A new report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that countries that are highly accepting of LGBTI people tend to have high levels of liberal democracy, such as free and fair elections and the protection of civil liberties. More accepting countries also tend to have higher GDP per capita and a greater share of their population in urban environments.
Using data from the LGBTI Global Acceptance Index and the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, researchers examined the relationship between democratic backsliding and acceptance of LGBTI people. The report highlights four countries—Indonesia, Brazil, Poland, and Ghana—to describe the complex dynamics between anti-LGBTI rhetoric and policies and the rise of authoritarianism.
Results show that attacks on LGBTI people and their rights are strongly associated with democratic backslide. A decline in LGBTI acceptance may, under some conditions, be a bellwether of democratic decline.
“Anti-LGBTI rhetoric and policies can signal a more fundamental erosion in democratic norms and institutions,” said study author Ari Shaw, Senior Fellow and Director of International Programs at the Williams Institute. “Efforts to marginalize LGBTI people are, on their face, evidence that democracy and respect for minority rights are under threat.”
Restrictions on freedoms of association and expression, in particular, may negatively affect LGBTI acceptance given that they are fundamental to the ability of activists to organize and advocate for greater inclusion and to oppose further rollback of rights.
“The links between democracy indicators and LGBTI acceptance are clear but complex,” said study author Andrew R. Flores, Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute. “Future research should examine how state-sanctioned attacks on LGBTI people influence democratic backsliding and how democratic backsliding diminishes acceptance of LGBTI people and their rights.”