How recent is the addition of LGBTQ+ issues in inclusion policy agendas?
Let’s put it into perspective. No longer than 50 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean decriminalized same-sex relationships in the 19th century, while others did so less than 20 years ago. Homosexuality is still a crime in six countries in the region. Thirteen years ago, Argentina became the first country in the region to legalize same-sex marriage. Five countries followed, with Costa Rica being the most recent in 2020. In 2004, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) was established as a commemoration every May 17th.
Therefore, it’s no surprise this is a relatively new topic on the agendas of international organizations such as development banks. The inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals, therefore, requires intentional efforts to invest in the issue and generate data and evidence on effective interventions. We are in a constant process of construction. At the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), we have taken firm steps in this direction. Here, I want to share three lines of action and learning that have emerged as part of this journey.
1.LGBTQ+ inclusion starts from within
An institution that promotes inclusion must ensure that there is a commitment to preventing and eliminating any manifestation of discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals at the core of its organizational culture. This begins with our selection and recruitment processes. It also involves creating diverse and inclusive work environments. Finally, it translates into actions to ensure that the projects and knowledge products we support in the region include actions that contribute to closing the gaps that affect LGBTQ+ individuals. In this sense, the IDB has strong inclusion policies and constantly works to be a space where its employees can bring their most authentic selves.
2. Intersectionality and intersectionality
The actions we take must consider that LGBTQ+ discrimination is reflected in multiple spheres and in an intersectional way. This means that aspects such as sexual orientation, gender identity, race or ethnicity, and economic or migratory status overlap and intersect in various ways. For this reason, more work is required to understand the origin and impact of stigma and social exclusion.
Workplace inclusion programs like “Saber hacer vale” (Knowing How is Valuable) in Colombia, which includes LGBTQ+ individuals and focuses particularly on migrants, are an example of an intersectional approach. Another case is the loan to the ProMujeres program in Uruguay, which seeks to strengthen gender-based violence prevention and response systems with a strong focus on lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women. I also would like to highlight “Reprograma,” a digital skills education initiative in Brazil supported by BID Lab, which promotes the inclusion of transgender women in the technology sector.
Fighting LGBTQ+ discrimination is also important in the private sector. That’s why BID Invest is preparing a toolbox for companies that want to strengthen their inclusion policies. BID Invest also raises awareness about business opportunities and new markets when integrating the LGBTQ+ population as a workforce and potential customers.
3. Data for inclusion
The third point is to enhance the creation of knowledge about the LGBTQ+ population. In Latin America and the Caribbean, data is scarce. We know that we are underestimating the size of the LGBTQ+ population, but we don’t have the exact number of individuals belonging to it. We have even less evidence of the gaps that affect them.
The flagship book published annually by the IDB, “Development in the Americas”. will focus on gender policies in 2023. An innovative approach in this publication will be the inclusion of knowledge about LGBTQ+ individuals, providing a broader and deeper understanding of the gaps related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Additionally, last year, the IDB funded and published three new studies on the LGBTQ+ population. These publications were presented in a session on LGBTQ+ inclusion at the 27th Annual Meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean Economics Association (LACEA). In a live event on May 18th, the authors of the publications will share their findings on barriers and social exclusion affecting LGBTQ+ individuals in our region.
Inclusion is a journey to be traveled together.
The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia is an occasion to highlight the heterogeneous progress in the inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals and to think of new strategies that lead to the end of stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. On a day like today, it is important to make visible the multiple forms of exclusion that persist and, in some cases, have deepened. Therefore, the commitment of international organizations to strengthen an agenda that prioritizes accelerating the social and economic inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals is urgent.
Once again, multilateral development banks have joined efforts to organize a series of activities, events, and publications that are part of the IDAHOTB 2023 campaign, aiming to reaffirm their commitment to work against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identities. This year’s theme, “Always Together: United in Diversity,” encapsulates this collective effort. For multilateral banks and other international organizations, the well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals is not just a one-day topic but an essential line of work in the development agenda.
In this link, you can find information about other events commemorating this date, as well as messages from executives of other organizations joining under this initiative.