On May 29, President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the toughest, most regressive anti-homosexuality law in the world. The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 (AHA) requires all people in Uganda to report to the police any person reasonably suspected of engaging in the “offense of homosexuality.” It significantly increases already harsh criminal penalties to life in prison or death, and also criminalizes those who advocate for and provide certain forms of social support to LGBT people. It disqualifies LGBT people from certain types of employment and prohibits landlords from renting housing to LGBT people. Despite these egregious human rights violations against LGBT people and allies outlined in the AHA, the World Bank has done nothing publicly beyond issuing a statement saying that “the Act is not consistent with the values of non-discrimination and inclusion that the institution upholds.” We urge strong action from the Bank to suspend current and future lending in the country until the AHA is struck down.
This is in stark contrast to the values the World Bank professes to uphold. In 2016, the World Bank approved a new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) that included provisions on inclusion and non-discrimination. The ESF states that “the Borrower will propose and implement differentiated measures so that adverse impacts do not fall disproportionately on the disadvantaged or vulnerable, and they are not disadvantaged in sharing any development benefits and opportunities resulting from the project.” Ultimately, the AHA goes against the principles and requirements of the ESF by prohibiting LGBT people from sharing in the benefits and opportunities of Bank-financed projects, and even directs those implementing these projects to report any beneficiary who they have reason to believe may be LGBT to the police.
The Convening for Equality, a group of Ugandan activists, has called for the Bank to suspend current and future lending. BIC stands with Ugandan activists and insists that the Bank take swift action to suspend all lending to Uganda. Continuing to lend money to Uganda and implement projects in the country would send the signal to the Ugandan Government, other governments considering similar laws, and LGBT people around the world that the World Bank does not truly value inclusion and that its commitments to non-discrimination are merely words on a paper. The World Bank can and must do better. It should stand up for the principles and values it claims to uphold by swiftly and publicly suspending all forms of financing, current and future, to the government of Uganda.
Similarly, the African Development Bank (AfDB) recently adopted a new Integrated Safeguards System (ISS), which is based on similar principles as the World Bank ESF. The AfDB ISS explicitly states it is "committed to ensuring, at any time during the operations life cycle, protection of all stakeholders against reprisals, SEA/H [sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment], GBV [gender-based violence] or discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Thus, the AHA is contrary to the principles and stated values of the ISS, and the AfDB must also stand behind its policies and suspend all financing in Uganda until the AHA is overturned.