The World Bank Group on Tuesday said it is suspending new public financing to Uganda over the country’s enactment of its new Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The bank, in a statement on Tuesday, said Uganda’s law contradicted its moral values of eradicating poverty without discrimination.

The World Bank decision came after pressure from human rights organisations and members of the United States Congress to suspend loans to Uganda in response to the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

On 29 May, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill criminalising same-sex conduct, including potentially the death penalty for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” into law.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 violates multiple fundamental rights guaranteed under Uganda’s constitution and breaks commitments made by the government as a signatory to some international human rights agreements.

In May, the United States (US) President, Joe Biden, described the enactment of the Act as a “tragic violation of universal human rights, one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country.”

“My Administration will also incorporate the impacts of the law into our review of Uganda’s eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). 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,” Mr Biden said.

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

“As Members committed to protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ people globally, we urge you to immediately postpone and suspend all current and future lending to Uganda until the recent Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed by President Yoweri Museveni on May 29, 2023, is struck down.

“While we undoubtedly support efforts to promote long-term economic development and poverty reduction in Uganda, the recent law mandates state-sponsored discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ individuals, creating a humanitarian crisis that plainly violates World Bank stated policies.

“We join more than 170 international organizations in urging you to act swiftly so that the World Bank is a leader among multilateral development banks (MDBs) in condemning this egregious and unjust law that threatens LGBTQ+ people across Uganda,” the US Congress said in a letter to Mr Banga.

On Tuesday, the world bank said “Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values.

“We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a livable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality. This law undermines those efforts. Inclusion and non-discrimination sit at the heart of our work around the world,” the world bank said.

Immediately after the law was enacted, the World Bank said it deployed a team to Uganda to review its portfolio in the context of the new legislation.

“That review determined additional measures are necessary to ensure projects are implemented in alignment with our environmental and social standards.

“Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance. These measures are currently under discussion with the authorities.

“No new public financing to Uganda will be presented to our Board of Executive Directors until the efficacy of the additional measures has been tested,” the world bank said.

It added that third-party monitoring and grievance redress mechanisms will significantly increase, allowing it to take corrective action as necessary.

“The World Bank Group has a longstanding and productive relationship with Uganda; and we remain committed to helping all Ugandans without exception escape poverty, access vital services, and improve their lives,” the bank said.

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