WASHINGTON: The World Bank is pausing approval for new public finance projects in Uganda over the country’s adoption earlier this year of a widely criticised bill criminalising same-sex conduct.
“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values,” the development lender said in a statement Tuesday, adding that “no new public financing,” would be presented to the bank’s board of directors for approval for the time being.
The move comes after pressure from human rights organisations and members of the US Congress to take a tougher line with Kampala over the law, which is among the harshest of its kind in the world.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 contains provisions making “aggravated homosexuality” a capital offence and imposes penalties for consensual same-sex relations of up to life in prison.
“Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance,” the World Bank said Tuesday, adding that it was in discussion with the Ugandan authorities over the issue.
At the end of 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 bill, the US State Department updated its travel advisory, telling citizens to “reconsider travel to Uganda due to crime, terrorism, and anti-LGBTQI+ legislation.