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LGBTIQ Activism and the Post-2015 Development Agenda
“You don’t have to be gay to be a supporter; you just have to be human.” – Daniel Radcliffe, actor and gay rights activist
This simple quote speaks to the importance of LGBTIQ activism in the post-2015 development agenda. The post-2015 agenda should take a human rights based approach to development that instills that we “Leave No One Behind.” It should seek to promote inclusion, participation, and individuality. It should also aim to empower and educate all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), race, ethnicity, or religion. The post-2015 development agenda should be based on universally acceptable standards of human rights.
LGBTIQ issues are often excluded from development agendas. To get LGBTIQ issues on the table, to stimulate discussions and to increase visibility, to engage political stakeholders, to highlight issues of discrimination and violence, to oppose legislation, and to dominate and add to the human rights dialogue, we need LGBTIQ activism. LGBTIQ activism is an important platform for appealing to decision makers and for creating change.
To measure the effectiveness of LGBTIQ activism and its impact on behavior change and policy reform, we can examine a number of local, regional, and international accomplishments. Very recently in observance of International Transgender Day of Visibility, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) hosted a Stand Against Transphobia photo exhibition to increase the visibility of transgender Guyanese and tackle transphobia in Guyana. SASOD is also working to repeal the laws that criminalize cross-dressing in Guyana.
LGBTIQ activism should concentrate heavily on pressing governments to meet the obligation of all humans regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. This includes law reform and creating an environment where LGBTIQ people have access to education, health, and basic social services. It should have the need for equal rights and social acceptance at the forefront. It should tackle issues of stigma, discrimination, and violence—a universal problem affecting LGBTIQ people in all parts of the world. The laws in many countries heighten discrimination and violence meted out to LGBTIQ individuals. The criminalization of intimacy and free expression of LGBTIQ individuals prevents already stigmatized people from expressing themselves and creates an environment where human rights abuses flourish. We need to address these issues as a matter of top priority in the post-2015 development agenda.
The Free and Equal Campaign is one example of the global support for LGBTIQ issues. We need to use activism to win the hearts and minds of our countries and governments. At least seventy-six countries still criminalize same-sex relationships. LGBTIQ individuals are denied access to health thus making them vulnerable to diseases such as HIV. They are denied employment because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, and they are often voiceless and invisible. Many organizations are recognizing this and are pleading for action at the United Nations. LGBTIQ activism is paramount because it gives a voice to the voiceless and pushes for inclusion. LGBTIQ activists need to speak out and be visible.
On top of basic human rights, research conducted by the World Bank has shown that homophobia has a negative impact on economic development. The study developed and tested an economic model to measure the cost of excluding sexual and gender minorities. The model examines workplace discrimination, health disparities in HIV, suicide, and depression. It concludes that these prejudices could be costing societies billions.
The research piloted by the World Bank also called for more research to be done on issues concerning LGBTIQ individuals, as we advocate for freedom, dignity, and equality. We need a solid evidence base upon which we mount our challenges to the status quo. Advocating for policy issues informed by research bears more weight. Activism supports research with the analysis and lived experiences that allow us to prioritize our own local and regional realities as key to the development agenda. To do this, we must invest in data, evidence, and robust research.
Though LGBTIQ activism is often downplayed, we are a vibrant and proactive movement that is consistent in our commitment and working assiduously to change anti-social behavior and misguided policies. Grassroot groups require support from a more global standpoint. The first step to support is inclusion around all spheres and in every aspect of the post-2015 development agenda. Without the inclusion of LGBTIQ issues, the post-2015 development agenda will not be creating the future we want for ourselves and generations to come.
Schemel Patrick is the advocacy and communications officer at SASOD and participant from Guyana of the Post-2015 Youth Global Strategy Meeting.