Last edited: April 18, 2004

Life Behind Bars for Being Gay, March 25, 2004

By Newscenter Staff

Zanzibar City, Zanzibar—The government of Zanzibar is preparing to enact legislation that would impose sentences of life imprisonment for men convicted of gay sex.

A life sentence under Zanzibar law is 25 years behind bars. The draft bill being considered would impose a seven-year term for lesbians.

A semi-autonomous region within the Tanzania Republic, Zanzibar’s main religion is Islam, and religious leaders exert considerable power over the government.

Although homosexuality is already a crime in the country the Indian Ocean island has become popular with gay tourists mainly from South Africa, despite its lack of gay clubs.

Gays and lesbians on the island are closeted and most are in heterosexual marriages. But, its growing popularity with tourists has resulted in a backlash from religious leaders.

The clampdown follows a same-sex marriage reportedly celebrated publicly on the island last year.

“We have heard that same-sex marriages have taken place here and we want to guard against this trend,” Zanzibar’s deputy attorney general, Omar Makungu, told the BBC.

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