QUEER VOICES

This Country Wants To 'Curb' Gay Sex By Stopping NGOs From Importing Lube

Well... that's interesting.
Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu implied that the availability of personal lubricants was directly tied to homosexual behavior.
Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu implied that the availability of personal lubricants was directly tied to homosexual behavior.

In what’s been described as a crackdown on gays, government officials in Tanzania have approved a ban on the import and sale of sexual lubricants to local NGOs that service the LGBT community.  

Among those who believe that access to lube is directly correlated to how many locals engage in gay sex is Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu, AFP reports. The ban, she said, is intended to help “curb” the nation’s HIV epidemic

“It is estimated that 23 percent of men who have sex with men in Tanzania are living with HIV/AIDS,” she said.

The money previously used to purchase and import lube for those NGOs, Mwalimu said, will now be repurposed for supplying hospital maternity wards with beds. “I have instructed stakeholders working with gay people to remove the products from the market,” she added. 

Although it was initially reported that the ban applied nationally, Mwalimu told The Citizen that the ban was specific to NGOs working within the gay community. “One of the leading NGOs has heeded the directive and it has reported to me. And many others will follow suit,” she said. “Next week, I’ll carry out an inspection to confirm if indeed they stopped supplying the lubricants.” 

Homosexuality remains illegal in Tanzania. The country’s penal code states that any citizen who has “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” or “permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” can be jailed for up to 30 years, according to the International Business Times. Lesbians, however, are off the hook, as there is no such ban on relations between two women, AFP points out

Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Neela Ghoshal believes prohibiting access to lubricants is “clearly intended to target gay people in particular,” as well as sex workers. 

“It is very taboo to talk about sexuality at all in Tanzania,” Ghoshal told Vice. 

As part of the country’s apparent crackdown on homosexual activity, a number of suspected gay people were reportedly arrested in clubs in the city of Dar es Salaam under the watch of newly-appointed regional commissioner Paul Makonda.

Of course, history has shown that when there’s a will, there’s a way. We’d reckon Mwalimu and others are in for a big surprise if they think imposing the ban will somehow diminish the amount of gay sex happening in their country.

CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated with additional information from Ummy Mwalimu, who spoke to the media after the initial reports to say that the ban applies to unspecified NGOs working in Tanzania’s gay community and is not a wholesale ban.

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