Corporate giants say anti-LGBT law would hurt Uganda's economy

An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A coalition of international companies, including Google and Microsoft, on Wednesday denounced anti-LGBTQ legislation passed by Uganda's parliament last week, warning it would damage the East Africa country's economy.

The Open for Business coalition said the legislation, which criminalises identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, would curb investment flows and deter tourists.

The bill imposes the death penalty for those who commit so-called aggravated homosexuality, defined as same-sex relations with people under the age of 18 or when the perpetrator is HIV positive, among other categories.

It awaits President Yoweri Museveni's signature.

The White House said last week the bill was concerning and that it was one of the most extreme actions taken against the LGBTQ community in the world.

Museveni has not yet commented on the bill, although he signed a similar law in 2014 that provoked international condemnation before it was voided by a domestic court on procedural grounds.

Open for Business said in a statement the new law would undermine companies' ability to recruit a diverse and talented workforce.

In addition, a provision that would require companies to report those suspected of being LGBTQ would put them "in an impossible situation," Yvonne Muthoni, the coalition's country director in neighbouring Kenya, said in an interview.

"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," she said.

Among the coalition's members, Google, Mastercard Unilever, Standard Chartered, PwC and Deloitte have operations in Uganda.

Uganda's Information Minister Chris Baryomunsi was not immediately available for comment.

Anti-LGBT discrimination has significant economic costs, the coalition said. According to a 2019 study it conducted, Kenya loses the equivalent of up to 1.7% of its GDP annually as a result.

Open for Business has previously spoken out against anti-LGBT measures in countries like Hungary, where it criticised a plan in 2021 to ban the dissemination of LGBT content in schools.

(Editing by Aaron Ross and Bernadette Baum)

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