Outright International supports the call of Ugandan LGBTQ advocates who have asked the World Bank to stop current and future loan payments to the Ugandan government in the wake of the adoption of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023, a piece of legislation that seeks to eradicate LGBTQ people. World Bank financing supports government poverty alleviation programs, including health care, education, housing, jobs, and economic infrastructure projects. The new law undermines these programs by mandating discrimination against LGBTQ people in all sectors of Uganda’s economy.
Under the Anti-Homosexuality Act, LGBTQ people in Uganda risk exclusion, imprisonment, and execution simply by seeking services from projects financed by the World Bank. The law mandates that all people in Uganda “shall report the matter to police for appropriate action” if any person is reasonably suspected of engaging in the “offense of homosexuality” or “promoting” homosexuality and if any organization is suspected of “normalizing” homosexuality. This mandate applies to all people involved in World Bank projects. Any attempt by an LGBTQ person to access services or benefits of these projects carries the risk of prosecution and sentencing under the act. Penalties for offense of homosexuality range from twenty years to execution.
The law also precludes LGBTQ people from accessing the basic necessities of life. All landlords, including those in World Bank-funded housing programs, are required to evict LGBTQ tenants. Doctors, nurses, and teachers in government programs are prohibited from providing social support, affirming care, and information. LGBTQ people are barred from certain types of employment. Outright has described the law as rooted in genocidal ideology, as it attempts to eradicate LGBTQ people from existence.
“There is no way around it: World Bank staff are now required by law to be complicit in the persecution of queer Ugandans,” said Maria Sjödin, executive director of Outright International. “Worse, World Bank-financed programs will now contribute to poverty among LGBTQ Ugandans, not alleviate it, as the law excludes people from the benefits of development on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The World Bank currently provides $5.5 billion in multi-year financing to the Ugandan government, whose total annual expenditure budget is $13 billion. World Bank policy dictates that financed projects must distribute benefits equally, without discrimination against vulnerable groups. Ugandan advocates have asked the World Bank to comply with its own policies by suspending loan payments. Outright International has called on the World Bank to prohibit its staff from reporting people to the police. The World Bank’s only public response thus far to the world’s worst anti-LGBTQ law has been a brief statement expressing concern.
The World Bank has been explicit about the importance of the inclusion of LGBTQ people to fight poverty in the past, when former World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim spoke out against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, emphasizing “how crucial it is to fight prejudice and knock down barriers to education, jobs, social protection and good health faced by many people in the LGBTI community.” Also, in 2017, the World Bank suspended all visiting missions to Tanzania due to state-sponsored harassment of and discrimination against LGBTQ people.
“The World Bank should be a source of dignity, not danger,” said Ugandan human rights defender Kasha Nabagesera. “Queer people are going into hiding and fleeing Uganda to avoid the threat posed by the Ugandan government, much of which is financed by the World Bank.”