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Is your country LGBTI inclusive? With better data, we’ll know

Clifton Cortez's picture

The World Bank is developing a global standard for measuring countries’ inclusion of LGBTI individuals.

They laughed in our faces … but then we showed them the data

By the early 1990s, Dr. Mary Ellsberg had spent years working with women’s health in Nicaragua. Armed with anecdotes of violence against women, she joined a local women’s organization to advance a bill criminalizing domestic violence.

When presented with the bill, lawmakers “pretty much laughed in our faces,” she explained in a 2015 TEDx talk. “They said no one would pay attention to this issue unless we got some ‘hard numbers’ to show that domestic violence was a problem.”

Dr. Ellsberg went back to school and wrote her doctoral dissertation on violence against women. Her study showed that 52% of Nicaraguan women had experienced physical or sexual abuse by an intimate partner. Subsequently, the Nicaraguan parliament unanimously passed the domestic violence bill.

Later, the World Health Organization used Dr. Ellsberg’s indicators to measure violence against women in countries across the world, which showed the global magnitude of the problem.

“One out of three women will experience physical or sexual abuse by her partner,” Dr. Ellsberg said. Because of the data, “violence against women is at the very top of the human rights agenda.”

Dr. Ellsberg knew that domestic violence was a problem, but it was data that prompted leaders to combat the issue.

Similarly, there are plenty of documented cases of discrimination and abuse against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. But what’s the magnitude of the discrimination?