Tanzania has taken a step backwards by banning the sale and import of all personal lubricants, in an effort to halt gay sex in the East African nation, where a man can be sent to prison for life for having sex with another man.
The law had been largely unenforced for several years, but South Africa’s News24 reports that Paul Makonda, the newly appointed regional commissioner for the port city of Dar es Salaam announced a major crackdown against gay people this month. Police have stepped-up with arrests of suspected gays in nightclubs.
According to News24, Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu justified the ban on lube on the grounds that the product encourages homosexuality, and by her logic, if she stops men from having sex with men she’ll stop the spread of HIV.
“It is true that the government has banned the importation and use of the jelly to curb the spread of HIV,” Mwalimu told reporters Tuesday. “It is estimated that 23 percent of men who have sex with men in Tanzania are living with HIV/AIDS,” she added.
Groups working with the gay community were handing out the lube for free, according to the minister, who said that money would now be put to use for other, more wholesome purposes, like giving it to the ministry.
“The ministry has agreed to work with stakeholders to give the ministry the money they were using to buy and import the lubricants so we could use it to buy beds for the maternity wards,” said Mwalimu.
Tanzania’s law against homosexuality does not apply to lesbians, but the report did not mention how this ban on lubricants will also impact women in Tanzania, no matter who their partners are.