World Bank halts funding to Uganda over Anti-Homosexuality law

The World Bank has announced it will halt new loans to Uganda over the country’s controversial anti-LGBTQ law.

The World Bank has announced it will halt new loans to Uganda over the country’s controversial anti-LGBTQ law.

The World Bank said on Tuesday (August 8) that it was pausing new public finance projects in Uganda over the government’s adoption of a widely criticised bill that criminalises same-sex conduct.

In a statement, the World Bank said that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the global development lender’s core values. No new public financing would be presented to the bank’s board of directors for approval for the time being, the statement added.

“Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance,” the statement also said, adding it was in discussion with the Ugandan authorities over the issue.

What is Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act?

In May, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023- which criminalises same-sex conduct, including potentially a death penalty for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality.” The act calls for life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality. Same-sex relations have been illegal in Uganda but the new act goes further.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the act violates “multiple fundamental rights guaranteed under Uganda’s constitution and breaks commitments made by the government as a signatory to a number of international human rights agreements.”

United States President Joe Biden, meanwhile, called Kampala’s decision “a tragic violation” of human rights and said Washington would evaluate the implications of the law “on all aspects of US engagement with Uganda.”

“We are considering additional steps, including the application of sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption,” President said on May 29.

In a joint statement, the American flagship HIV/AIDS programme PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said the law put Uganda’s anti-HIV fight “in grave jeopardy.”

World Bank’s decision after pressure from rights groups, US Congress

The World Bank’s decision to halt new loans for Uganda came after pressure from human rights organisations and members of the US Congress to take a tougher line with Kampala over the act.

In late July, several members of the US Congress called on World Bank President Ajay Banga to “immediately postpone and suspend all current and future lending to Uganda” until the law was struck down.

Following the passage of the act, the US State Department updated its travel advisory, telling citizens to “reconsider travel to Uganda due to crime, terrorism, and anti-LGBTQI+ legislation.”

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