The World Bank no longer wants to fund developing countries with harsh homophobic laws according to the organisation’s president Jim Yong Kim.
Speaking at the Economist’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ conference which simultaneously took place today in London, New York and Hong Kong this week, Mr Kim opened up about his own experience in rejecting a loan to Uganda when he realised that the money could help implement the African nation’s controversial anti-gay laws.
“In 2014 the Ugandans had passed a law, and it was quite a bit more draconian than a lot of the laws that exist,” Mr Kim said. “It said homosexuality would be punished with life imprisonment, but it became a requirement that anyone who suspects others of homosexuality had to report that also.
“Right at that moment we were about to approve a $90 million loan to support health clinics in Uganda.
“I worked as a doctor, and this is an important issue for me… but we looked carefully and we found out that it was possible that active discrimination could happen in these clinics, and because of the requirement to report homosexual behaviour, gay men and women could go to these clinics… and we could actually endanger people from the LGBTI community, so we had to stop that loan.”
He added: “A lot of people came out and told me I was crazy. The critiques made a lot of sense to a lot of people… a lot of my own staff were [against it].
“At the time there were 81 countries with these laws, so what does this mean for our ability to loan to any country in the world that has these kinds of laws?
“We are not allowed to make political judgements, and that’s not what we’re doing.
“We’re trying to look at another principle that is important, that that principle is that if something we support leads not only to discrimination but endangerment, don’t we as an institution have to stand up and say ‘no’?”
Mr Kim added that the World Bank also always strives to provide safeguards for LGBT employees in every country that they operate in, although he conceded that in some countries they were forced to do this informally due to local regulations.