The celebration of “Pride Month” reminds us that, although some progress has been made in protecting the rights of populations with sexual and gender diversities, we must recognize that there are still many additional risks to which LGBTIQ+ people are exposed due to discrimination based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Identifying these risks from the early stages of development projects allows us to address them and understand that this discrimination poses, in turn, a challenge for the region’s economic development. When we speak of gender diversities we refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual people and people who identify with another sexual orientation and/or gender identity, such as queer, questioning, asexual and/or others. The “+” in the term LGBTIQ+ allows for the inclusion of other self-defined groups.
In response to these risks, the Gender Equality Environmental and Social Performance Standard (ESPS 9), which is part of the new IDB Environmental and Social Policy Framework (ESPF), expands the concept of gender to gender diversities (also known as SOGI, sexual orientation and gender identity). Sexual diversity emphasizes the possibilities that people have to express, identify, and live their sexuality, hand in hand with different gender expressions in each cultural context, and specific to each person in their daily lives. Hence, although sexuality is important for all people, regardless of its expression, it does not define the daily lives of LGBTIQ+ populations.
GenderS: cumulative effects
A question that may arise is why group girls, women, and people of diverse genders under the same standard. Among the common denominators of these groups, widely documented in the scientific literature, are the forms of discrimination based on gender and sexual identity. In this regard, it is the cultural conditioning around “the feminine” that can create additional vulnerabilities. For example, forms of sexual violence such as sexual harassment and abuse predominate in women, girls, and LGBTIQ+ populations.
Scenarios such as absenteeism and school dropout due to cumulative factors such as bullying and stigma inhibit the possibilities for personal and economic development. This stigma is anchored on socially and culturally constructed expectations around what we understand as “feminine”, associated with women, and “masculine”, associated with men, which differ from one society to another.
While the biological body dictates additional vulnerabilities (for example, sexual abuse, including rape, which leads to what is known as forced pregnancies in the case of minors), it is the understandings and practices around “the feminine” that also act as concrete forms of discrimination both in “cis” women (who were born with a biological sex that matches their gender identity) and in transgender women.
When cultural norms of “the feminine” and “the masculine” are perceived to have been transgressed, the societal response is often exclusion and violence. Exclusion, in turn, causes trans and gender diverse people to have higher unemployment rates, as well as less access to adequate health services, decent housing and financial services. Systemic violence based on genderS and sexuality impedes economic growth.
Systematic discrimination and exclusion hinder the economic development of LGBTIQ+ populations
The Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Trans and Gender Diverse People (2020) in relation to their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, accounts for acts of discrimination and prejudice that hinder access to health, education, and a life free of violence. It underscores, as one of the additional challenges, the lack of data on the living conditions of LGBTIQ+ people that makes it difficult to undertake concrete actions to address these multiple inequalities in a comprehensive manner.
These acts of exclusion increase if, on top of sexual orientation and gender identity, we add economic precariousness, ethnicity, place of origin, migration status, age, among others.
This framework of inequalities refers both to socioeconomic precariousness, resulting from historically and contextually constructed stigmas, and to the very experience of exclusion that translates into a lack of rights and greater precariousness in health, education, economy and work, decent housing, political and civic participation, and personal security.
In this context, we point out two of the mitigation measures that are part of the framework of social and environmental safeguards policies aimed at providing guidelines for good practices in IDB development projects. A “zero tolerance” approach to discrimination requires recognizing the situations that LGBTIQ+ people face and how they can be exacerbated in a given project.
- Public consultations: the inclusion of people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity in public consultations, guaranteeing the protection, safety and confidentiality of participants. It is recommended that these consultations be coordinated jointly with civil society and LGBTIQ+ organizations that have an established relationship of trust with these populations, under the principle of confidentiality.
- Restoration measures: economically displaced LGBTIQ+ people, whose livelihoods are adversely affected, should have opportunities to improve, or at least restore, their livelihoods. Restorative measures, including compensation for wages lost during the period of resettlement, and employment, training and/or credit opportunities should be equally accessible and tailored to the needs, circumstances, and interests of LGBTIQ+ populations.
As a multilateral organization, the IDB certainly plays an important role in ensuring more equitable societies. Making sure that international development programs are not only accessible to LGBTIQ+ people, but take into account the underlying conditions of the aforementioned vulnerabilities that could be magnified by development projects, is a big step in the right direction, as is economic development that recognizes the importance of social inclusion.
This blog post is part of a series about the IDB‘s new Environmental and Social Policy Framework (ESPF). You may also want to read: