Last edited: August 23, 2004

Zanzibar Gay Sex Ban Becomes Official

By Ben Townley, U.K.

The ban on gay and lesbian sex on the island of Zanzibar went into effect last week, after the president added his signature to the proposal.

The new law, introduced in March of this year with parliamentary backing in April, could punish those men found to be guilty of having sex with up to 25 years in prison. Lesbians could see 7 years in jail for having sex.

It is thought that the law was originally proposed after the island, situated in the Indian Ocean, moved towards a more hard-line religious stance.

In the past, the government has been accused of paying too much notice to extreme Islamic leaders and drawing up laws after coming under pressure from religious groups.

President Amani Karume signed the bill into law late last week, to the support of its backers.

However, it has caused international condemnation for the island, with civil rights groups hitting out at its anti-gay stance.

Additionally, U.K. activist Peter Tatchell called for a boycott of the island, which is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, from both gay and straight travelers.

I think gay people should be extremely careful if they go to countries like Zanzibar, and the safest policy is not to go there at all, he said in April.

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