World Bank cuts off finance to Uganda over ‘deeply repressive’ anti-LGBTQ+ law

Uganda LGBTQ

The World Bank has cut off new lending to the Ugandan government, following the enactment of a “deeply repressive” anti-LGBTQ+ law in the East African country.

In May, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law. It criminalises same-sex conduct, with vaguely worded crimes including the “promotion of homosexuality”. 

Uganda’s penal code already punished same-sex conduct with possible life imprisonment. However, the new law introduces the death penalty for several acts considered “aggravated homosexuality”, with the prison sentence for “attempted same-sex conduct” being increased to 10 years, according to the Human Rights Watch.

The US said in March it was considering economic sanctions, and on Tuesday (8 August) the World Bank, which issues loans and grants to low and middle income nations, said it would halt new financing.

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values,” a statement read.

“We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a liveable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone, irrespective of race, gender or sexuality. 

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“We remain committed to helping all Ugandans – without exception – escape poverty, access vital services and improve their lives.”

After the law made its way on to the statue books, the World Bank sent a team to Uganda and determined that additional measures, which are now under discussion, were needed to ensure any projects it supported were implemented in line with the bank’s environmental and social standards. 

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On Tuesday (8 August), the bank concluded that no new financing will be given to Uganda until “the efficacy of the additional measures has been tested.” 

Uganda’s state minister for foreign affairs, Okello Oryem, accused the bank of hypocrisy for lending to countries in the Middle East and Asia that have similar laws. 

”There are many Middle East countries who do not tolerate homosexuals, they actually hang and execute homosexuals,” Oryem said. “In America, many states have passed laws that are either against or restrict activities of homosexuality… so why pick on Uganda?

“The World Bank has been put under pressure by the usual imperialists,” the minister claimed.

In a note seen by Reuters, the bank said private-sector projects backed by the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency would proceed only “on a selective basis”, adding that the two organisations would also implement additional measures to “ensure inclusion and non-discrimination as needed”.

By the end of 2022, the World Bank had provided Uganda with $5.4 billion (£4.24 billion) in International Development Association financing. The announcement of the halting of new lending will affect health and education projects in the mostly-Christian country, which has a population of close to 50 million. 

Prior to the passing of the law, DeLovie Kwagala, a Ugandan photojournalist who’s based in South Africa, told PinkNews that the LGBTQ+ community were already feeling its impact.  

Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s regional director for east and southern Africa, branded the legislation “deeply repressive” and said it contributes to a “grave assault” on LGBTQ+ people.

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