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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?

What do we know about the development outcomes of LGBTI people?

Dominik Koehler's picture
We all know, sadly, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people suffer discrimination and stigma. This happens around the world, particularly in developing countries.  But how does this discrimination affect their lives, their development outcomes? 

Let’s find out.
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Three things we need to know about “SOGI”

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture


May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, or IDAHOT.
 
Why should we care about IDAHOT? Because sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI, matters.
 
Here are three things we need to know about SOGI:
 
First, SOGI inclusion is about zero discrimination
 
Despite some legal and social progress in the past two decades, LGBTI people continue to face widespread discrimination and violence in many countries. Sometimes, being LGBTI is even a matter of life and death. They may be your friends, your family, your classmates, or your coworkers.

Social inclusion essential for eradicating poverty

Lauri Sivonen's picture

The social inclusion of disadvantaged groups is necessary for reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity, said government representatives, experts, and civil society representatives at a World Bank seminar on Friday, April 21. Persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons form a large part of the world population affected by poverty. They often face multiple discrimination and exclusion because of their overlapping identities, stressed Maitreyi Das, Social Inclusion Global Lead at the World Bank Group. 

Patricia Peña, Director General for Economic Development of Global Affairs, Canada, highlighted the commitment of Canada—through its foreign assistance, diplomacy, and domestic efforts—to support policies and programs addressing economic and social inclusion of LGBTI people. Disaggregated data collection is one of the priorities for developing effective responses. Harry Patrinos, Practice Manager at the Bank’s Education Global Practice, made a cross-country assessment of poverty among Indigenous Peoples. Ulrich Zachau, the World Bank’s Country Director for Southeast Asia, discussed the Bank’s ground-breaking data generation efforts on LGBTI persons in Thailand. There is a need to find a shared way of measuring disability, said Nick Dyer, Director General of Policy and Global Programmes at the UK Department for International Development.

View tweets from the session below. Learn more about the World Bank's work on social inclusion, disability, indigenous peoples, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). 

The economic benefits of LGBTI inclusion

Georgia Harley's picture
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is an all too familiar story. Members of this community are frequent targets of violence and other human rights abuses, and often face prejudice and hardship at work, in their communities, and at home.

Action is needed to address these problems and ensure that everyone – regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity - has an equal chance to live a healthy and prosperous life
This is not only the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense: a growing body of evidence indicates that discrimination against LGBTI people has a negative economic impact on society.

To fight discrimination, we need to fill the LGBTI data gap

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Despite some progress in the past two decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people continue to face widespread discrimination and exclusion around the world. Many of them suffer from punitive laws and policies, social stigma, and even violence. They may also be subject to lower educational attainment, higher unemployment rates, poorer health outcomes, as well as unequal access to housing, finance, and social services. As a result, LGBTI people are likely overrepresented in the bottom 40% of the population.
 
The adverse impacts on the health and economic wellbeing of LGBTI groups—as well as on economies and societies at large—tell us one thing: exclusion and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) is a serious development issue.

We’ve already taken the first steps to address this issue, such as quantifying the loss in productivity, but there is still a long way to go. Robust, quantitative data on differential development experiences and outcomes of LGBTI people is crucial, but remains scarce especially in developing countries. Such a research and data gap poses a major constraint in designing and implementing more inclusive programs and policies.
 
The World Bank’s SOGI Task Force—consisting of representatives from various global practices and country offices, the Gender Cross-cutting Solution Area, as well as the GLOBE staff resource group—has identified the need for quantitative data on LGBTI as a priority. 
 
On Zero Discrimination Day, the World Bank’s Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and SOGI Advisor Clifton Cortez explain the urgent need to fill the LGBTI data gap. They’ve also discussed why inclusion matters for development, as well as what can be done to end poverty and inequality for LGBTI and other excluded groups.


 

Embracing diversity through new LGBTI surveys in Thailand

Piotr Pawlak's picture
Photo: Talashow / Shutterstock


Social inclusion: a core development objective in its own right, the foundation for shared prosperity, and a major player in poverty alleviation.
 

 
As we observe the International Day for Tolerance this month, let’s remind ourselves that tolerance for diversity represents the first step on the path to social inclusion, and that diversity should not just be tolerated—it should be embraced and celebrated.
 
Yet, around the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) people confront multifaceted challenges that prevent them from fully participating in markets, services, and spaces. In some countries, although tolerated, these groups are often at risk of increased discrimination, exclusion, violence, and other vulnerabilities. This robs them of dignity and prevents them from capitalizing on opportunities to lead a better life.
 
For instance, Thailand is a country with multiple regional linguistic, geographical and socio-economic diversities, natural beauty and historical riches, and many localized traditions and cultural practices. Often called the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand, in the eye of the outsider, is a paradise of tolerance, where many sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions are truly to be seen. However, while the demand and support for positive self-identity are growing in Thailand, people with diverse sexual orientations, gender expressions, and identities experience varying degrees of social inclusion.