HRDs in Tanzania work in a relatively complex environment despite a prevailing level of stability that the country enjoys in comparison to neighbouring countries in the African Great Lakes region. Subtle forms of threats to human rights defenders are regularly recorded, particularly during electoral seasons. Occasional physical attacks against prominent human rights defenders have been noted in the past, and were never followed with meaningful investigations.
Human rights defenders working in peripheral areas far away from Dar Es Salaam, the capital city, face particular challenges ranging from constant police harassment, poor access to donor funding and low capacity to articulate a coherent advocacy strategy. Women human rights defenders operating in these areas often face backlash from society for documenting and advocating on issues such as domestic violence or early marriage. A number of women human rights defenders working in the coastal Swahili areas, including in the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar where Islam is predominant, have at times been accused of blasphemy.
Same-sex relations are criminalised in Tanzania, and those found guilty risk up to a 30 years in prison. For this reason, and in consideration of the widespread nature of homophobia in the country, LGBTI rights defenders are forced to keep a low profile and generally operate underground. The practice of pastoralism has led to a series of recurrent tribal clashes in a number of regions of Tanzania, and HRDs working on these issues are among the most at risk.