Thursday, 8 November 2018
I thank the Senator for raising this important issue and giving me the opportunity to report on the steps the Government has taken and will continue to take to assist the LGBTI community in Tanzania. Ireland's support for the LGBTI community is clearly situated within a human rights framework. No one should be stigmatised or persecuted on the grounds of sexual orientation. Ireland engages with other countries at the UN Human Rights Committee to promote human rights for all. We specifically promote further support for the principle that sexual orientation should not be grounds for discrimination.
I learned with dismay last week that the regional commissioner of Dar es Salaam had called on the public to identify members of the LGBTI community to his office, thereby feeding prejudice against members of that community. It appears that there have been some submissions to his office. It has been reported that activists and members of the LGBTI community have gone into hiding across Tanzania. As the Senator will be aware, the Tanzanian statute books continue to have laws from the colonial era which can lead to homosexual acts being punished with terms of imprisonment of up to 30 years. When the Tánaiste learned of these developments, he immediately wrote to his counterpart, the Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mahiga, to express his deep concern at the regional commissioner's statements. The Tánaiste asked Mr. Mahiga and the Tanzanian Government to disown the statements and to bring such provocative action to an end. Last Sunday, which was two days later, Mr. Mahiga spoke on behalf of the Tanzanian Government to distance himself from the regional commissioner's views. He characterised the regional commissioner's views as personal and not reflective of the position of the Tanzanian Government. He reaffirmed the Tanzanian Government's commitment to upholding its international human rights commitments. In light of Mr. Mahiga’s statement, it seems likely that current tensions will abate.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, through Irish Embassy in Dar es Salaam, which works with other EU member state embassies in the city, will continue to actively monitor the situation in Dar es Salaam and more widely across Tanzania. We will continue to engage directly with Tanzanian Government and civil society on the issue of human rights protections for vulnerable groups, specifically with regard to members of the LGBTI community.