A business group including corporate giants such as Google says it opposes Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ legislation, calling it “a concern for global businesses and investors operating or planning to invest” in the East African country.
The legislation, which prescribes the death penalty or life imprisonment for some homosexual offenses, would hurt Uganda’s economy, the Open For Business coalition said in a statement Wednesday. “Diversity and inclusion are core principles of our coalition partners in the conduct of their businesses,” the statement said.
The legislation, if signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, “would undermine Uganda’s attractiveness as a place to do business and invest,” it said.
In addition to Google, the Open For Business coalition includes companies such as Microsoft, MasterCard, HSBC and Facebook owner Meta.
Uganda’s legislature last week passed the anti-homosexuality bill. The legislation is now with Museveni, who can sign it into law or return it back to the parliamentary speaker with proposed changes.
The bill has wide support in Uganda, including among church leaders. It was introduced last month by an opposition lawmaker who said his goal was to punish the “promotion, recruitment and funding” of LGBTQ activities in the country. Only two of 389 legislators present for the voting session opposed the bill.
Museveni, who has publicly described homosexuals as “disgusting,” faces growing international condemnation of the bill. The United States, the United Nations and the European Union have urged him to block the bill. Washington in particular has warned of possible economic consequences if the legislation is enacted.
The bill prescribes the death penalty for the offense of “aggravated homosexuality” and life imprisonment for “homosexuality,” drawing fears that those who identify as LGBTQ people can be criminally prosecuted. Aggravated homosexuality is defined as cases of sex relations involving those infected with HIV as well as minors and other categories of vulnerable people. Jail terms of up to 20 years are proposed for those who advocate or promote the rights of LGBTQ people.
A suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be jailed for 14 years and the offense of “attempted homosexuality” is punishable by up to 10 years, according to the bill.
The death penalty for some acts of homosexuality “is an egregious violation of human rights,” a group of U.N. experts said Wednesday.
“The imposition of the death penalty based on such legislation is per se an arbitrary killing and a breach of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” the experts said in a statement.
The leader of a Ugandan LGBTQ rights group says that many in the country’s gay community fear for their safety.
Anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has grown in recent weeks amid press reports alleging sodomy in boarding schools, including a prestigious one for boys where a parent accused a teacher of abusing her son. The recent decision of the Church of England to bless civil marriages of same-sex couples also has inflamed many, including some who see homosexuality as imported from abroad.
Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.