Zanzibar Bans Gay Sex
Reuters, August 20, 2004
By Ally Salleh
ZANZIBAR—Zanzibar has banned gay
sex and set prison terms of up to 25 years for those who break the law.
The law sets a penalty of life imprisonment for
sodomizing a minor. The penalty for homosexual sex between men is 25 years’
jail and seven years for lesbian sex. That compares to death for murder in
Zanzibar and 30 years for violent robbery or rape.
“This is what we have been aspiring for. If the
government takes such steps, the country will really move ahead,” said
Sheikh Muhammed Said, a local Islamic leader.
The office of Zanzibar’s attorney general said the law
took effect when the island archipelago’s president, Amani Karume, signed it
last week. Zanzibar’s parliament, in a rare show of unity, passed the bill
unanimously in April.
Islamic groups have been calling for a more puritanical
approach to public affairs on the Tanzanian Indian Ocean island, which is
overwhelmingly Muslim and ordinarily a tourist idyll.
Besides targeting gays, the groups have pushed for bars
to be removed from residential areas.
Local supporters of gay rights said the law was unfair.
“How can you have different jail terms for man-to-man
relations than those for women-to-women relations? And in any case, where is
the sancrosanctity of the body?” said Issa Suleiman.
Several international human rights groups have condemned
the law as an infringement on personal liberty.
Travel agencies who specialize in trips for gays and
lesbians have also threatened to boycott Zanzibar, which relies heavily on
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous island archipelago which
forms part of Tanzania and has long attracted tourists seeking to relax on its
white beaches lapped by the Indian Ocean.
The bill was passed after a series of bomb and grenade
attacks that targeted a restaurant and the homes of political and religious
leaders, which police initially blamed on Muslim militants. There were no
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