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Tanzania 2016/2017

The rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly were restricted. The authorities failed to address discrimination on grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Freedom of assembly

The months leading up to elections in Zanzibar in March were marked by violence. At least 200 people were injured, 12 women sexually assaulted and one woman was raped. More than 100 members of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), including the Director of Publicity, were arrested for protesting against the election re-run, after the 2015 general elections were nullified following claims of irregularities. There were reports of excessive use of force against CUF supporters by the police, and an unidentified armed group of masked men using government registered vehicles. Despite many complaints to the authorities, no prosecutions were brought against the police.

In June, all political rallies were banned by the President until 2020. In response, opposition parties called for peaceful protests under the banner UKUTA (Alliance against Dictatorship in Tanzania), which resulted in the police extending the ban to include internal party meetings. Two opposition leaders and 35 supporters from both the mainland and Zanzibar were arrested and charged with various offences including incitement to protest.

Freedom of expression – journalists

Four media houses were closed and journalists arrested and charged with various offences under the Penal Code, the Cybercrimes Act and the Newspapers Act. The weekly Mawio was permanently closed and three journalists were charged with sedition for reporting on the elections in Zanzibar and the ensuing political crisis. The weekly Mseto was banned for three years for breach of the Newspapers Act after it published an article implicating a senior government official in corruption. Radio stations Radio Five and Magic FM were also closed for allegedly airing seditious material.

Two women and six men were charged under the Cybercrimes Act for posting information about the elections and the President on Facebook.

Women’s rights

Tanzania failed to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) in the 2015 case E.S. and S.C. v the United Republic of Tanzania. The case, submitted before the Committee in 2012, concerned two Tanzanian widows who, under Tanzania’s customary inheritance law, were denied the right to inherit or administer the estates of their late husbands. In 2016, the Committee recommended reform of the Local Customary Law (Declaration No.4) which discriminated against women in relation to property administration and inheritance rights.

A landmark court decision in September declared unconstitutional Sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act, which allowed child marriage of girls aged under 18. Tanzania has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world, with 37% of girls under 18 already married. The Attorney General appealed against the ruling.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

The authorities began a crackdown on LGBTI people, threatening to suspend organizations that supported them. Staff were arrested and documents confiscated during a raid of the offices of the Community Health Education Services and Advocacy in August.

Police arrested 20 LGBTI people in Dar es Salaam in August. Most were held for more than 48 hours before being released without charge. In November, the authorities suspended community-based HIV/AIDS prevention programmes for gay men.

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Get the Amnesty International Report 2016/17