Barclays has raised the subject of Uganda’s pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill with the country’s government, after coming under pressure from the online social activist group Change.org.
In the past week more than 500,000 people have signed a petition calling on Barclays and US-based Citibank to condemn the bill, which proposes the death penalty for homosexual acts in certain circumstances and could be passed before Christmas.
Barclays, Uganda’s third largest bank, has more than 1,000 employees and 51 branches throughout the country.
Citibank is also one of the largest businesses in Uganda with scores of workers in the country.
In a brief statement, a spokesperson for Barclays said:
“Barclays has a strong history of supporting all aspects of diversity, both in the workplace and in wider society. Equally, we are proud of playing our part in the development of economies across Africa, and the key role Barclays plays in the lives of millions of our African customers.”
The spokesperson added: “Barclays is aware of the proposed legislation relating to homosexuality in Uganda and we are engaging at appropriate levels of the Ugandan Government to express our views.”
Citibank, which has almost $300 million (£187 million) in assets invested in Uganda, also released a statement.
Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications David Roskin said: “While the laws and cultural norms in some countries where Citi operates differ from commonly accepted global standards for human rights, Citi supports equality without regard for, among other personal characteristics, race, gender, gender identity or expression, disability, age, nationality, or sexual orientation.”
In response, Collin Burton, a gay Citibank customer from Washington DC who launched the Change.Org petition spoke of his disappointment at the bank’s statement.
“I’m disappointed that Citi delivered a dismissive statement that is not only contradictory in its very nature, but also serves as a reminder that Citi’s refusal to speak boldly on the issue poses a very real and dangerous threat to LGBT Ugandans, many of whom are also Citi customers.”
Change.org Senior Campaigner Mark Anthony Dingbaum also commented:
“More than half a million people have joined Collin’s campaign, which by all accounts, is an incredible number.
“Clearly that’s a testament to the urgency of the situation in Uganda. But what will it take for Citibank and Barclays to listen to their customers?”