in a manner that approximates a marriage ceremony – or who live together as spouses – are reportedly subject to seven years in prison (Guardian 2 June 2004; AI 2005).

Of note is the fact that Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005 states that the law in Zanzibar, "establishes a penalty of up to 25 years of imprisonment for men who engage in homosexual relationships, and 7 years for women in lesbian relationships" (US 8 Mar. 2006 sec.5).

AI reports that no arrests due to homosexuality were made in Tanzania or Zanzibar in 2004 or in "recent years" (ibid.). The Gay Times similarly reports that the laws against homosexuality in Tanzania are "rarely enforced" (n.d.).

Gays and lesbians in Tanzania are "violently persecuted, mistreated, hated and ostracized," wrote Tanzanian Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo in a letter he sent to the Anglican Diocese of Central Tanganyika (AI 8 Feb. 2007; Church Times 2 Feb. 2007). Bishop Mhogolo's letter expressed disagreement with the Diocese's decision to refuse donations from any United States (US) Episcopal Church group that either fails to censure homosexual acts or that blesses same sex unions (ibid; AI 8 Feb. 2007).

A World Bank-supported working paper entitled Sexual Minorities, Violence and AIDS in Africa (Anyamele et al July 2005, i) – written by a medical doctor based in Nigeria, the co-founder of an international development non-governmental organization (NGO) in Uganda and two World Bank professionals (ibid.) – reports that homosexuals in Tanzania run a high risk of experiencing violence and intolerance (ibid.,16). The paper surveys relevant literature and reports on the results of an assessment done at the 2004 All Africa Symposium on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights (ibid., 1). The findings reported in the working paper indicate that social risks – such as the risk of being evicted or losing a job (ibid., 9) – were "especially high" in Tanzania (ibid., 10). In addition, the paper reported that "adverse comments" against homosexuals in Tanzania were regularly made by senior politicians, including the head of state (ibid., 8).

No further information related to homosexuals in Tanzania could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 8 February 2007."Tanzania: Central Tanganyika Bishop Questions Legitimacy of Singling out the Episcopal Church." [Accessed 26 Feb. 2007]
_____ . 2005. "Tanzania." Amnesty International Report 2005. [Accessed 5 Feb. 2007]

Anyamele, Chukwuemeka, Ronald Lwabaayi, Tuu Van Nguyen and Hans Binswanger. July 2005. Africa Region, Working Paper Series No. 84: Sexual Minorities, Violence and AIDS in Africa. [Accessed 5 Feb. 2007]

Behind the Mask (BTM) [Braamfontein, South Africa]. N.d."Tanzania." [Accessed 26 Feb. 2007]

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). 14 April 2004. "Zanzibar to Make Homosexuality Illegal." [Accessed 26 Feb. 2007]

Church Times [London]. 2 Febuary 2007. Pat Ashworth. "Gay Question is 'Not Central to Faith' says Tanzanian Bishop." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2007]

Gay Times [London]. N.d. "Gay and Lesbian Tanzania." [Accessed 8 Mar. 2007]

The Guardian [Manchester]. 2 June 2004. Jeevan Vasagar. "Zanzibar's Gay Community Fears Tough New Law Will Force It into Twightlight Zone." [Accessed 26 Feb. 2007]

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). N.d. "Where Having Sex is a Crime: Criminalization and Decriminalization of Homosexual Acts (2003)." [Accessed 26 Feb. 2007]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Tanzania." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. [Accessed 28 Feb. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Capital Xtra, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW),, NATlex.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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