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World Bank Cuts Off Funds to Uganda Over Anti-LGBTQ+ Law

World Bank Cuts Off Funds to Uganda Over Anti-LGBTQ+ Law

Ugandan protester and World Bank

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values," said a statement from the institution.

The World Bank has cut off new funding for Uganda over the country’s recently enacted anti-LGBTQ+ law, which provides for execution or life imprisonment for same-sex relations.

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values. We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a livable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality,” said a statement the institution issued Tuesday. “This law undermines those efforts. Inclusion and non-discrimination sit at the heart of our work around the world.”

“Immediately after the law was enacted, the World Bank deployed a team to Uganda to review our portfolio in the context of the new legislation,” the statement continued. “That review determined additional measures are necessary to ensure projects are implemented in alignment with our environmental and social standards. Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance. These measures are currently under discussion with the authorities.

“No new public financing to Uganda will be presented to our Board of Executive Directors until the efficacy of the additional measures has been tested.”

Uganda adopted the law in May. It provides for the death penalty for what it calls “aggravated homosexuality,” including sex with a minor, sex while HIV-positive, and incest. Those convicted of having same-sex relations that are not of the “aggravated” variety can be imprisoned for life. The law has been condemned by world leaders, including President Joe Biden, and human rights groups.

A previous anti-homosexuality law that did not include the death penalty was struck down in court in 2014, not because of its content but because of the manner in which it was passed by Parliament.

Okello Oryem, Uganda’s state minister for foreign affairs, said bank officials are being hypocritical because the World Bank makes loans to countries with similar laws.

“There are many Middle East countries who do not tolerate homosexuals, they actually hang and execute homosexuals, in the United States of America many states have passed laws that are either against or restrict activities of homosexuality ... so why pick on Uganda?” he said, according to Reuters. “The World Bank has been put under pressure by the usual imperialists.”

Another Ugandan official, Information Minister Chris Baryomunsi, told Agence France-Presse Wednesday that the country’s leaders are discussing the matter with the World Bank. “However, the World Bank and others should be reminded that Uganda is a sovereign country, which takes decisions in the interests of her people, and this is the spirit of the Anti-Homosexuality Act,” he added.

After the World Bank announcement, Uganda’s health ministry issued an order to health care providers saying no one should be denied services or discriminated against in any way because of sexual orientation or other factors, AFP reports. The anti-LGBTQ+ law had led to concerns that such discrimination could arise.

As of last year, the bank had lent $5.4 billion to Uganda through its International Development Association. Funds that have already been approved will continue to go out even though there will be no new IDA financing, a source told Reuters.

The International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, divisions of the World Bank that deal with the private sector rather than government agencies, will consider future loans selectively, while taking any steps necessary to prevent discrimination, Reuters reports.

The World Bank is run by 189 member countries.

The Convening for Equality Coalition, made up of human rights groups, welcomed the World Bank's action but called for more. “The World Bank’s decision to not proceed with any new public financing in Uganda in light of the Anti-Homosexuality Act is an important step by the international financial institution to respond to the pernicious impacts of Anti-Homosexuality Act," Clare Byarugaba, who works with Chapter Four Uganda and is a co-convener of the coalition, said in a statement. "We hope that this will spur further action from others committed to inclusive economic development and the protection of basic human rights to take concrete action in the face of Uganda’s horrific law. Other countries considering similarly discriminatory laws should take notice of the World Bank’s decision and the negative economic impact on their economies. Open and inclusive societies are better for business and better for economic growth.”

“To be clear, there are no ‘additional measures’ which can make this law acceptable," added Frank Mugisha, an activist with Sexual Minorities Uganda and co-convener of the coalition. "Uganda’s Ministry of Health has tried to reassure international funders of a commitment to nondiscrimination in health care, but the lived reality for LGBTIQ Ugandans living under this law tells a very different story — one filled with discrimination, fear, and violence because of this law and those who support it. The only way forward is for Uganda’s courts to stand up for the principle of nondiscrimination —- already enshrined in our constitution — and rule that the law is unconstitutional as soon as possible.”

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