Zanzibar Moves to Punish Gays, Lesbians
U.K., March 25, 2004
By Ben Townley
SUMMARY: Men caught having sex with men on the island
of Zanzibar may soon face a life imprisonment sentence, and lesbians could
face up to seven years for having sex.
Men caught having sex with men on the island of Zanzibar
may soon face a life imprisonment sentence, as the island’s government moves
to quell a growing acceptance of sexual diversity.
The island, off the East African coastline, already
considers gay sex illegal but is worried that more of a gay culture is
blossoming on the island.
The proposed Zanzibar legislation will punish men found
guilty of sodomy with life imprisonment. Lesbians will receive seven years in
jail for having sex.
In light of the current trend toward same-sex marriages
internationally, Zanzibar officials want to make sure the island is not the
next country swept up in the liberalizing process.
“We have heard that same-sex marriages have taken place
here, and we want to guard against this trend,” Deputy Attorney General Omar
Makungu told the BBC Swahili service Wednesday.
However, press reports speculate that more and more gay
men and lesbians are living openly on the island, despite the existing
penalties and traditional attitudes.
The newly drafted legal changes exemplify the existing
homophobia in some African countries. Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe
regularly attacks gay rights internationally, once accusing Prime Minister
Tony Blair of running a “gay government.”
Mugabe is regularly the focus of protests from veteran
gay and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has called for him to be
arrested for human rights atrocities.
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