World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim
The World Bank has confirmed that it has put a planned loan to Uganda on hold due to the country’s recently enacted anti-gay law.
The $90 million loan was intended to bolster the country’s health care system, reported Reuters, but the bank says that it now needs to assess if the discriminatory law will affect the money’s use.
“We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law,” explained World Bank spokesman David Theis.
There are concerns that men who have sex with men, a particularly HIV vulnerable group, will be afraid to seek treatment or will face health care discrimination because of the legislation. About 7.2 percent of the adult population is HIV-infected in Uganda.
Writing for The Washington Post, the president of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, said that the world should not only focus on Uganda but also the “81 other countries — in the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East — [that] have passed laws that make homosexuality illegal.”
He argued that, “Institutionalised discrimination is bad for people and for societies. Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies. There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer.”
The Ugandan law has already led to three European countries – Denmark, The Netherlands and Norway – redirecting aid away from the Ugandan government to NGOs and private groups. The law and its repercussions have also been blamed for a fall in Uganda’s currency.
On Thursday, Ugandan government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo defiantly railed on Twitter: “The west can keep their ‘aid’ to Uganda over homos, we shall still develop without it.”
He added: “Western ‘Aid’ to Africa is lucrative & profitable trade they cannot cut off completely.”
Some LGBTI activists, including Frank Mugisha, Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, have warned that aid cuts risk affecting ordinary Ugandans
“We can’t afford to create new victims. We should go after the crazy politicians! Not innocent Ugandans,” Mugisha said on Twitter.
After months of speculation, President Museveni signed the oppressive Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law on Monday, defying international condemnation.
While anal sex between men is already illegal in Uganda, with penalties including life imprisonment, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill extends the ban to any kind of same-sex sex – including lesbianism – and also punishes repeat “offenders” and attempts by same-sex couples to marry with life imprisonment.
In addition, anyone who “aids, abets [or] counsels” a gay person and anyone who rents a home or room to a gay person could also be sentenced to seven years in jail. The bill further includes criminal penalties of five to seven years in prison for anyone who “promotes” homosexuality.