Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill Could Cost Uganda

Source: Amnesty/ILGA

Source: Amnesty/ILGA

In light of Uganda’s controversial anti-gay bill, some of the countries most notable donors are rethinking their aid. While there is speculation that “some African countries political leaders target sexual orientation issues to distract attention from their overall human rights records…”

One aid donation in particular, which has the potential to cause a significant blow to Uganda’s health services, is the postponement of a $90 million loan from the World Bank. World Bank officials have justified this actions by stating that they want “to guarantee the projects the loan was destined to support were not going to be adversely affected by the law.”

This mark’s the largest financial penalty on the country since the law was signed.

The Ugandan government spokesman, Ofwono Opondo calls the World Bank’s recent action “blackmail” while Uganda’s health minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, has made assurances “homosexuals will not be discriminated against when accessing healthcare” and for individuals to be honest with healthcare workers about his/her sexual orientation especially in matters concerning HIV.

Although it has been claimed health workers will still be required to abide by confidentiality agreements, the question is: will they? Even if confidentiality is observed, will these healthcare workers continue to provide the same quality treatment to an individual who identifies as being gay? Most anti-gay activist believe HIV is a form of punishment on an individual for being gay or just blame the victim  outright for having HIV because they are gay. With this kind of thinking, will healthcare workers be unbiased?

Following in the footsteps of the World Bank, the United States-  which provides a reported $400m in annual aid towards assistance programs in Uganda- has also begun to rethink its aid as a response to the passage of the law. However, Uganda’s health minister believes Uganda would be able to endure even without aid from the U.S.

In addition, Sweden is considering withdrawal of its aid, measuring ($10.8m) and the Netherlands has already stopped aid to Uganda totaling ($9.6m).  Whereas Norway and Denmark intend to redirect aid from government to NGOs. If more donors took the same approach as the latter two countries, then the citizens who need help the most wouldn’t be penalized by their government’s actions in signing the bill.

Another cost to Uganda:  the countries monetary current, the shilling, has begun losing value due to perceived aid cuts.

Will these aid-halting measures taken by such prominent donors reverse the course Uganda appears to be on? Probably not, at least, not anytime soon. In the meantime, what will become of Uganda’s health project which was designed to aid in maternal health, newborn care and family planning? Although a spokeswoman for the World Bank in Uganda maintains the project will continue despite the hold on aid, how long can it last under financial pressure?

Unfortunately, within the realm of politics, it appears that once again the people who are most in need of aid, are also the first affected by aid-delays incurred from penalties towards governments.

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4 Responses to Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill Could Cost Uganda

  1. kenneycj says:

    I agree, it’s unfortunate that penalties for Uganda are coming in the form of aid cuts, seeing as those cuts impact those most in need of aid and not just the Ugandan government. I wonder if it would be more productive to put economic or other sanctions on Uganda instead to try to influence the government to change its course. I think the international community withdrawing much needed aid makes them culpable in the negative health (and other) outcomes of many Ugandans.

  2. I posted about this several weeks ago, when Museveni sent the law back to the parliament the first time, and suggested he was hesitating to sign the bill for this very reason: loss of foreign aid. Turns out I was wrong. Economic penalties, both in the form of cutting aid and economic sanctions, will hurt a large number of Ugandans, so I do not think this is the way to go.

    In regard to HIV, widespread discrimination occurs in so many countries already (both against LGBT and non-LGBT, the latter often assumed to be LGBT just because they have HIV). This law certainly does not help. In countries across the world where homophobia runs high, many individuals do not seek treatment for HIV simply because they fear “outing” themselves in the process. This law will only increase that pattern, regardless of whether healthcare workers discriminate or not.

  3. amandacatalina says:

    Withdrawing aid seems like it could backfire in this case. It seems like it would be complicated by the fact that so much of the country approves of the bill. On top of that, in Aaron’s post he pointed out that a lot of evangelical Christians in Uganda are blaming homosexuals for economic, social, and political problems. With the withdrawal of aid, I wonder if hardships that ensued as a cause of that withdrawal would be wrongfully blamed on homosexuals in the country.

  4. cjforster says:

    To suspend aid in this case, would be merely to support the ‘propaganda’ of the administration and ‘confirm’ accusations of western ‘neocolonial liberalism’. Talk of sanctions would further be counter-productive. If the World Bank funding had previously been identified as a necessity, then human rights issues, no matter how important should not block essential funding in the health sector.

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