World Bank postpones Uganda loan over anti-gay law

Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:50pm EST
 
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By Anna Yukhananov

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank on Thursday postponed a $90 million loan to Uganda's health system over a law that toughened punishment for gays, an unusual move for an institution that typically avoids wading into politics.

"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," World Bank spokesman David Theis said in an email.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay bill earlier this week that strengthens already strict laws against homosexuals by imposing a life sentence for certain violations and making it a crime to not report anyone who breaks the law.

The World Bank, a poverty-fighting institution based in Washington, usually refrains from getting involved in countries' internal politics or in issues such as gay rights to avoid antagonizing any of its 188 member countries.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, however, sent an email to bank staff saying the bank opposes discrimination, and would protect the safety of all employees.

He said passage of the Ugandan law was not an isolated incident, as 83 countries outlaw homosexuality and more than 100 discriminate against women.

"In the coming months, we will have a broad discussion about discrimination with staff, management, and our Board on these issues," Kim said in the email obtained by Reuters. "Now is the right moment for this conversation."

Homosexuality is a taboo in almost all African countries and illegal in 37, including in Uganda where it has been a crime since British colonial rule.   Continued...

 
Supporters celebrate after Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality in Kampala February 24, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Edward Echwalu