- Uganda’s latest piece of controversial legislation prescribes life sentences and death penalties to LGBTQ people in the East African nation.
- Its most draconian law yet, the bill has been denounced by members of the Open For Business coalition, whose partners number among some of the world’s largest corporations.
- Among them are Google, Mastercard and Deloitte who could reconsider their operations in the country if the bill is passed.
Members of the Open For Business coalition, including tech giants Google and Microsoft, on Wednesday publicly denounced Uganda‘s latest draconian piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation.
The bill, which has wide-ranging support in the East African country, could see lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer people given the death penalty for so-called “aggravated homosexuality.” The signing of the bill is imminent as of Thursday, with the only requirement being the signature of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
In a statement (PDF) the coalition, which counts Google, Microsoft, Meta, Mastercard, Unilever, Standard Chartered, HSBC, PwC, Virgin Group and Deloitte among its number, said “Diversity and inclusion are core principles of our coalition partners in the conduct of their businesses.”
“It continued that if signed into law, the legislation would “undermine Uganda’s attractiveness as a place to do business and invest.”
The bill could see openly LGBTQ+ individuals sentenced to a life sentence for “homosexuality,” and be handed death penalties for what the Uganda government calls “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as cases of sexual relations involving people living with HIV as well as minors.
Anyone who promotes or advocates LGBTQ rights in the country may be given sentences of 20 years if the bill passes. Further, so-called “attempted homosexually” is punishable by up to 10 years after the bill.
The bill, which is in breach of human rights violations according to the UN, is supported by many in the country, including several church leaders. It was introduced by a lawmaker intending to crack down on the “promotion, recruitment, and funding” of LGBTQ in Uganda.
Aside from crimes against humanity, the bill also poses a business cost, according to the coalition. It said that many countries could respond negatively to the bill. This includes the US, a strong economic partner to Uganda, which has already warned of repercussions if the bill is enacted.
“The evidence shows that policies designed to exclude minorities such as the LGBTQ+ community have a real cost – not only on people but on business performance as well as national economic competitiveness. There is a strong economic rationale for better inclusion in Uganda,” the coalition says.
Further, it cites a report that says countries that do not criminalise consensual same-sex relations attract 4.5 times more foreign investment on average than countries that do.
Another concern for the coalition is a requirement in the bill that legally compels companies operating in Uganda to report anyone suspected of being LGBTQ.
This puts pressure on global companies like Google, who will either have to be in breach of Ugandan law, or risk facing international legal recourse if they persist in the country once the bill is signed.
“Either they violate the law in Uganda or they are going against international standards of corporate responsibility as well as human rights laws of the countries in which they are headquartered,” Open for Business country director, Yvonne Muthoni, told Reuters.
The coalition says it has sent the statement directly to President Museveni, and while it may lead to a rethinking of the bill, it will do little to curb the homophobic stance taken by most of the countries in Africa, as 30 of the 54 nations on the continent criminalise homosexuality in some form.
South Africa continues to be the only country in Africa where same-sex marriage is legal.