Accepted paper:

International responses to anti-LGBT crackdowns in Africa: Insights from Tanzania


Stephen Brown (University of Ottawa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses the Tanzanian government's recent crackdown on the LGBT community to analyse the causes of and donors' responses to state homophobia in Africa. It critically engages with Western countries' reactions and proposes ways of making the long-term promotion of LGBT rights more effective.

Paper long abstract:

In October 2018, a senior Tanzanian government official announced a crackdown on homosexuality, including the creation of a special committee to track down and arrest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. International actors - including bilateral aid donors and multilateral organizations - strongly condemned these measures and, in a couple of cases, withheld or suspended foreign aid, leading to a domestic backlash. This paper analyzes this chain of events. It finds that the crackdown in Tanzania was in fact the continuation of an earlier campaign and is part of a growing range of authoritarian practices not limited to state homophobia carried out by a ruling party that feels under threat, as has been the case in many other countries. The international response, however, was ineffective and even counter-productive, causing the government to expand its moral and anti-imperialist rhetoric, to the detriment of local LGBT people. International actors prioritized quick, visible and selective expressions of displeasure, but would be more effective if they developed long-term strategies in conjunction with local defenders of the rights of LGBT people, not just in Tanzania, but elsewhere in Africa and around the world.

panel Law02
LGBT human rights in Africa: struggles and strategies