On March 28 Open For Business – a coalition of global businesses working for LGBTQ inclusion, for which Deutsche Bank, a German multinational investment bank, is part – spoke out in a press release against Uganda’s 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed earlier this month.
Global businesses a part of the coalition include Meta, LinkedIn, Deutsche Bank, and many others who have employees, business, suppliers and investments in Uganda. The release details a statement written to President Museveni to express concern at the recently passed bill in Uganda, while asking him to refuse to provide assent to the Bill.
In the statement, coalition leaders describe five leading factors to their denouncement of the law between diminished tourism, Foreign Direct Investment decreasement, slowing economic growth, and violations of living standards of living.
For instance, an analysis by Open For Business has estimated the cost of LGBTQ discrimination in a number of countries. In Kenya, the coalition found, “LGBTQ+ discrimination costs the economy up to USD 1.3 billion; in the English-speaking Caribbean, the cost is up to USD 4.2 billion. A 2015 World Bank study found that LGBTQ+ discrimination costs the Indian economy 1.7% of its GDP. India has since decriminalized same-sex activity, citing the economic case against discrimination as one of many reasons.”
“The bill is extremely concerning for businesses across the region. This is not just an LGBTQ+ issue: as our research has shown, African economies need a more open and welcoming environment for all minorities, including sexual minorities. As well as the human cost, this legislation will hurt – not help – the Ugandan economy,” Yvonne Muthoni, Open For Business Kenya country director, said in the release.
“The LGBTQ community has always existed in Uganda. Laws criminalizing LGBTQ relationships, identity, and even allyship, will only bring harm on an already marginalized population, along with their friends and family.” @sarahkateellis https://t.co/9xCSaV64cZ
— GLAAD (@glaad) March 22, 2023
In other words, this bill – which criminalizes coming out as LGBTQ up to 10 years in prison along with more extreme measures of punishment, the death penalty – makes it a crime to pursue diversity and inclusion policies in Uganda by making it illegal to provide information and support to LGBTQ employees. Further, it’ll force companies to out LGBTQ employees to the authorities. The bill was first drafted in 2014 without the prior amendments, but was struck down due to procedural issues. Uganda’s penal code already criminalizes same-sex consensual adult relationships with or without this law, as reported in an earlier article published to GLAAD.
On Thursday, Jon Tilli, the director of Deustche Bank, affirmed this danger. He implored corporations, and the citizens who run them, to commit to LGBTQ equality by denouncing the lethal legislation.
“We urge global corporations with investments in Uganda to openly express their apprehensions regarding the Bill and its possible impact on their employees, investors, and shareholders,” reads the statement.
“We publicly condemned the Uganda parliament for their Anti-Homosexuality Bill. We hope this brave leadership by our Chief Sustainability Officer Jörg Eigendorf would spur further action from our peers,” Tilli said.
Today, @OFB_LGBT told President Museveni directly that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is bad for Uganda’s people and its economy. As a coalition of global companies–many operating in Uganda–we ask the President to stop this Bill. Learn more and share our Business Statement:
— Open For Business (@OFB_LGBT) March 29, 2023
“How can we as good citizens of the world stay silent when a country proposes a law that by virtue of me standing up here today would subject me to criminal punishment including the death penalty, and even more so, compel my employer, friends and family to report me to that government. I am beyond proud to work for a company that didn’t and doesn’t stay silent, and I’m honored to have been a large part of educating our senior leaders on why that was so important,” he continued.
Other LGBTQ and human rights leaders around the globe have spoken to the importance of this advocacy from businesses too.
Salil Tripathi, senior advisor on global issues at the Institute for Human Rights and Business is one of these folks. He said in an article posted to the organization’s website that businesses must speak out, and he cites numerous years for which businesses have done so.
For example, Tripathi notes how hundreds of businesses have implored the US government to strike down same-sex marriage bans in 2015. In 2019, he cites, over 200 big corporations signed a “friend of the court” brief to extend federal discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers. In the same year, hundreds of corporations boycotted Brunei over their anti-LGBTQ death penalty law and succeeded in stopping its passing.
Tripathi, moreover, states that the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act is a direct extension of colonial imperialism and not the other way around.
“Many of the laws that criminalise same-sex relationships originate in the dreadful S. 377 of the Indian Penal Code which was introduced in India in 1860 after Britain took over control from the East India Company following the 1857 revolt by Indian princes against the company rule. That law, along with other similar laws, reflected the colonial mindset of the time, imposing ‘Victorian’ morality on societies Britain ruled, with scant regard to indigenous customs and cultures,” writes Tripathi.
Uganda’s anti-LGBT law and what business must do: https://t.co/DFJoFg1ppt
— saliltripathi (@saliltripathi) March 24, 2023
He attributes this knowledge to Dr. Frank Mugisha, the Director of Sexual Minorities in Uganda (SMUG) for which he received the 2011 Rafto Prize on behalf of the LGBTQ advocacy organization, who said “homosexuality was African; homophobia is the western or colonial import.”
Open For Business worked with SMUG along with Uganda Key Populations Consortium and Convener Chapter Four Uganda on a joint statement to Museveni.
Stop the “Uganda Kill the Gays bill”. pic.twitter.com/ppVvdVo9Ud
— Dr. Frank Mugisha (@frankmugisha) March 27, 2023