World Bank cuts off loans to Uganda over anti-LGBTQ+ law

The World Bank Group halted new lending to Uganda after it came under pressure to take action against the country's anti-LGBTQ+ law.

This article is about the World Bank cutting funds to Uganda. In the photo, a grey wall with the World Bank Group sign on it.
Image: Victorgrigas, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The World Bank, the international financial institution that lends money to the governments of low or middle income countries, has said that it will halt new lending to Uganda due to the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation recently passed in the country.

In May, Uganda enacted the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which further criminalises LGBTQ+ identities in a country where same-sex relations were already illegal under a colonial-era penal code retained after independence. The legislation, which imposes life imprisonment and even the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” has been deemed one of the world’s harshest laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

Activists, scientists and academics all over the world have condemned the Ugandan law, with the UN Human Rights Office calling it “a recipe for systematic violations of the rights” of queer people living in the country. On June 15, around 170 civic groups put pressure on World Bank President Ajay Banga to take “specific, concrete and timely actions” in response to the anti-LGBTQ+ law passed in Uganda.

After President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, signed the law in May, the World Bank sent a team to the country to assess whether additional measures would need to be implemented to ensure that all projects funded aligned with the bank’s environmental and social standards.

On Tuesday, August 8, the World Bank released a statement, saying: “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.”


“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,” it added. “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.”

Ugandan Minister for Foreign Affairs Okello Oryem responded to this decision by accusing the World Bank of hypocrisy, arguing that they are lending money to countries with much harsher laws against the queer community.

“There are many Middle East countries who do not tolerate homosexuals, they actually hang and execute homosexuals, in the United States of America, many states have passed laws that are either against or restrict activities of homosexuality… so why pick on Uganda?” he said. “The World Bank has been put under pressure by the usual imperialists.”

While the World Bank has now halted new loans to Uganda, funding for already existing projects, including many on health and education, will still be disbursed to the country.

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