SouthernDefenders calls for urgent collective action to end LGBTIQ+ discrimination and targeted violence and strongly condemns the brutal killing of Milembe Suleiman in Tanzania.
The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SouthernDefenders) strongly condemns the recent killing of Milembe Suleiman, an open Tanzanian lesbian woman. Suleiman was brutally murdered and mutilated in a suspected homophobic killing on April 22, 2023. This heinous attack is part of a scourge of hate crimes against the LGBTIQ+ community in the region. And it is unacceptable that individuals are being targeted and subjected to violence and discrimination simply because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. We call upon the Tanzanian authorities to thoroughly investigate this heinous crime and to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Suleiman. And we stand in active solidarity with the LGBTIQ+ community. We join hands with all human rights defenders across causes and countries in the region to demand swift justice in this serious case. This horrific attack serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle faced by LGBTIQ+ individuals in Southern Africa particularly in Tanzania and the urgent need for greater protection of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The LGBTIQ+ community is often subjected to extreme violence, harassment, and discrimination among other human rights violations, with concrete redress or the right to remedy. Recently the Ugandan parliament proposed a new legislation, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which if passed into law will criminalize homosexuality punishable with a death sentence.
“We must stand together and condemn the senseless violence that took the life of Milembe Suleiman. No one should ever have to live in fear of being targeted for who they are or who they love. We must work towards a world where all people are free to be themselves without fear of persecution or violence.” Tanele Maseko SouthernDefenders Deputy Chairperson.
It is essential that the Tanzanian authorities take strong action to address the underlying causes of violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community, including through legislative and policy reforms that protect their rights and promote tolerance and acceptance. Furthermore, we call upon the authorities to take concrete steps to protect the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community including the right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, as well as the right to life, security, and physical integrity which are guaranteed in the Constitution. Governments have a duty to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are protected from violence, discrimination and persecution. Reacting to the untimely death of Suleiman, Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS tweeted “Very sad! Evil! We are all equal and loved by God”.
We also urge the international community, civil society organizations, other human rights defenders, and all individuals to speak out against this kind of violence and discrimination and to support the rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals in their communities. This includes challenging harmful attitudes and stereotypes, advocating for legal reforms, and providing support and protection to those who are most vulnerable to violence and discrimination.
Finally, SouthernDefenders stands in solidarity with Suleiman’s family and friends and the entire LGBTIQ+ community in the region. We demand that the authorities ensure that justice is served and that the perpetrators of this brutal attack are held accountable for their actions. We call on the international community, individuals and organizations to join us in condemning this heinous crime and to work together towards creating a safe and inclusive environment for all members of the LGBTIQ+ community in Southern Africa and beyond.