Update to TZA322443.E of 23 July 1999 on the treatment of homosexuals, including areas or communities in which they live and function, as well as organizations that assist, advocate and/or represent individuals from this community [TZA39820.E]

Homosexuality is not only illegal in Tanzania but it also viewed as a "social and religious taboo" (Dispatch Online 6 May 2000). According to a Xinhua News Agency report of 21 April 2002, the Tanzanian Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs stated that "the law bars people of the same sex to engage in sexual intercourse." The government reportedly refused to supply prison inmates with condoms as away of preventing the spread of communicable diseases including HIV/AIDS (Xinhua News Agency 21 Apr. 2002).

In 1998, a British national was reportedly deported from Tanzania for being gay (The Advocate 20 July 1999). In an article that he wrote for the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), the British national stated that homosexuality-which is characterized as a "foreign phenomenon"-is illegal and that "homosexual acts are punishable by up to fourteen years in prison" (ILGA 28 July 1999). He recounted that in Tanzania, a gay man is called msenge, a Swahili word for a "passive" or "femme" gay man while a man who engages in sexual intercourse with a msenge is called a basha (ibid.). The term for a lesbian is msagaji, "literally, one who grinds" (ibid.). He observed that lesbians are less visible than gay men and that there is more stigma attached to msenge, but that "the basha may cause more unease and thus hostility" (ibid.).

According to the British national, in small towns like Bagamoyo, where he lived, there was "prevalent hostility" to gays although "there were many people who treated homosexuality with sympathy" (ibid.). Nonetheless, gay men tend to move to larger towns such as Dar-es-Salaam where, because of its size, gay networks exist, although there are "no gay bars as such" (ibid.). He noted that life for homosexuals seemed "much more easy-going" on the island of Zanzibar (ibid.). According to the man, there was no "embryonic gay movement or organisation" in Tanzania at the time (ibid.).

Although "the law in Tanzania victimises and criminalises gays," the British national observed that it is rarely enforced because of the difficulty of obtaining proof (ibid.). He further noted that the authorities were "inconsistent" in dealing with homosexuality because the law was not applied uniformly (ibid.). During his seven-year stay in Tanzania, he noticed that "well-connected gays" were not disturbed and the law is "largely ignored until someone in authority chooses to invoke it (ibid.).

According to a later report, two days after the condemnation of homosexuality by the Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam which provoked criticism from gays and human rights activists, two men were reportedly married in "a very public gay wedding" in Dar-es-Salaam in 2000 (Dispatch Online 6 May 2000).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


The Advocate. 20 July 1999. David Kirby. "Trouble in Paradise; Dangers Gay Travelers Face in Overseas Places that are Anti-Gay." (NEXIS)

Dispatch Online. 6 May 2000. '"Nasty' Cardinal Prompts Gay Wedding." http://www.dispatch.co.za/2000/05/06/features/LP1.HTM [Accessed 6 Jan. 2003]

The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). 28 July 1999. "Tanzania - Deported for Being Gay and Homosexuality in Tanzania." http://www.ilga.org/Information/Africa/tanzania-deported_for_being_gay.htm [Accessed 6 Jan. 2003]

Xihnua News Agency. 21 April 2002."Tanzania Bans Condoms Supply for Congested Prison Inmates." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Research Bulletin

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001. 2002.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter

IRB Databases.


Keesing's Record of World Events

Resource Centre Country File. Tanzania.

Internet sites including:

All Africa

Search engines including: