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9 Aug, 2023 12:19

World Bank punishes Uganda for anti-gay law

The legislation undermines the bank’s values of “inclusion and non-discrimination,” the institution has said
World Bank punishes Uganda for anti-gay law

The World Bank has announced a halt to new funding for Uganda, citing the country's anti-homosexuality bill passed earlier this year as the reason for the decision.

The global financing body concluded in a statement on Tuesday that the East African country's anti-LGBTQ law, which makes "aggravated homosexuality" a capital offense and imposes penalties of up to life in prison for consensual same-sex relations, contradicts its 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. This law undermines those efforts. Inclusion and non-discrimination sit at the heart of our work around the world,” the bank stated.

The decision follows increased calls from human rights groups and activists for sanctions against Kampala after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 in May, which they say "legalizes homophobia and transphobia."

Late last month, several members of the US Congress wrote to World Bank president Ajay Banga, requesting that the bank suspend all lending to Uganda in order to force the government to repeal the anti-gay legislation. Previously, a coalition of 170 civic organizations demanded that Banga take action in response to Uganda's "abhorrent" law.

A World Bank team went to Kampala "immediately" after the law was passed and concluded that additional measures were needed to ensure project implementation aligned with the bank's environmental and social guidelines, the group said on Tuesday.

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,” it announced.

According to the institution, the World Bank's portfolio of International Development Association funding for Uganda was $5.4 billion at the end of 2022.

Uganda's state minister for foreign affairs, Okello Oryem, accused the bank of hypocrisy, claiming that it had been "put under pressure by the usual imperialists."

"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?" Reuters quoted Oryem as saying.

The US State Department imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials in June and warned that those responsible for violating human rights in the African country, including those of LGBTQ people, would be held accountable.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has stated repeatedly that his government will not be swayed by aid cuts to repeal a law that he claims is necessary to prevent LGBTQ people from recruiting others.