A business coalition led by Google has expressed concern about Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ legislation, calling it “a concern for global businesses and investors operating or planning to invest” in the East African country.
The legislation, which calls for the death penalty or life imprisonment for certain homosexual offenses, would harm Uganda’s economy, according to the Open For Business coalition in a statement issued Wednesday. “Diversity and inclusion are core principles of our coalition partners’ business operations,” the statement said.
The legislation, if signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, “would undermine Uganda’s attractiveness as a place to do business and invest,” it said.
In addition to Google, the Open For Business coalition includes Microsoft, MasterCard, HSBC, and Meta, the owner of Facebook.
Uganda’s legislature passed an anti-homosexuality bill last week. Museveni now has the legislation, which he can sign into law or return to the parliamentary speaker with proposed changes.
The Anti-LGBTQ Bill
In Uganda, the bill has widespread support, including from church leaders. It was proposed last month by an opposition lawmaker with the stated goal of punishing the “promotion, recruitment, and funding” of LGBTQ activities in the country. Only two of the 389 legislators in attendance for the voting session voted against the bill.
Museveni, who has publicly called homosexuals “disgusting,” is facing mounting international condemnation for the bill. The US, the United Nations, and the European Union have all urged him to veto the bill. Washington, in particular, has warned of potential economic consequences if the bill is passed.
The bill calls for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and life in prison for “homosexuality,” raising concerns that LGBTQ people could face criminal charges.
Cases of sex relations involving HIV-infected people, minors, and other vulnerable people are considered cases of aggravated homosexuality. Those who advocate or promote the rights of LGBTQ people face prison sentences of up to 20 years.
A suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be jailed for 14 years and the offense of “attempted homosexuality” is punishable by up to 10 years, according to the bill.
The death penalty for some acts of homosexuality “is an egregious violation of human rights,” a group of U.N. experts said Wednesday.
“The imposition of the death penalty based on such legislation is per se an arbitrary killing and a breach of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” the experts said in a statement.
According to the leader of a Ugandan LGBTQ rights organization, many members of the country’s gay community are concerned about their safety.
In Uganda, anti-gay sentiment has grown in recent weeks as a result of press reports alleging sodomy in boarding schools, including one for boys where a parent accused a teacher of abusing her son. The Church of England’s recent decision to bless civil marriages between same-sex couples has also infuriated many, including those who believe homosexuality is imported from abroad.
Homosexuality is illegal in over 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.