November 11, 2014 at 11:33 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Study: Pro-LGBT laws spur global economic growth

Mexico City, gay news, Washington Blade

A sign inside El MarraKech, a gay bar in Mexico City, reads it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, physical ability, socioeconomic status or ‘any other reason.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A study the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law released on Tuesday suggests pro-LGBT laws can spur economic growth in developing countries.

The study examined 29 countries with “emerging” economies: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Egypt, Morocco, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, India, Pakistan and South Africa. It also looked at Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Nepal, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Kenya that had been deemed “countries of interest.”

The study used the Global Index on Legal Recognition of Homosexual Orientation, a Dutch research tool from the 1960s that ranks countries on whether they have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults and seven other factors in relation to rights for gays and lesbians. Researchers also relied upon a preliminary transgender rights index that ranks countries on anti-discrimination laws and 15 other measures.

The Global Index on Legal Recognition of Homosexual Orientation ranks countries on a scale from zero to eight. And researchers concluded that a country’s gross domestic product was $320 — or three percent higher — for each point it gained on the index.

The study also indicates countries with anti-discrimination laws have a per capita GDP that is $1,763 higher than nations without them.

“LGBT inclusion and economic development go hand and hand,” said M.V. Lee Badgett of the Williams Institute on Tuesday during a panel in Northwest D.C.

Researchers also examined five factors for the study: Police abuse, violence, health disparities, access to employment and discrimination and harassment in schools. Badgett said they all contribute to “lower economic output.”

“This is not rocket science,” she said. “This is pretty much common sense. People who are subjected to arrest and abuse or violence are less likely to be available to work. They may have health problems that result from this.”

Badgett said “depriving people of an education is perhaps the most damaging long-term kind of effect to produce economically.”

“The human capital that’s lost may be gone forever and can have very long-term effects on how an economy produces,” she said.

The LGBT Global Development Partnership, a $16 million public-private initiative that USAID launched in April 2013 with the Williams Institute and other groups to promote LGBT rights around the world over four years, undertook the study.

The Williams Institute and USAID released the study ahead of a three-day LGBT donor conference that will begin at the State Department on Wednesday.

The Williams Institute on Tuesday unveiled a second study that indicates acceptance of homosexuality has increased significantly over the last decades.

“Making that economic case is absolutely crucial and making it in a robust and unimpeachable way is really essential,” said USAID Chief Strategy Officer Carla Koppell during the panel as she discussed the report. “The research is critical.”

Poverty ‘drives’ discrimination

The World Bank reports Malawi, Burundi, Central African Republic, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo were the countries with the lowest per capita GDP in 2013. Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain illegal in Malawi and Burundi.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last month acknowledged a draconian anti-gay law he signed earlier this year that imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts could adversely affect his country’s economy. The Ugandan Constitutional Court in August struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality, but recent media reports suggest parliamentarians are poised to introduce an even harsher measure.

The economies of the majority of English-speaking Caribbean countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized remain highly dependent upon tourism.

Travel industry representatives in September met with a group of LGBT rights activists from the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Belize in Miami to discuss ways they can support regional advocacy efforts.

Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe of Goundation Grenada, a Grenadian human rights organization, told the Washington Blade after the meeting that boycotting a country over its LGBT rights record would adversely affect those who work within its tourism industry.

“Their reaction could easily be one that further isolates LGBT folks, saying well now I’m losing my job or I’m missing out on my salary because of you and because the U.S. thinks that you’re so important,” she said. “I’m not sure that that is the most useful approach.”

Jacqueline L’Hoist Tapia, chair of the Mexico City Council to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination, told the Blade during an interview last month that poverty “drives” discrimination in the Mexican capital.

One of the many initiatives the council has launched is a public education campaign that highlights a proposal that would allow trans people in Mexico City to legally change their name without a court order.

“Transsexual and trans people as you know very well is an invisible group,” L’Hoist told the Blade. “The idea behind the campaign is to recognize the trans population in Mexico City.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • One very much suspects they have the causality reversed. Countries that respect freedom of contract and property rights, and hence that have economic opportunity, are more respectful of minorities

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