Zanzibar moves to punish gays and lesbians

The government of Zanzibar is proposing legislation that will punish men found guilty of sodomy with life imprisonment. The legislation is an attempt to suppress a growing acceptance of sexual diversity on the island. Lesbians will receive seven years in jail for having sex. In the light of the current trend toward same-sex marriages internationally, Zanzibar officials want to make sure the island is not the next country swept up in the liberalizing process. “We have heard that same-sex marriages have taken place here, and we want to guard against this trend,” said Deputy Attorney General Omar Makungu. Press reports have speculated that more and more gay men and lesbians are living openly on the island, despite the existing penalties and traditional attitudes.

The newly drafted legal changes exemplify the existing homophobia in some other African countries, notably Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe regularly attacks gay rights internationally.

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