With reports suggesting that Uganda will receive a $90 million loan that the World Bank temporarily withheld after the country’s anti-homosexuality bill went into effect, HRC and coalition partners today sent a letter to World Bank President Jim Kim urging him to ensure that certain safeguards are put in place before the loan is disbursed. According to the new law, LGBT Ugandans can receive life imprisonment for committing acts of “aggravated homosexuality.”
The World Bank temporarily delayed the $90 million loan to Uganda while they evaluated whether the law would adversely affect the Bank’s development efforts. In parallel with this announcement, Kim said: “At the World Bank Group, we will have a full internal discussion over the coming months about discrimination more broadly and how it would affect our projects and our gay and lesbian staff members. My view is that the fight to eliminate all institutionalized discrimination is an urgent task.” It remains unclear, however, whether those who receive or provide health services will be safe from criminal penalty.
Even though the Ugandan Ministry of Health prepared draft guidelines that ostensibly seek to ensure safe, private, and impartial access to health services for LGBT Ugandans, the guidance actually requires health workers to break confidentiality and enforce the law by reporting patients they suspect to be gay. Health workers, researchers, investigators, and facilities, moreover, are protected by the law unless they are found to “promote” homosexuality. Given how broad the prohibition is – how exactly does one promote homosexuality? – facilities that provide treatment for LGBT patients and those with HIV/AIDS are at serious risk of running afoul of the law, such as the Uganda-US government research facility that police raided last month.
We will remain engaged as developments continue to unfold.