The World Bank has made the significant decision to halt all new loan disbursements to Uganda, citing the nation’s contentious Anti-Homosexuality Act as the primary reason. This comes as the latest in a series of international responses to Uganda’s controversial legislation.
From its headquarters in Washington, DC, the Bank relayed its decision on Tuesday, emphasizing that this suspension is in place while they assess the protective measures it employs for sexual and gender minorities, ensuring their rights against discrimination and exclusion in funded projects.
The bank’s statement expressed a clear stance: “The Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda fundamentally opposes the World Bank Group’s core values.” The organization further articulated its mission, noting, “Our global aim to eliminate poverty in an environmentally sustainable manner can only be achieved by upholding the principles of equality, irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality. The Ugandan law critically challenges these efforts. Our global operations are deeply rooted in principles of inclusion and non-discrimination.”
To ensure these standards are met, the World Bank is bolstering third-party monitoring systems and enhancing grievance redressal mechanisms. These initiatives allow the bank to initiate corrective actions when needed.
Months prior, in May, the World Bank Group had already voiced its reservations regarding the Ugandan law, stating its inconsistency with the bank’s values and expressing deep concern about the law’s adoption.
Pressure mounted on World Bank President Ajay Banga, inaugurated in June, to take action against the Ugandan legislation. A coalition of 170 civic groups pushed for “specific, concrete and timely actions,” which included the pause on future lending.
Human rights organizations globally have strongly opposed Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act. The law instates the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which encompasses transmitting HIV through gay relations, and a hefty 20-year imprisonment for “promoting” homosexuality. In retaliation, the US initiated travel restrictions for Ugandan officials in June. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has described homosexuality as a psychological disorder, has defended the law by alleging it prevents the LGBTQ community from “recruiting” individuals.
Despite the pause in financing, the World Bank clarified its ongoing commitment to aiding Uganda. “We have maintained a robust and productive relationship with Uganda for years. Our unwavering commitment is to support all Ugandans – without exception – to overcome poverty, obtain essential services, and elevate their quality of life,” the institution affirmed.