Tanzania has threatened to ban any NGOs which “promote” LGBT rights.

In the first public statement the Tanzanian government has made against LGBT people, it threatened to ban the non-governmental organisations which support LGBT rights.

In the East African country, sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

The Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development and Gender on Wednesday made a statement published by The Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Hamisi Kigwangala, the minister, said the Tanzanian government would “always protect” traditional values.

He also accused the LGBT community of “spreading” HIV.

“I cannot deny the presence of LGBTI people in our country and the risk they pose in fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS but we don’t subscribe to the assertion that there’s a ‘gender continuum’,” Kigwangala said.

“We still recognise two traditional sexes and there’s nothing in between or beyond … Any effort to claim otherwise is not allowed.
“Tanzania does not allow activist groups carrying out campaigns that promote homosexuality … Any attempt to commit unnatural offences is illegal and severely punished by law,” he added.

Earlier this year the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda announced a crackdown, saying he would use social media platofrms to find and arrest people suspected of being gay.

The country’s government also moved to ban sexual lubricants, amid a crackdown on the LGBT+ community.

Reports suggest that the Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said the ban was justified because the product “encourages homosexuality”.

Same-sex sexual activity between men can be punished with life imprisonment. Lesbian sex is currently not mentioned in penal codes.

Police in Tanzania were in recent years accused of human rights violations against LGBT+ citizens, and of sexually assaulting people.

A man who was trying to organise a health seminar for gay and bisexual men was arrested, beaten and detained for two days. When he sought medical treatment, the hospital told him that he must first get a form from the police to show that he was a victim of assault – but the police refused.

The police have a duty to protect such vulnerable people, not expose them to hatred and bigotry, Human Rights Watch said.

The country is one of dozens of Commonwealth nations where gay sex can land you in prison or worse.