Author: George Kitsaras
Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) people is widespread across the globe (UN Human Rights, 2012). An astonishing 76 countries consider same sex relationships as a criminal offence with punishments ranging from fines to death penalty (UN Human Rights, 2015). Even in countries with substantial improvements in the recognition and support for LGBTQI+ rights cases of discriminatory behaviour, social exclusion, marginalisation and stigmatisation still occur (Amnesty International, 2015; UN Human Rights, 2015). Based on a United Nations data, around 50 per cent of LGBTQI+ people in the US faced some form of bullying at school with 1/3 of those dropping out of school before completing their degrees (UN Human Rights, 2015). Additionally, 40 per cent of homeless people in the US are LGBTQI+ (UN Human Rights, 2015). Moreover, LGBTQI+ people reported between 4 to 10 times higher suicide contemplation rates respectively compared to the general population in the US (Meyer, 2003; UN Human Rights, 2015). Finally, around 1/5 of LGBTQI+ people in Europe reported discrimination while at work (UN Human Rights, 2015).
The sheer magnitude of these statistics is shocking and each statistic represents a personal tragedy and a terrible waste of human potential, creativity, talent and productivity. From a humanitarian point of view, it is extremely important to alleviate the distress, fear and difficulties that LGBTQI+ people face around the world in order to improve their quality of life and reshape our societies into equal havens for all. Despite its premise, the humanitarian point of view is unthinkable for many people in our societies who view such changes as inappropriate, meaningless and a waste of time. Given that many people present with this cognitive rigidness and an inability to understand the necessity of providing support and opportunities for LGBTQI+ people a different narrative is vital. A narrative that emphasises the economic and financial consequences of LGBTQI+ exclusion making it easier to comprehend.
There is a lot of evidence in support of the economic consequences of exclusion of LGBTQI+ people and the evidence is applicable to every single country. In a study by the World Bank in 2014 it was estimated that discrimination against LGBTQI+ people could cost an economy the size of India up to $34 billion in economic output (Badgett, 2014). Additionally, a similar study by the World Bank showed that in 39 countries around the world the marginalisation of LGBTQI+ people resulted in severe or significant loss of economic potential (Badgett, 2014). Finally, discrimination against LGBTQI+ people that results in resignation, unemployment and school dropouts results in less taxes, lower economic output and eventually to lower available funds for health, education and social services (UN Human Rights, 2015). Following publication of such studies and with the well established social and humanitarian parameters of LGBTQI+ exclusion the UN declared “LGBTQI+ equality as both a human rights and development imperative” (UN Human Rights, 2015).
In an era when many countries face the prospect of recession, rising unemployment and lower economic output it is important to consider the benefits of changing perspectives regarding our stance to LGBTQI+ people and every minority and vulnerable group for that matter. By highlighting all the economic benefits of inclusion and equality it might be possible to influence people with anachronistic beliefs and slowly, yet steadily, make our way to more inclusive, equal and prosperous societies for all.
For more information on the economic impact of LGBTQI+ exclusion, please visit www.unfe.org/en
Amnesty International. (2015). The state of the world’s human rights. London, United Kingdom.
Badgett (2014). The economic cost of homophobia and exclusion of LGBT people. Sexual minorities and development, World Bank.
Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological bulletin, 129(5), 674.
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2012). Free and equal: Sexual identity and sexual orientation in International Humanitarian Law. New York, NY, USA.
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2015). Free and Equal, a United Nations initiative for LGBT Equality.