Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson is urging other companies to avoid doing business in Uganda because of their “dreadful anti-gay laws,” and speak up regarding injustice.
Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, which comprises 400 companies; it includes Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Media and Virgin Trains. He posted on Twitter, “I wouldn’t do business in Uganda due to their dreadful anti-gay laws. Urge others to follow suit.”
Uganda passed a bill on December 20 which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality, threatening citizens with prison time if they refuse to report homosexual activity to authorities.
The 2009 bill “Kill the Gays” (which threatened the death sentence to those engaging in homosexual acts) has morphed into a law which criminalizes sex between two men when one is HIV-positive, as well as homosexual activity with minors or those who are disabled. The law also criminalizes two consenting LGBT adults, imposing harsh penalties on repeated sexual “offenses,” and violators of such laws could face life imprisonment.
The legislation was set into place in order to “protect the traditional family here in Africa,” said the original author of the bill, Ugandan MP (member of parliament) David Bahati, as reported by WCHB.
CEO Branson, who is the fourth richest individual in the United Kingdom, explained that many companies have wined and dined him in hopes of persuading him to consider business partnerships in Uganda, which Branson had considered—until now.
“The dreadful witch hunt against the gay community and lifetime sentences means it would be against my conscience to support this country,” Branson said, in a post titled “Let people love who they want,” published on the Virgin website.
Data published by The Economist indicates that over eighty countries around the globe have criminalized homosexuality, five of which consider sex between two men worthy of the death sentence.
“Governments must realise that people should be able to love whoever they want. It is not for any government (or anyone else) to ever make any judgements on people’s sexuality. They should instead celebrate when people build loving relationships that strengthen society, no matter who they are,” Branson stated.
Branson’s public stance against anti-gay politics stands out among other high-powered business figures who have yet to express their view points on similar issues, such as the anti-gay laws in Russia.
For example, Coca-Cola has been criticized for their sponsorship of the Winter Olympics in Sochi despite the homophobic laws in Russia.
Branson also spoke out in support of LGBT rights in Russia, and condemned President Putin’s law prohibiting “homosexual propaganda.”
The CEO also posted an “Out4Marriage” YouTube video asking people to come out in support of same-sex marriage.