Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda said Tuesday that he’s ordered a surveillance squad to monitor gay and lesbian people in the city, which has a population of more than close to 54 million.
The 17-member squad will use social media to identify and ultimately arrest gay, lesbian or transgender people, Reuters reported.
Gay sex is illegal in Tanzania, and is “punishable by long prison sentences,” according to the State Department. A travel advisory issued by U.S. officials in January warns travelers to use extreme caution in the East African county “due to crime, terrorism, and targeting of [LGBTI — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex] persons.”
Makonda’s announcement of a crackdown has ignited a deeper fear among LGBTI people in the region. A 24-year-old man named Nathan told Reuters that, as of Monday, he’s “been moving here and there,” and added he’s “always looking over [his] shoulder in case they coming for me.”
The country began to see an “unprecedented crackdown on the rights of LGBT people and their advocates” in mid-2016, according to the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch.