Statement of WEZESHA in response to Minister Bernard Membe's comments of 3 November 2011

Published: November 11, 2011

We would like to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Honorable Bernard Membe, for demonstrating in his statement to the press on 3 November 2011 that he does not respect the Human Rights clauses in the Tanzanian Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, to which Tanzania is a signatory.  In response to David Cameron’s statement of the UK’s threat to withhold aid to countries that are persecuting homosexuals, the Minister suggested that he is reluctant to see aid being cut, but is willing to accept such cuts because he does not accept homosexuals in Tanzania.  Therefore he is excluding LGBT Tanzanians from the life of the country and protection of the law.  We as LGBT Tanzanians exist, we are here.  We were not created by the UK and have no connection whatsoever with the UK.  The Minister further states that the UK wants Tanzania to allow Gay Marriage, which is currently against the Marriage Act, but this is not true.   Mr. Cameron did not speak to Gay Marriage but focused rather on the more egregious acts of persecution of Gays that have occurred in Malawi, Uganda and Senegal, including imprisonment, and in the case of Uganda, a proposed law that makes repeated homosexual activity a capital offense.

The Tanzanian government should respect our rights under the Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.  It’s now time for the government to review the penal code and other laws and remove all sections which criminalize homosexuality because such criminalization of a class of citizens is unconstitutional.  Section 3, Chapter 12 of the Constitution states that all persons have the right to enjoy equality, humanity, identity and respect.  Section 3, Chapter 13 states that all persons are entitled to equal protection under the law and prohibits any law which will discriminate because of his or her status.  Section 3,

Chapter 29 states that every person in Tanzania has a right to enjoy the fundamental Human Rights and the results of those Rights.  We as LGBT Tanzanians claim protection under the constitution.  We believe that fundamental Human Rights includes the right to freedom of expression and the right to be heard.  The right to equality under the law.  The right to walk down the street without being subjected to violence.  The right to be recognized and accepted for who we are.  The right of equal access to education, employment and health care.

Laws which discriminate against a certain class of citizens, and a culture of stigmatization, create an underclass of such citizens.  At its heart, colonialism was nothing more than a legal underpinning for the creation of and exploitation of an underclass.  A just society must protect the rights of all its citizens.

James Wandera Ouma,
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
WEZESHA

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