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LGBT rights in Tanzania

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Laws against gay sexEdit

In Tanzania, sex acts between men are illegal, and carry a penalty of Life imprisonment. Sex acts between women are not mentioned in Tanzanian law.

Penal Code Act 1945 (revised 1998)

  • § 138A (sexually neutral)

“Any person who, in public or private commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any person of, any act of gross indecency with another person, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than one year and not exceeding five years or to a fine not less than one hundred thousand and not exceeding three hundred thousand shillings; save that where the offence is committed by a person of eighteen years of age or more in respect of any person under eighteen years of age, a pupil of a primary school or a student of secondary school the offender shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than ten years, with corporal punishment, and shall also be ordered to pay compensation of all amount determined by the court to the person in respect of whom the offence was committed for any injuries caused to that person.”

  • § 154 (sexually neutral)

(1) Any person who- (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence, and is liable to imprisonment for life and in any case to imprisonment for a term of not less than thirty years. (2) where the offence, under subsection (1) of this section is committed to a child under the age of ten years the offender shall be sentenced to life imprisonment.

  • § 157

“Any male person who, in public or private- (a) commits any act of gross indecency with another male, or (b) procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or (c) attempts to procure a male to commit an indecent act to him, is guilty of an offence and may be sentenced to five years of imprisonment.”

Other: § 155 prohibits “attempts” to commit offence specified in § 154 [20 years]

In Zanzibar, an autonomous island which is part of Tanzania, the law was changed in 2004 to clarify the legality of homosexual acts. While sodomy and "unnatural acts" were already illegal, the new law imposes a penalty of 25 years in prison for sex acts involving two males or seven years in prison for sex acts involving two women. A homosexual sex act with a minor carries a penalty of life in prison.[1]

Protection based on sexual orientationEdit

There is no protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Recognition of same-sex couplesEdit

Same-sex couples have no legal recognition.

LGBT life in TanzaniaEdit

Tanzania has no organized gay community. There are no gay bars, although there are places where gay men meet, and lesbians are even less visible than gay men.[2]

The traditional view of homosexuality assumes one man, the msenge, will play the role of a female (for money or because he is impotent, not because he wants to), while the basha, the dominant partner, is assumed to have relations with women as well as men. The msenge is more heavily stigmatized than the basha by Tanzanian tradition.[2]

In 2003, over 300 Tanzanians protested against the arrival of a gay tour group.[2]

In 2004, several Islamic groups in Zanzibar began an effort to cleanse the nation of activities it considered sinful, including homosexuality, which resulted in changes in the law which imposed harsher penalties for homosexual sex acts.[3]


  1. "Tanzania", Sodomy Laws. Retrieved on 2007-02-11. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Lesbian and Gay Tanzania", gaytimes. Retrieved on 2007-02-12. 
  3. Nyambura, Helen. "Secrecy, Stones and Insults: The Gay Life on Zanzibar", Reuters, 2004-11-08. Retrieved on 2007-02-11. 

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