Appeal to World Bank to protect LGBT Ugandans

8 May

Six social justice organizations are appealing to the World Bank not to approve a $90 million loan for health services in Uganda until fair treatment of LGBT patients can be guaranteed.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim put that loan on hold in February after Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed that country’s harsh Anti-Homosexuality Act.

In a letter dated May 6, the social justice advocates noted that the Ugandan Ministry of Health has pledged that the new law would not affect health services.

But they commented:

“Troubling developments indicate that this pledge is not being honored.  For example, draft guidelines prepared by the Ministry of Health that ostensibly seek to ensure access to health services for LGBT Ugandans actually require health workers to enforce the law by reporting patients they suspect to be gay.

“Similar provisions were removed by Parliament from an earlier draft of the Anti Homosexuality Bill but have now essentially been reinserted by the Ministry of Health itself — the same institution that claims the health sector will not discriminate in delivery of services.”

An eye clinic in rural Uganda. (Photo courtesy of

A team of consultants hired by the bank reportedly has recommended that  the $90 million loan be approved if Uganda issues guidelines protecting LGBT patients and health-care workers. Citing a source familiar with the consultants’ report,BuzzFeed said the team proposed:

  • Government guidelines clarifying that health care workers could not be prosecuted for serving LGBT patients.
  • A system to monitor abuses related to the anti-gay law.
  • Prohibitions on disclosing patient information that could lead LGBT people to be identified to police by health care workers.

The bank must release the funds by June 30 or, under World Bank rules, the proposed loan will be canceled.

Anti-gay marchers on March 31, 2014, praised Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for his support of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

In their May 6 letter, the social justice advocates urged stronger safeguards, including suspension of the Anti-Homosexuality Law until Uganda’s Constitutional Court makes a decision on a legal challenge of the law.

Among other recommendations, they also proposed:

  • Money set aside for the defense of patients and staff facing discrimination in the Ugandan health system.
  • Training for Ugandan health workers in how to be non-discriminatory.
  • Public-service messages about non-discrimination, confidentiality, and patient privacy.

The April 3 police raid on a clinic serving LGBT patients, which led to the closing of the clinic “showed clearly the vulnerabilities LGBT communities seeking health services are facing,” the letter said.

The organizations signing the letter are the Bank Information Center, which focuses on how the World Bank affects social and economic justice;  the Council for Global Equality; the Human Rights Campaign; the Health GAP (Global Access Project), which campaigns for improved health-care access for HIV-positive people; Human Rights Watch; and the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which works with local organizations in developing countries to improve health and human rights, especially for LGBT people.



Appeal to World Bank to protect LGBT Ugandans


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