Rainbow flag
Gay men and other men who have sex with men are the most at-risk group for becoming HIV positive torbakhopper / Flickr

Fitting the recent pattern of crackdown on homosexuality in Tanzania, the country's deputy health minister ordered three men who he accuses of being gay to report to police for questioning, or risk arrest.

Usually reputed for being more tolerant towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people than its neighbour Uganda, the situation for the gay community has been deteriorating in Tanzania, where gay sex is illegal and punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment.

Deputy health minister Hamisi Kingwangala demanded the trio reported to police after he accused them of "spreading" homosexual activity through social media, in violation of the law, according to the BBC.

In November last year, the health ministry suspended community-based HIV/Aids prevention programmes for gay men – a group with a 25% HIV prevalence. At the time, it threatened to ban groups and some local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that "promote" the rights of LGBT people.

Earlier in 2016, the Tanzanian government also banned the import and sale of sexual lubricants as part of its sustained crackdown on the country's LGBT community.

Section 154 of Tanzania's penal code condemns "unnatural offences", defined as the "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature". It further states that people are guilty of unnatural offences if they permit a "male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature".

In 2015, Human Rights Watch warned that, among other things, members of sexual minorities faced harassment and were subjected to human rights violations – particularly in the health sector – in Tanzania, in breach of both national and international laws.

In neighbouring Uganda, sexual and gender minorities continue to face arrest, discrimination, eviction from their homes and violence from government officials and individuals. The December 2013 passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act opened the floodgates for systematic human rights violations against LGBT people in Uganda. Newspapers outed alleged homosexuals by publishing their pictures, and leaders and media publications called for the execution of gays. This prompted scores to flee the country.